A few months ago, I remember casually scrolling through TikTok, not thinking anything of it. A video came up of a Boston College senior being interviewed after his last college game ever. He was asked, “What are young going to take away as your best memory on playing basketball?”. His answer was simple and unexpected: “Going out to eat”.
At the time, I wasn’t able to relate. Flash forward about six months and the thing I am going to miss the most about my high school basketball team is going out to eat.
Basketball has always been a major part of my life from playing in intramural, church leagues, and AAU. The ultimate goal has always been to play Varsity High School Basketball and the fact that I had the opportunity to play is one I will forever be grateful for.
When I made the team in November, I honestly did not know what to expect.
Our roster was composed of nine seniors and four juniors. Starting off with the seniors, we had star point-forward and captain Dylan Banner. Banner spent 3 years on varsity and dominated every single one. This past year he was the only CPOTY.
Our other captain was Brody Girsky. Despite his size, Brody was impossible to guard. He was my least favorite person to guard in practice as he would just pull up in your face and knockdown deep threes.
Mason Garvey was a paint presence who was hard to guard due to his amazing footwork and finishing abilities. He was also an amazing leader giving some great pump-up speeches in the locker room.
Jake Goldfarb was an elite defender who did all the little things to make us succeed. Every team needs a glue guy like Farb.
Jordan Rosenberg was all over the floor in both games and in practice. He was always going 100% and gave even more energy into being an amazing teammate.
When talking about Jordan Tizzard, it’s obvious to talk about how he dominated in practice. It was also obvious that all the younger guys looked up to Tizz and saw him as a mentor.
When he wasn’t late to practice or with his girlfriend, Aaron Percheckly contributed a lot to the team being an All-County Shell player and being the leader of the Bench Boys.
Even though Justin moved halfway through the season, he brought energy to every practice.
As for me, I knew I would have limited playing time. So early on, I assured myself that I would star in my role and make practice my games.
We had an interesting group of juniors as well. Ari Kesselman was our sixth man and I always admired the confidence he played with. Logan Wisenthal was one of the more interesting guys on the team. On the court, he was always ready to check-in and do his job. Off the court, all he ever wants to do is go to IHOP or play Fortnite. Even though Kai never said much, it was always great when we got an occasional comment from Kai which would be pretty funny. Finally but certainly not least is Louis Shaw. Big Lou was the guy I knew the least when I first joined the team since I never heard of him before. I’m glad I got to know Lou because he is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and the only person willing to twerk in front of anyone.
All these guys made this season incredibly fun.
The team from the previous year was said to be elite and we were expected to have a massive drop-off. Plainview Basketball was expected to go back to mediocrity. Our mindset became clear after the first week of practice: we weren’t letting that happen.
In fact, we were going to shoot for the stars. How were we going to do that? By being the hardest-working, toughest team possible.
Our first game was against the Farmingdale Dalers who historically have dominated Plainview, and didn’t think of us as much competition. Well, their mindset was awful considering the fact that we blew them out. Our first home game of the season was electric. On the bench, I tried my best to be a leader starting multiple chants and always making sure my teammates getting playing time were in the right headspace.
I eventually checked into the game where I scored my first varsity bucket. Like I said previously, I was going to star in my role on and off the court.
Our second game happened to be against the Syosset Braves who were considered to be one of the best teams in not only the county but all of Long Island. During the first half, we competed with them despite trailing. However, the second half didn’t go well.
The rest of the non-conference play went very well despite one more loss to Garden City in the JoJo Wright Memorial Tournament where we almost came back from being down over twenty points.
As non-conference play went on, everyone on the team became more and more comfortable and closer with each other. We would consistently go out to eat at our local diner, local bagel shops, sports bars, and my personal favorite, IHOP.
Hanging out at nights became more frequent as we would watch sporting events together or just hang out as a group with the girls’ basketball team. We would even go to the Hofstra-James Madison game where I met the greatest 53rd pick in NBA history in Justin Wright-Foreman. The off-court chemistry between us was growing as fast, maybe even faster, than our on-court chemistry.
Despite our conference games going well, there was a fair share of obstacles.
First, our head coach got Covid which really put a wrench in our team. We all wondered, “can we win without him?”. In our one game without him, we won by nearly fifty points. Our next obstacle came when our best player also got Covid. We had back-to-back home games that Friday night and Saturday morning. On Friday, we matched up with a sneaky East Meadow team. Our identity as a hard-working team really came through that night as we beat the adversity and East Meadow. This game clinched a playoff spot for us. We knew we wanted a home playoff game more than anything.
The next morning’s game was against Baldwin who happened to be one of, if not the best team on Long Island.
