Day 1: New York bound
At 5 a.m., my teammate David (Bonner) woke me up with pure excitement. About 20 minutes later, Brock (Hunter) knocked on the door singing. It was time to head to the school, so we had to wake up Semar (Farris), who sleeps every chance he gets. Everybody was hyped for the trip, and some were scared because of the flight. I sat next to LaDaniel on the plane. He said his heart was beating like a pit bull was chasing him. The flight had him extra nervous, and I found that too funny!
Big day tomorrow. It’s our last practice, and the formal banquet is tomorrow night. I’m looking forward to getting spiffy.
Day 2: Turning up the intensity
At breakfast, we happened to be in the dining hall at the same time as another tournament team, MassBay College from Massachusetts. This was our first time actually being in the same room as our opponents, and the tension was high. My teammate David Ozigbo actually is from Boston, 10 minutes from the school, and they previously wanted him to play on their team, so we had a nice laugh about that.
Our practice was scheduled for 11 a.m., but they moved our practice time an hour earlier so we missed our time slot. Then it was back to the hotel for a little down time before the banquet. Some took naps and watched Redbox movies, but the party was in Semar’s room; he brought “NBA 2K13” on Playstation 3.
Coach (Anthony Fletcher) had a meeting with the tournament officials at 5, so we got dressed and headed up there. Everybody was sharp, so we took like a million pictures to put on Instagram and Twitter. Coach Fletcher won District 3 Coach of the Year, and that was the moment of the banquet.
Day 3: Love is ‘Money’
Today was the big day. It was finally game time! We had the early game, which was at noon, so we had to wake up super early for an 8 o’ clock practice. We were not feeling that at all, but when duty calls you have to answer!
We were playing Caldwell College, who defeated last year’s national champion in their regional tournament. The game was the best of the year. We went into the half down nine. We fought back in the second half and took a 10-point lead with two minutes left. Due to struggles at the free-throw line, we went into OT. In OT, it was a dog fight, and it ended with Mike “Money” Love hitting a game-winning three that had us celebrating like we already won the tournament.
Later that night, we got a surprising knock on the door from room service. Oscar Lewis’ dad had ordered us room service. We had wings, nachos, hamburgers, chicken fingers and chicken sandwiches.
Day 4: Another victory
In the locker room before the semifinals today, we used an old pirate saying: “Burn the boat.” The pirates used to burn their boat when they saw another boat they were trying to hijack. Burning their boat meant that they had no choice but to go take the other crew’s boat because theirs is no longer there. It’s a kill or get killed mentality. To sum it all up, we burned our boat and took theirs. One more win and we are the national champions.
Day 5: Championship Saturday
This was the day we had been dreaming of since we got together this summer! This is what we have worked for all season. All the blood, sweat, tears; everything came down to this one day! We couldn’t wait to take the floor.
We gathered in the locker room before the game for our usual motivational speech from the coaches. It didn’t take much this time, though. We were already motivated to bring the title back to Texas.
We took the floor for warmups and our cheering section cheered loudly. They supported us the whole week, and we couldn’t let them down. Unfortunately, we came up short, losing the game 61-55. It was a heartbreaker. The whistle just rarely seemed to be in our favor. We ended up shooting zero free throws in the first half to their nine. Despite the difference we still were up two at halftime. But the difference in the fouls ended up taking a toll in the second half. We cried together, hugged each other and let everybody know that this season was not a failure. We had made lifelong bonds. I’ve never been on a team that was so close. We are like brothers, and I wanted them to know I love them despite the outcome.
We had a little award ceremony, receiving our medals, plaque and national championship ball. Mike “Money” Love got selected to the all-tournament team. It was his biggest achievement of the year, but I know he would have traded it for that ring. We went back to the hotel and talked about the game over dinner, then everybody called it a night. It had been a long season, and it’s over.
Day 6: The road home
It was our last day in New York. We drove through Harlem, the Bronx, Washington Heights and Manhattan. The bus driver also took us to Times Square. We got off the bus for a little shopping and a lot of pictures. This was going to be a great memory. We had a blast.
Our trip was coming to an end. Our story book season was over, and Monday we start preparing for next season.