I vividly remember the day of 6th grade basketball tryouts. I also remember how I didn’t want to tryout, thinking that all the kids were amazing and I had no chance of making it. However, of course, my dad made me do it- and I’m thankful he did.
At tryouts, I was intimated, and nobody knew me. Meanwhile, all the other guys were giving high-fives, and smiling, as if the tryout was pointless. Luckily, I caught the coach’s attention. Ever since then, Coach has always liked me- I think.
Not only did I make it, I was the starting point guard for my first middle school game. In sixth grade, we were pretty good. We ended up with the last seed in the playoffs, and had to play undefeated Verona.
Something obviously clicked, because we pulled off a unpredictable upset, sending us to the championship game. Where? The same place Kyrie Irving won his middle school championship, the same place it’d always be: West Orange.
That was probably one of the best games I have played in, and we came out hot. I remember hitting a three to tie the game with under a minute in overtime, which allowed our shooting guard to hit the game winner with 4.5 seconds left.
Right now, my mom would be saying, “How do you remember all of this?” Anyway, we won.
Seventh grade was a huge wake up call. South Orange got two great players, and they upset us. After that loss, everything went downhill. We lost in the semi finals, to the champions of that year: West Orange.
This year came around, and we already had a few setbacks to start. One of our best players tore his ACL, ending his season. Another good player quit. So we were not very confident in the beginning.
Coach drafted three new players, all of which made immense contributions this year. After playing 2 years already, our team was prepared to get back to the championship.
We did what we were supposed to do in the regular season. Got the 2-seed, and a home playoff game, our first home playoff game ever. The crowd was AWESOME. Big, loud, and rowdy.
We were down at half time. However, the crowd’s energy helped to get us back into the game. I started to hit shots, and so did everyone else. Our team had come together, and we weren’t going down without a fight.
Once we got the lead, we never looked back. The buzzer sounded, and the scoreboard read:
We finished that game on a 30-12 run. We fired up. The championship game, the last game of our middle school career, was just beyond our grasp. So close. Where? Why, of course, the right place for middle school basketball to end: West Orange.
They had won a championship, we had won a championship. This was Game 3, the game that would decide who was the Middle School Champion.
I hate to say it, but we didn’t get the offensive production we needed, at all. Defensively, we executed exceptionally, holding them to 14 points in the 1st half. However, we only had 18. The 2nd half was a little bit less ugly, but turnovers occurred often.
As the final minutes slipped away, they hit shots, we didn’t. We really knew we fell short with under a minute, when the lead was 5 and they were at the charity stripe. We finished with a season low 29 points, losing 36-29.
Despite the outcome, we made it to the end. We fought hard every game and gave every team a run for their money. Except Roseland, we beat them 87-11. This team meant a lot to me, and it sucks that our last game together didn’t go well.
However, I will never forget my middle school hoops team. There was so much talent I can’t even tell you, and not many people can say they were on an 8th grade team with a kid that’s 6’3” (being that I’m 5’3”) and can dunk.
From the first day to the last, I made great memories, friends, and became a solid player thanks to my coaches and teammates.