QUINCY -- Taylor Hickey said the moment felt "normal."
With 44 seconds remaining in the Quincy University women's basketball team's 60-47 loss to Indianapolis on Saturday at Pepsi Arena, Hickey checked out of the game as Dami Adeyinka had come to the scorer's table as her replacement. When Hickey reached the sideline, she was greeted with high-fives and hugs from the coaching staff and her teammates until she reached the end of the line.
QU coach Jeni Garber was the last one standing there, and the two embraced for what was Hickey's final exit after a four-year career.
"It didn't feel like I was coming out for the end of it," Hickey said. "It felt like I was coming out for a sub and there'd be another game next week. Standing down there after shaking everyone's hand and having her be the last one I talked to and hugged, that's when it kind of hit me that this is the end."
Hickey, a senior guard from Keokuk, Iowa, who had prepped at Burlington Notre Dame, played her final game and produced a solid goodbye, scoring 10 points with four assists and a pair of made 3-pointers. That's a pretty solid effort for a player who two days earlier described her final game as "terrifying."
"It went way too fast," Hickey said.
In one sense, it flew by. In another, it dragged on.
Hickey learned to make the best of it no matter the circumstance, enduring three straight losing seasons after playing on an NCAA Tournament team as a freshman.
Yet she's done everything with a permanent smile on her face.
"I smile a lot," Hickey said, flashing that cheek-to-cheek grin. "My career as a Quincy Hawk hasn't gone as smoothly as I wanted it to, but it hasn't changed who I am. It's only made me better. Things like this do happen, not only to Quincy, but it happens to other schools and other programs. It builds us as student-athletes and as people. That I can take with my wherever."
It might not be too far from where she is.
Hickey will finish her degree in elementary education next year and has plans to get into coaching wherever and whenever possible. Since she will be doing her student teaching in the area next year, don't be surprised to see her pop up in a local gym.
"I have a huge support system from my family," Hickey said. "I don't think they'll let me go too far away."
They never have. She's had her usual family cheering section several rows off the court right at midcourt at Pepsi Arena. He father, Dan, did not miss a game throughout her college career -- home or road -- and has been a strong voice to challenge her and a soft shoulder to lean on in tough times.
"He just wants the best for me," Hickey said. "He's a person I look to in the stands. I know he's there for me. That's a sense of comfort."
A spot starter who never averaged more than four points per game during her first three seasons, Hickey took advantage of the opportunity to start 20 of the 26 games she played in this season. She averaged 5.1 points and two assists per game and made 24 3-pointers.
Her tenacity, hustle and quickness gave her an edge, but it also served as a challenge. She had to learn to play at both her speed and the game's speed. They didn't always match, resulting in a team-high 88 turnovers this season. But she never gave up on herself or her team and worked through any issues.
"I would definitely say it made me stronger," Hickey said. "It's going to make my future better. You take that situation and ask, 'How do you build from that? How do you get over that hump?'"
She learned you stay positive.
Her smile told you she knew how to do that.
"Two of the most positive things about playing for Quincy University were the all things I got to see and got to do and the relationships I've built," Hickey said. "I'll take that with me."