Not having our best player against them was terrifying but we still went to work. Unfortunately, we lost by eight points but we were still impressed as we competed with them as no team had with them all season. The remainder of the season went similarly to the first half. We won the rest of our games except for Baldwin on the road.
Due to our success, we were able to clinch a home playoff game for the first time since 2015 as a three-seed.
When it came time for seeding, it was clear teams wanted to play us in round one. They saw us as vulnerable. We didn’t take that lightly. We were matched up with Herricks and to be honest, we did not like them and they did not like us. Their so-called best player thought he was the best player in the conference even though he wasn’t even the best player on their team and he talked a lot of smack.
Both of these things fueled us during our first playoff game. Our fans were electric with a few seniors painting “H-A-W-K-S” on their chests. I knew the odds of me checking in were low so I had to go all out on the bench. At some points, I did get carried away as I yelled at one of their players “You can’t do anything” (sorry, coach). We went on to win the game and I did check in the remaining seconds which was awesome.
We were ready for the semi-finals against the undefeated Syosset Braves at Hofstra.
Once again, we were extremely motivated. Syosset had already beaten us on our home court while disrespecting our fans. They went to our local Moe’s after beating us and posted it on social media. Practice that week was a long grind. We were all awaiting the game at a Division 1 college. Finally, the day came. We were all excited and in awe due to the fact that we were playing on Hofstra’s court in front of thousands of fans while nervous as we knew how high the stakes were. Our fans once again showed out with even more people coming despite it being in the middle of February break.
Syosset hit their stride early but we kept up with them. The second half was even closer and even with a lead with six minutes left, I never felt as if it was over. Thankfully, I trusted my team and my guys were clutch. It came down to the wire, but we ended up pulling off the upset beating the unbeaten giants by four points.
March Madness had arrived a week early.
The joy and elation we all felt on that court and locker room is something I will never forget. We were headed to the championship. With the win, we broke the school record for wins in a season and had gone farther than any team in Plainview history has ever gone. We proceeded to have our most important team meal at Syosset’s Chipotle. In the championship, we were destined to take on Baldwin.
Running onto the court after the win and embracing my teammates still doesn’t feel real. I only remember feeling a rush of excitement. Every single one of us from our best player to the sophomores who were just called up was smiling ear to ear.
Everyone, not only the school but the entire community was invested in our journey as the underdogs, the Cinderella team ready to shock the world. We were local heroes.
The entire week, everyone was locked in. Baldwin was consistently ranked as one of the best teams in Long Island and we were consistently written off by publications and an Instagram page run by a 30-year-old who spends his life keeping track of high school sports. They were a public school that included transfers. We knew the odds were against us. Our practices were more competitive than ever. Most importantly, we were closer than ever.
On my birthday, March 5th, we played in the championship game.
The only thing I wished for was a win and a chance to celebrate with my teammates. The game tipped off at 7:30. There were more than four thousand people in the arena. Warming up felt like a blur. Once the game started, it sped by. We dug ourselves into a hole early on. At halftime, we didn’t want our season to end. We wanted to keep going. So, in the third quarter, we came out guns blazing. We eventually started trading buckets with them back and forth. We kept it a competitive game for the majority of the fourth quarter however it wasn’t enough. I checked in with about a minute remaining to finish out my senior season.
The loss was crushing. What was even more crushing was watching the other team celebrate with each other.
That night, I proceeded to celebrate my birthday but it was obviously tough. The fact that I wouldn’t have practice with my teammates for the rest of the year was brutal. Going back to my old schedule would be a huge adjustment. The next day, we had a final team brunch at IHOP where all we did was laugh.
Thank you to Coach Harris and Bernardo for making the season unforgettable. As a coach, Bernardo knew his stuff as he is the winningest interim coach in Plainview history. Bernardo brought charisma to practice that was needed on the days when it felt more like work than training.
Coach Harris brought energy day in and day out and we couldn’t have made it as far as we did without him. Aside from being a basketball genius, it was evident he really cared for us individually and really loved the dynamic we all had as a team.
This season not only made me a better basketball player but made me a better person. I made and strengthened friendships with people I didn’t know it was possible with. Although I only had four and a half months playing with these guys, they will be my teammates and brothers forever. Competing every day with them was a ton of fun but the experiences we all shared were like no other.
Even though we lost, I would do it all over again. Making it to the Nassau County Championship as the underdogs after consistently getting written off was an amazing feeling to share with the team. This team had an indescribable bond. If one play had to describe this season, I would say it was in practice when I blocked my teammate, then he and I just looked at each other, smiled, and put our arms around each other.
I will forever be thankful to the fans, coaches, and my teammates for making this past season one of the most memorable seasons of my life.