Sitting on the bench with his head down, Evadale basketball player Adam Stark, then a freshman, looked up at the scoreboard as the buzzer sounded to end the game - Big Sandy 81, Evadale 7.
It's a moment Stark, now a senior, can't forget.
"I felt like one of my close relatives had died," Stark said. "That's how bad it was."
Stark said he was ready to give up athletics altogether.
All because of a score.
Children are taught at an early age to keep score.
It's the first question asked when a child comes home from a game. And sometimes it's the only thing that runs in the newspaper the next morning.
Keeping score fuels the competitive fire that leads some athletes to become great.
But when things go horribly wrong in the scoring column, fingers get pointed and emotions steamroll common sense. That's why some states have gone to mercy rules in high school sports.
Texas does not have one in basketball.
The words "classless" and "humiliation" were left on message boards last week to describe a 106-16 Ozen girls basketball win over Port Neches-Groves.
"I couldn't believe what they were saying about us - that's not the kind of team we are," said senior Ozen basketball player Alexia Thomas. "We didn't play our starters for most of the game and used a defense in the second half we never used before. We weren't trying to run up the score."
But a 90-point victory appears quite different to spectators on the opposite side of the court.
"There's an unwritten rule (against running up the score)," said High Island girls basketball coach John Hughes, whose team lost a game 83-9 to Goodrich on Feb. 1. "I've taken some butt whuppins and I've given some."
Lopsided contests like Ozen's victory continue to happen because they can't stop a game like they can in Texas high school baseball and softball.
Baseball has a rule that ends a game if a team is up by 10 runs after five innings. The same rule applies in softball, except the game can also end when a team is up by 15 runs after three innings.
"It's great. You don't want it to get to a point where it's embarrassing and humiliates a program," said West Brook baseball coach Jacob Walton, 34, who said the rule has been in place ever since he played in high school. "It helps with sportsmanship. And you don't have to tell a kid to go up there and not hit a baseball."
In 2004, The National Federation of High School Associations put in a provision allowing states to add mercy rules in basketball, which shorten games after a team builds up a sizeable lead.
Most Texas high school basketball coaches say there are things that can be done to control blowouts and no legislation needs to be put in place.
Ozen coach Tammy Walker-Brown didn't want to discuss the blowout win over PN-G because "it is in the past." She did say her team, ranked seventh in the state, stopped the intense, aggressive full-court pressure defense that it normally uses and went to a passive zone defense in the second half.
Similarly, High Island's Hughes said his team held a 50-point lead at halftime in a game this year against Shekinah Radiance, at which point he instructed his girls to stop scoring and play a more relaxed half-court, man-to-man defense to keep the score from getting worse.
East Chambers girls basketball coach Shera Starnes, whose team beat Anahuac 96-18 last month, said she changes the personnel on the court to allow players who normally don't get much playing time a chance to play but doesn't change her strategy.
"My philosophy is to still play aggressive, but not in a way that embarrasses or demeans the other team," Starnes said.
Former Port Arthur Lincoln and Ozen boys coach Andre Boutte, who now is the athletic director at Port Arthur ISD, said there is a downside to pulling starters midway through the game.
"One year at Lincoln we had a big lead in most of our district games and our starters didn't play much in the second half," Boutte said. "Our guys weren't in shape once we got to the playoffs."
Boutte said it's also difficult to tell players on the bench not to play hard when they get into the game. Most second-string players are trying to prove they should be starters.
But if a mercy rule went into place, those players would not see as much playing time, because those guidelines are designed to shorten the game. Shortening the game means reducing the agony of defeat players on the losing end experience.
"It was hard knowing there was really nothing you could do about it," said Vidor senior and girls basketball player Maddie Smith, whose team went 0-31 two years ago and lost by 60 points or more on multiple occasions. "You couldn't fix it and come back and win because you were down by so much. You just had to let it happen."
Quitters never win
Though there is no mercy rule in Texas high school football, coaches on both sides can agree to have the clock run without stopping throughout the second half when a team has a sizeable lead.
Hardin-Jefferson football coach David Martel refused the offer to have the clock run in a 70-0 loss to West Orange-Stark on Nov. 5.
"It teaches your kids to quit," Martel said. "In my opinion, running clocks and run rules are for Little League. Once you get to high school, you have to continue to fight. There's no mercy rule in academics. A kid doesn't have to quit school if he makes below a 50."
That's why many coaches are against having mercy rules. They say sports provide an opportunity to build character.
"You see what you are made of," Martel said. "You have to work for your success in life."
Sometimes, that success will never come in high school sports. But for some, like Evadale's Stark, picking up after a defeat makes players stronger.
"It can build you or destroy you," said Dr. Ray Hays, a psychologist and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "Part of it depends on how fast you get up. Some experience it and decide football, basketball or baseball is not for them. Others come back and try and get bigger, stronger and faster because of it."
The painful loss Stark's freshman year inspired him to get better.
And this year the Rebels beat Big Sandy, the same team that dealt them that 81-7 loss three years ago, twice.
Stark had a smile from ear to ear on Friday night after a 71-41 victory over Big Sandy, which gave Evadale the district title.
"I can't even describe this feeling," Stark said. "For me, this is like winning the state championship."