Last year, my 6th grade basketball team had a rough regular season, yet we finished 10-4. We didn’t win our division, because we lost to North Caldwell twice. Luckily, we claimed the 4-seed in the playoffs. In the first round, we played on the road against the undefeated Verona, who had beat us earlier in the year.
We played great defense and were able to produce points on the fast break and against their two-three defense. We also had a great game on the boards, despite their unmatchable size down low. So, we advanced, 53-50. Then, in the championship game, in West Orange, which is the same court Kyrie Irving won three middle school championships, we aimed to avenge our previous loss to West Orange.
We mixed up our defenses, utilizing our 1-3-1, full court press, and half court press. Our team caused turnover after turnover, yet we were slowed down offensively. However, with a second left, our center, Stephon, tied the game up with a short bucket. In overtime, I hit a three, and our other guard, Doo-Doo hit a three with four seconds left, and we won the championship 45-44.
And yes, we call him Doo-Doo. I’ll explain. There are two Rakims on our team. One is called Ra-Ra, one is called Doo-Doo. When I met them in 6th grade, I didn’t even ask. I don’t understand the connection between Doo-Doo and Rakim, but, oh well. Anyway, we had a very successful year last year.
This year is quite an adventure. We started the season 4-0, blowing past teams with ease. Then, unfortunately, we lost a tough game at home to West Orange. We really just didn’t come to play. So, then came the game on the road against Verona. However, their biggest man from last year (who was easily over six feet tall) wasn’t playing!
After the game, we figured out that he was in 8th grade, and was prohibited to join the 7th grade team. Anyway, they led the whole game, yet we kept plugging away. Finally, midway through the 4th quarter, we captured the lead, and never let go. We won 55-50!
Then came the huge game against South Orange, at home. Last year, we beat them by 50 twice! However, they got two brothers, Breizh and Brandon, who are very skilled. Every time I went to South Orange to hang out with my friends there, their whole team would talk trash. I just said confidently, “We’ll see.”
Then came game time. I was so nervous, knowing a loss would be much worse than just a big “L” on the schedule. The arena was packed. And I mean PACKED. Kids from South Orange and Maplewood filed into the stands continuously. Teachers, other coaches, students, parents. The gym was full, and many people had to stand.
My friends Sam, Jack, Avery, and Joe led the cheering for our team, and it was loud the whole game. When they were shooting free throws, everyone was screaming and yelling, “OOHHH!” It felt like the entire gym was shaking. It was ridiculously loud, and our crowd tried to taunt Breizh and Brandon.
Breizh talked trash the whole game; cursing, yelling, pushing, talking smack, talking to the crowd, too! After the 1st quarter, we were winning big, 15-3. However, in the 2nd quarter we couldn’t produce against their 2-3 defense. We scored 1 point in the 2nd quarter, but we remained winning at halftime, 16-15.
Oh, and did I mention, Briezh is five foot seven, and Brandon is five foot eleven (I’m 4’11”)! They both can shoot the three, penetrate, dribble, and shoot short buckets. Literally, they were South Orange’s WHOLE team. No one else scored. Brandon had 28 points, and Breizh had 14 points!
The second half was back and forth, with controversial calls by the ref, and physical plays on both sides of the floor. We tried to run several defenses, including 1-3-1, and half court press. I thought we should’ve full-court pressed, to put pressure on them. We also ran a diamond-and-1 (like a box-and-1) on Breizh, yet that was when Brandon killed us most.
We held them to 42 points, yet we couldn’t produce points against their tight 2-3 when we needed to, and they pulled off the upset, 42-37. It wasn’t that bad, because I got hugs from Maplewood girls, and South Orange girls, and actually had pizza with two of their guards, Ben and David (both my friends) after the game.
However, after the game, our talented 6-foot center, Stephon, quit. It was right after our coach’s speech when he got into a small argument with our coach. Our coach threatened to take his jersey, but Stephon didn’t want deal with any of it, so he threw his jersey down and left.
Our next game, against a bad Cedar Grove team, we lost by one point. I wasn’t there, because I was sick, but the next day at school was rough. I was determined to have a good next game, and try to get our mojo back, as a team and as individuals. Yesterday, in Millburn, we started slow, and were down 27-25 at halftime. However, we turned it up in the 3rd quarter!
We started to play our full-court game, and run the break. I had a no-look scoop pass to my friend Will underneath, and the crowd went nuts. We got fired up, our coach got fired up, and we started playing tough defense, and got steal after steal. And, in Maplewood, when you get a steal, its two points, too. I contributed with 6 points and 10 assists, as we finished the game on a 31-9 run.
So, now we stand with a record of 8-3. Not bad, yet it should be better. We have three games left, and we play Roseland, who we beat by 52, West Caldwell, who we beat by 44, and Millburn, who we just beat by 20. If we win out, we will probably still beat Verona for the 3-seed, and play South Orange in the first round of the playoffs. Now, how crazy would that be? And, hopefully, we can persuade Stephon to return to the team!