This was Mason’s second year to play basketball for the YMCA. Last year Mason played in the 10-and-under league, and this year he got bumped up to the 12-and-under league. The age cut off was September 1st of 2013, meaning Mason can play 12-and-under ball for one more year.
Mason’s team, which consisted of the same coaches and many of the same players as last year, went 7-1 this year (three of those games were forfeits), a record that was good enough to send them to state again. Last year state was in Weatherford (about an hour drive for us) but this year it was in Bethany which is much closer (it’s where Mason normally plays). Our team ended up consolidating into another team, building a powerhouse of sorts. The good news was that we ended up with a lot of good players; the bad news was, we only had two practices together with all the new players before we went to state.
Maybe it was nerves or maybe they simply didn’t mesh well together, but we lost our first game to a team we should have beaten. Our kids get intimidated anytime they face taller kids on the court and they did not play their best. Everyone who has seen these kids practice said the same thing. Our team looked awesome in practice, but it just didn’t translate to the court.
The tournament was double elimination and so we headed back to the tournament at 1:30pm for our 2pm game. Our 2pm opponent didn’t show, which game us an hour to regroup as a team. I had the opportunity to talk to a few of the kids and told them that we got beat by the best players at the tournament: ourselves. We didn’t pass, we didn’t run plays, and we didn’t play like normally play. We may have had the best players, but we certainly didn’t have the best team out there because we didn’t play like one.
When it was time for the 3pm game, our kids came alive. They ran, they shot, they played offense and defense, and they actually played like a team. Before long we were up by 20 points, a lead we held throughout the game. Mason hit one of his traditional 3-point shots and the crowd cheered. He played zone defense. He rebounded. He set picks. He did everything he was supposed to do and hustled as hard as he could. All the kids did, and it showed.
The kids were excited. We were on the rebound with a record of 2-1. We were in the losers bracket, sure, but we could dig our way out of this hole! Then our 4:30pm opponents showed up.
If that kid on the left is 12 years old, I’ll eat his size 15 show.
I don’t want to sound like I’m full of sour grapes, but note in this picture how those three kids are taller than the referee.
I tried to give the kids a pep talk before the game by telling them that the other team was in the losers bracket just like they were which meant someone else had already beaten them, but the kids weren’t having it.
Five minutes into the first half, the score was 0-20. (We were the 0.) Running one of our set plays, one of the kids kicked the ball out to Mason who got fouled on a three-point shot, sending him to the line. Mason hit the first one, making the score 1 to 20. That at least showed the kids that they could score, and that (I think) woke them up a bit. With the knowledge that it was actually possible to score against these giants, the kids turned it up.
Halfway through the second half, Mason (who was playing as hard as I’ve ever seen him play) got knocked to the ground while attempting to grab a rebound and was subsequently stepped on by one of his opponents. Mason laid on the ground holding his knee long enough that I ended up leaving the stands and walking out on to the court. Other than the outline of a giant Nike on the back of his calf, he was okay.
The final score was (I think) was 19-37. After the game the kids were frustrated and upset but they shouldn’t have been. They ran up against some monsters and that’s just the luck of the draw. I didn’t care if they won — I just cared that they tried. After the game I heard some bitter and critical complaints from parents about their kids not getting enough play time and that some of the “bad kids” got too much play time. And that’s unfortunate. I felt like both the kids and the coaches did a great job. Winning isn’t everything.
Thanks to Coach Charles and Coach Mike for a great season. I know Mason had a great time this year. He’s really developing as a player and really enjoys the game of basketball. Mason plans on spending the off season working on his shot and some of his other skills in preparation for next year’s season!