NORTH CANTON  Big school or small school, boys sports or girls sports, the experience of seniors winding down their high school careers is one that brings plenty of emotions.

Whether a team wins a state championship or loses early in the tournament, suiting up in your school’s colors for the last time is an experience that tends to stick with athletes and for April Chimera and her fellow Hoover basketball seniors, reaching the end has been a long, fun and memorable journey.

Chimera, who was one of three seniors on the roster for the Vikings this season, has been part of a program that has seen postseason success, league championship races and a challenging 2017-18 campaign. Still, Chimera says she will take a lot away from her experience playing for the Vikings.

"It’s been my whole life … I’ve made so many friends and had friends and family there along the way," she said. "Our program is rooted in unselfishness and love and we’ve really learned how to put others first."

Lessons such as that are the kind that, in an ideal world, athletes take from their sports experience alongside the physical challenges they overcome, the memories they make and the trophies they win. According to Chimera, those themes of love and unselfishness aren’t specifically trumpeted in any designated team activity, but rather woven into the fabric of daily team activities.

Those lessons come in part from head coach Abbey Allerding, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis several years ago, but has continued to coach the Vikings and has used her illness as a way to both share her faith and show her players that they can handle adversity.

"She’s been very inspiring in that aspect of her life. There are some days where she can’t always do all of the normal things she does, but she’s always positive," Chimera said.

Allerding was diagnosed in March 2015, during Chimera’s sophomore season. Since then, the Vikings have earned some big wins and had some tough defeats, but for the senior guard, through it all, she, her teammates and coaches have learned a lot about basketball and life.

Another harsh lesson came prior to the 2017-18 season, when senior forward Makenna Drabick tore an ACL during an AAU game, forcing her to miss the entire varsity season. It was a tough blow both for Drabick and the team as a whole, but during the course of the season, Drabick remained part of the team and as it turned out, had one shining moment left on the court.

"On senior day, the GlenOak coaching staff allowed us to have her out there on the first play, to get the tip and pass the ball to her (Drabick) so she could score one last basket and have one more moment on the court," Chimera said.

It’s a display that happens occasionally at the high school and college levels, when teams allow an injured opposing player to score an uncontested basket to start a game as a way to give that player one additional chance to play when their career was though to be over. From Chimera’s perspective, it was another example of unselfishness, one of many that stand out in her memory from her high school career.

As the team’s tournament run unfolded, she admitted that she had done her best not to think about how it would feel when the end finally came, admitting only that there would be "an overwhelming sense of emotion" whenever the final buzzer sounded. In that respect, she’s not alone, as not only her fellow Hoover seniors, but seniors at schools across Ohio and the entire country will face the same moment in the coming weeks. As those emotions begin to subside, the lessons on topics such as love, unselfishness and determination in the face of adversity are part of what those seniors will take with them into whatever comes next in life.

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