This past Friday night, the boys’ basketball team lost a heartbreaking game against the Sacred Heart Preparatory Gators in their first of three playoff games. The Bears earned a spot in the top flight division this year, and have two more games to redeem themselves.
After the game, junior Ben Timm said, “I feel like we still have the better team, which is why it hurts so much to have lost twice now, especially when we had a starter out in both games.”
The energy was palpable at the tip-off, with the M-A student section decked out in camo wear and the Gator students dressed in all black. M-A won the tip and the game was underway.
Early baskets by seniors Johno Price and Allen Chang gave the Bears an early lead in the first quarter. However, the Gators matched the Bears’ every move, and the quarter ended with the score sitting at 13-13.
The second quarter was just as tightly contested as the first, as senior Jalen Williams hit a deep three-pointer with 5:55 left in the half to tie the game at 18. Williams had an and-one layup a few minutes later to give M-A a one-point lead. As the half ended, Williams went the full length of the court to lay the ball in, putting M-A up 30-29 going into halftime.
The Bears were able to pull away in the third quarter, starting with a layup by Price, followed by two free throws by senior Ben Eisner after the referee issued a technical foul to the Gators spiking the ball into the floor, much to the M-A student section’s pleasure. After a three-pointer by Price, and an incredible one-handed dunk by junior Justin Moore, the Bears led 46-40 heading into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was a hotly contested battle, as both teams knew the importance of winning their first playoff game. A three-pointer from Eisner made the score 57-52 Bears with fewer than four minutes to play.
The Gators knew they needed baskets quickly and started to guard full court. Their strategy proved immediately effective as they stole the ball from Williams, leading to a foul on the Sacred Heart layup. After converting both free throws, the score was 57-54 with 52 seconds left.
Sacred Heart proceeded to foul senior Meka Okereke, who then went to the line to shoot two free throws. Unfortunately, Okereke was not able to convert either attempt, which opened up the possibility for Sacred Heart to tie the game. They did: with 28 seconds left, a three-pointer from the Gators tied the game at 57. Right after the shot went in, Williams inbounded the ball, rushed down the court and laid the ball in, restoring a two-point lead for M-A.
Without timeouts, Sacred Heart had to move quickly. They got into their offensive set and eventually found their center, who laid the ball in while being fouled with just two seconds left. After converting on the free throw, Williams attempted a half-court shot that fell short. The final buzzer sounded with the score at 60-59 in favor of Sacred Heart.
After the game, Moore said, “We have to pay attention to the details and perfect them; playoffs are a different animal, and details will determine our outcomes.”
Junior David Baron also added, “It was a very tough loss and it came down to our lack of rebounding and defense. The amount of offensive rebounds they got really hurt us down the stretch.”
The Bears return to the court on Monday night to take on Archbishop Riordan.