Islanders show true sports mettle
While other people were bored silly watching Bode Miller’s huffing and puffing down the mountain, missing gates, and listening to his ever evolving commentary and his ongoing excuses at the Olympics, five Jamestown basketball players were showing those of us who were lucky enough to be in the bleachers a gold medal performance. The St. Mark eighth-grade boys’ team had only five boys to play in their final season game against a very tough St. Brendan’s team (which had just come from their Riverside POPWarner football banquet). Winning this game would have meant a playoff spot for St. Mark.
Just minutes into the game, you could see on the faces of St. Mark players Chris Wright and Chris Crawford that they were struggling, but both continued giving 110 percent on the court. Wright, who limped up and down the court with a bad ankle, didn’t let his pain stop him from out rebounding two of his 6-foot-tall opponents. Although you could tell that the higher he jumped the more painful it was to land, he never let up and was responsible for countless rebounds and outlet passes to Tommy Stacom that kept them in the game. Crawford was struggling with a stomach virus, but still succeeded in moving the ball around on offense and opening up his teammates for scoring opportunities. Nobody thought he would make it through the game, let alone pass better than he has all season.
Michael McDermott’s signature jump shot came through for him, giving his team momentum when they had fallen behind, while Tom Munro played relentless defense against a much larger team. With four fouls early in the game, Munro kept pressure on his opponents without fouling out — not an easy task! Had he fouled out, the game would have been over.
Always composed and with a smile on his face most of the game, Stacom led his team with a spectacular performance, scoring 26 points, including two 3 pointers, and never let up, not for a second — even when they had the ball, were down by 2 and only had 4 players left on the court the last 15 seconds of the game — he never let up. Storybook ending? I think so. St. Mark lost by 2 points, but that really didn’t matter. The victory was in how these boys faced adversity head on, how they remained focused and never gave up on each other, not one of them, not for a second, the whole game. High school coaches will be very lucky to have these kids play for them next year. You can’t teach “heart” and you can’t teach “desire.” All these boys have learned that through their countless hours playing hoops together, through their friendships and their dedicated coaches and parents. Coach Crawford was beaming after the game as if his team had just won the game, and you know what? In a way, they did.
Bode Miller says “it isn’t about winning” — and he’s right. But it is about putting yourself out there, Bode, and knowing you dug as deep as you could, and did everything you could to win. I didn’t need to go to Torino to learn that.