Last Friday afternoon I went for the first time in 20-years to a basketball game at a local High School.
In the soft winter hills of St. John’s a steely looking building with red as its main color, serves as the school where teenagers begin to structure their transition into adulthood.
I sat two levels up in the bleachers as I wasn’t sure if I could get down in a hurry should I suddenly need the ladies room, or start to cough-the Juniper bush allergies are a part of my Halls cough-drop-living these days.
The home team, the St. John’s Redskins, beat the visitors Pinon Eagles in the Verl Heap Gym at St. John’s High School, 61-34.
This event was so many things for so many and the score and who won was incidental because the way they played, both teams, was thrilling. If you believe, and I do, that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game, then the Junior Varsity teams on this February 7th winter afternoon could very well have written that saying.
Over the sounds of sneakers squeaking and the coaches whistles, the game crescendoed with the pounding of determined feet. Tense moments with those free shots from the basketball rules book...only then did the place get quiet.
Each player played for their team-directed and focused-passing the ball toward their own court-dribbling fast like lightening in an open Arizona sky; they ran and with the hoop as their target were relentless until the end…until time ran out and the score was final. They blocked out distractions like families and friends taking pictures and cheering. With all the support and the great facility they had to play in it’s no surprise that they played so well.
For the visiting team, the Eagles, their edge was lost in the length of their bodies, but the way they darted in between the taller competitors was exciting and charismatic. Of special note, Junior Toderick Nez #30, at 5”9” clearly has some star power –nothing got past him – and if he plays his future the way he did this game-I would say remember him; this kid has a great shot at life. Also, Milton Tso a sophomore at 5’7” went for a straight shot and got it.
The St. John’s Redskins were clearly at home-so much talent in this team, Levi Udall at 6’2” had leverage with his height but knows his game and kept the hoops coming with great side shots. Adam Sullivan a sophomore at 6’0” has a great style and ran down court to his hoop and walloped it in with the determination of a winner. St. John’s started out with the win and kept it till the end. The Eagles never gave up; shot those baskets till the end in true winner style. The great gym, the support from the community, the faculty involvement - St. John’s seniors like Andrew Sullivan and Jake Zieler will be missed next season as their contributions to the winning score were obvious.
As I climbed down the two steps to get to the well shined gym floor the recall of my own high school days bounced back: In sports everyone wins whether you are playing or a spectator it doesn’t matter. It’s a game and watching how it get’s played-out is the experience of watching young people fill a pre requisite of life…learning to live together no matter what team they are on.