On November 19, the Grace varsity basketball teams took to the Barclays Center with fellow students, faculty, and parents watching from the stands. It was the 6th year of the tradition between Grace and Berkeley Carroll, and an amazing opportunity for everyone in the community to gather in a grand display of school spirit. For the athletes, it is unbelievable to play in a world famous arena which has hosted some of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game.
Classes were dismissed 40 minutes early so fans could get to the Barclays Center in time for the Girls Varsity game, which started at 3:30. It was a fantastic 40 minutes of basketball for the Girls team, led by Coach Armijos. Casey Donnelly ’20, impressed in the game, sparking “ooo’s and aah’s” from the crowd with her crafty playmaking and ability to score. The team ended up winning in a 39-20 blowout. Coach Armijos said afterward, “the team came out confident, we shared the ball, a lot of the players scored, we had some great passing, and we ran the ball very well up the court. It was also a lot of fun. It’s just a great experience that nobody should take for granted.”
Casey Donnelly ‘20 shooting a three (Photo Credits: Nick Russell ‘21)
Next, the Boys varsity basketball team, coached by Mr. Quinn, took the court and began their game. Following a poor performance from the team in 2017 at the Barclays Center, where they lost by a large margin, the game this year was a nail-biter from start to finish. Unfortunately, Will Simotas, a senior, was out due to injury so the team had to fill the large role of leadership that Will has brings to the team. Because the game was technically a scrimmage and not an official league match, everyone on the team got playing time. Heading into the fourth quarter, it was a tie game. Junior, Chase Gardner, had a stellar performance which was furthered by his amazing fourth quarter. With a minute left in the game, Grace was down by three. The team missed two crucial three-pointers in the final minute, which led to a three point loss. Varsity player, Jackson Sohn, said “it was a tight game the entire way, wish we came out with the W though.”
Chase Gardner ‘20 driving to the hoop (Photo Credits: Nick Russell ‘21)
Both games were not only entertaining to witness but a great event for the school which is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the players and a great time for the rest of the community to show their spirit.
Now check out this personal reflection on the Barclays Games from Misha Cutter Nye:
As someone who does not consider herself an avid sports fan, envisioning myself enjoying a Basketball game, even a professional one, is difficult. However, linking the sport with a community I love and am proud to be apart of makes the experience of going to the annual Barclays Center game a memorable one. I came to the Barclays game for the first time during my first year at Grace, my junior year, and the event was the perfect welcome to the school; it combined the ambitious and tenacious spirit of Grace students and coaches, while also showing the unconditional support from the community that is typical of attending Grace Church School.
Walking into the arena amongst the players and cheer team, the excitement in the air was palpable. As varsity player Malcolm Gibson ‘19 said, “The atmosphere here is really energetic. I think everyone here is very excited. I have played in the game here for the last four years and every year it is different and more exciting.” For any fan or player of basketball, The Barclays Center is an iconic location to be in, let alone play on its court; the privilege of doing the sport one is passionate about in such an impressive location is usually reserved for professionals, but the annual Barclays Center game is a beloved tradition that gives our student athletes this special experience.
I took my seat to watch the games, and immediately felt the competitive spirit begin to set in and as the girls (and later in the afternoon boys) began to play I was enthralled- watching my peers playing on the same court that extremely respected and talented professional players such as LeBron James have played on is surreal.
Handshakes after the Girls’ victory (Photo Credits: Nick Russell ‘21)
I asked one of the co-captains of the girls’ team, Casey Donnelly, what playing in such a prestigious location in sports meant to her, “It’s always exciting to start the season at Barclays. Everyone gets a little anxious, but once we start playing, it’s a fun atmosphere to be a part of. Having a lot of Grace students, teachers, and families show out for both teams makes the game so much more enjoyable, so our team really appreciates and excels when we have the chance to play in front of a bigger crowd.” Not only is spectating the game a fun way to blow off steam amidst our crazy academic schedules, but the fact that our teams play better with their Grace Church School peers cheering them on shows how our school atmosphere is conducive to pure positivity and support from one another.
The Barclays game, an event that is valued by students, but the coaches also are grateful for the opportunity to coach at this venue. Mr. Quinn, coach to the boys varsity team says of his experience, “Getting a chance to coach at the Barclays Center is an honor. To walk the sidelines that some of the greatest coaches and players have performed on is special. More importantly it is a great experience for our players. Not only do they get a chance to play on an NBA court, but they get to perform in front of a very supportive community. I was very proud of the way our boys played this year at the Barclays Center.”
Boys Varsity heads to the bench before the game, led by captain Will Simotas ‘19 (Photo Credits: Nick Russell ‘21)
From the responses I garnered from members of our sports community, to reflection upon my own experience at the game, it is clear this event elicits a great deal of pride and enthusiasm from students, families, and faculty. The game is a wonderful tradition that I hope continues for many years to come.