BZZZZ. The balls stopped bouncing. The room went quiet. Both teams walked to their benches. Coach Quinn wiped the sweat from his forehead. After last year’s unsuccessful season, ending with a record of 1-16, there was a lot of stress in the room. The players and Coach Quinn were anxious about starting the new season off on the wrong foot, and knew they needed a win. Coach Quinn said that “for this group especially,” referring to the five players returning players, Malcolm Gibson 19’, Chase Garner 20’, Theo Attanasio 21’, Nathan McCarthy 19’ and Will Simotas 19’, “we needed to win a game early to understand and feel that we could win.” Last year was a tough year for the Boys Varsity Basketball team and the record was not an accurate representation of the season. The record might seem like the boys did not put up a fight, but most of the boys’ losses last year were only by a few points, and they often blew leads in the third and fourth quarters. The season was inconsistent. One day they would lose by 20 to a middle-of-the-row team, and the next day they would lose by 2 to the best team in the league. After several tough losses, team morale was low and the boys just did not believe they could win. The cold streak of the 2017-18 season all started after a close loss to UNIS in the first game and a tough blow-out at the Barclays Center. Coach Quinn offered his thoughts regarding last year’s Barclays Game:
“It’s just a scrimmage so the game does not mean anything towards our record, but when you’re playing in front of your peers and the faculty and staff, that might be the only time they get to see you play, and last year we did not play well and it made us feel that we were not good because that’s how the community viewed us that day and that lingered longer than I expected.”
The Barclays Center took a mental toll on the players and lowered the team’s confidence. After the season ended last year, the would-be captains, Malcolm Gibson 19’, Chase Garner 20’, Nathan McCarthy 19’ and Will Simotas 19’ met with Coach Quinn and talked about what they could do to make sure the 2018-19 season would turn out better. The answer: positivity and camaraderie. Compared to last year, the boys seem to support each other more. If one player falls downs, four of his teammates will pick him up.
In addition to the mental shift, several members of the team have put tremendous work into the offseason. No one’s improvements are more evident than Nathan McCarthy’s 19’ who has spent countless hours over last spring and this summer practicing his skills. McCarthy also attended a basketball camp over the summer and did not play soccer this fall in order to improve his game. All the work and effort that the boys had put in seemed to immediately pay off in the last few minutes of this year’s first game against UNIS.
There were 2:22 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The score was 35-40 in Grace’s favor, a situation that last year’s team would have almost certainly lost. Coach Quinn came over to the bench and told the five veteran players they were in. He looked directly at them and said that he had complete confidence in their ability to finish this game. Last year’s team would have been scared about losing their lead. BZZZZ. The timeout was over, and the referee called the players to court. The boys could not allow UNIS to get any quick points, and they needed to waste as much time as possible. The ball was inbounded and taken up the court by Chase Garner 20’. Then it was swung around the three point line several times until it came back to Gardner for the open shot. He caught the ball square up, looked at the rim with laser focus, bent his knees and released. The shot sailed through the air, the boys on the bench rose from their seats and looked as the ball floated through the air. The court went silent. If the shot went in, it would put Grace in a great position. They would have two minutes left on the shot clock and an eight point lead. If the shot missed, it could turn into an easy transition bucket and put UNIS within 3 points with plenty of time to come back. The whole game and possibly the whole season rested on this moment. But then… Clackkkk. Coach Quinn tighten in frustration. The ball hit the rim. But instead of screaming out of frustration, Gardner did the only thing he could, he ran to the basket. The ball went long and Gibson got the rebound! He dribbled the ball back to the top of the key. The fans were on the edge of their seats. The shot clock had been reset and the boys had another 35 seconds of offense. The ball was swung around the court and passed inside to Simotas who passed it to Attanasio who drove towards the rim and threw it to McCarthy in the corner.
McCarthy took two hard dribbles and went up for a floater. Clackkkk. The ball bounced off the rim. But McCarthy charged and got the rebound. The fans screamed and parents were up on their feet. Again the shock clock reset. The boys had run the clock down to 1:30 seconds. Chase got the ball and set up a play. It failed, but he did not flinch; he swung the ball to McCarthy and got the team moving. UNIS was playing tight defense on him and he looked for a pass. Gibson came dashing through the paint. McCarthy gave him a sharp pass. Gibson quickly dribbled the ball to the top of the key, shifting the defense over, then turned on a dime to rocket a pass to Nathan who was now wide open. McCarthy looked at the basket, focused and released. The gym went quiet again. The ball was sailing through the air. The players on the bench slowly got off their seats and braced each other for the shot. Even if the shot missed, Coach Quinn would still be proud of his boys. He had put so much time and energy into making them mentally and emotionally stronger and now, when they had needed it most, they came through. The boys had kept their poise and control in the situation when they needed it the most. Everyone looked at the shot with disbelief. The team had executed their offensive beautifully and as the ball fell through the net Coach Quinn’s grin turned into a roaring rage of encouragement. The players on the bench jumped back and shouted and the five veterans ran back on defense with a smile and determination. Now the clock read 1:00.
Everything seemed to come together on that play and it was fitting that Nathan Mccarthy, who put in some much individual time and energy into getting better made that shot.
Last year was a tough year for the Boys Varsity Basketball team, but with the new season, comes a new team. The boys have started the year off on a good note and hopefully their struggles from the past are behind them. We hope to see great things from the basketball team in the future. In the meantime come and support the team at their home games!
A film by Sam Perman ’18