Team bonding brings basketball success

This year’s Boys’ (BVB) and Girls’ Varsity Basketball (GVB) teams were all about leadership and camaraderie, players said.

Comprised mainly of underclassmen with six freshmen, four sophomores, one junior, and four seniors, BVB held a 7–5 record at the halfway point of this season and the previous one. Last year, however, the team ended with a 10–13 record, while this year they finished at 13–9.

BVB Co-Captain Adam Buchanan ’17 said such results came as a pleasant surprise to him.

“There were not a lot of expectations for this season since we had lots of freshmen on the team, and we lost some important senior players,” he said.

Nonetheless, Adam tried to set a good example for the younger players, he said, advising them not to let the game speed them up or a different environment change how they would normally play.

“The relationships between the captains and underclassmen were a huge part of our success,” BVB shooting guard Jack Fleming ’20 said. “The seniors welcomed all the underclassmen from day one, and we built lots of chemistry on the court as the season went on.”

BVB Head Coach John Papas, in his 42nd year of coaching, also praised the seniors for setting a great example with their leadership.

“If we have good role models from top to bottom, the freshman will become excellent leaders when they grow older,” he said, adding that he did not prepare any differently for this season than for seasons with more experienced squads.

“Veteran players take the lead, and freshmen pick up the system quickly,” he added.

Players and coaches alike considered the January 27 home game against Governor’s Academy—a then undefeated team that Coach Papas identified as the more talented—the highlight of the season.

“Before the game, we said that as long as we stayed within 10 points of them, we had a chance to win,” Coach Papas said.

As the game progressed, BVB picked up momentum while their opponent became frustrated, Coach Papas reported. With 8 seconds left and the Knights down by one, point guard Nick Johnson ’20 was fouled, giving BB&N a chance at the lead.

“To step up to the free throw line as a freshman and to make those two game-winning points speaks a lot about his character,” Coach Papas said.

Shooting guard Ben Blackburn ’18 also commended the freshmen for their talent and recalled the team’s surprise and exuberance at the victory.

“After the final buzzer sounded, everyone rushed out,” Ben said. “No one expected this win.”

Playing an even younger roster on the other side of the court, GVB—comprised of four freshmen, five sophomores, three juniors, and one senior—finished what point guard Tauryn Jennings ’19 called a “developing season” with a record of 4–16.

To bond returning and new players and to keep morale up, the girls established a new tradition this season called “Pump Up Pals, where players would write each other cute notes and attach “goodies,” Tauryn explained.

The plan worked, creating a team players characterized by its willingness to work hard and its positive mentality.

“Getting pumped up before games in the locker room was fun,” Tauryn said. “We all came together singing at the top of our lungs, and even though no one really knew the words or the correct key to be in, it felt good to be together.”

Of their spirit on the court, Tauryn added, “We fought every game. We didn’t let a scoreboard dictate our perseverance and effort.”

GVB point guard Kayla Kaloostian ’18, who joined the 1,000-point club in January, agreed. 

“We gave 100 percent effort in each practice and every game, while being positive and supportive on and off the court,” Kaley said.

She named the December 16 Williston Northampton tournament, in which GVB beat Hopkins School with a score of 60–48, as a winter highlight.

“It was a great bonding experience for the team,” Kayla said. “We slept in a hotel together and got to know one another. It was a really great way to begin the season.”

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