by Dave Levy, Athletic Director
Championship Game: Lowell vs Sheridan
Down eight with 2:00 to go in the first half, Sheridan called a time out. The Leopards never looked back. Julian passed the ball into Sam at the high post. Sheridan’s best defender was busy chasing Ezra all over the court, freeing Jacob who got open for a three-pointer. Poised, he stepped into his shot, drained it, and ran back on defense. On the next possession, Oakley deflected the entry pass to Sheridan’s 6’4” center, and Ezra got the loose ball. With the clock running down on the half Julian launched a three-pointer from deep—and it found the bottom of the net! Lowell went into halftime trailing by a score of 18-15.
Last season, Lowell took on Sheridan at the Sheridan Tournament. Lowell played its best half of the year, going into halftime down only one point—22-21. Then, in the second half the Leopards struggled eventually losing by 22. Our 8th graders have not forgotten. The 2019-20 Leopards had other plans.
At the beginning of the third quarter, Sheridan went to a man-to man-defense, and Sam took advantage. When he was inside, he used a head fake to get past his much taller defender and knock in a basket. Other times, Sam drew the center away from the paint, and it allowed Ezra to get into the middle and score. The guards picked up on it too. Both Julian and Jacob got by their defenders, and when the help came to pick them up, they made highlight-style no-look passes to Sam, who scored eight in the third.
Lowell took the lead into the fourth, 28-27, but it evaporated quickly. Sheridan went to a full-court defense—with a very physical press. Still, Lowell managed to beat the press through the air with few dribbles. When Jacob got into space, he sized up his opponent, beat him to his right, and got to the foul line. With Lowell leading by three and under 2:00 to go, Ezra knocked down a three-pointer, giving the Leopards a four-point edge—our biggest lead of the game. The bench was fired up—jumping out onto the floor to greet their teammates during timeouts—and the energy from the Lowell fans was palpable —it felt like a home away from home.
Sheridan’s managed to get a series of easy layups off inbounds passes. Then, after a scramble for a rebound Sheridan got fouled and made a free throw. With Lowell down by one, Julian found an outlet to Jacob, who nailed a floater to give the Leopards a critical lead with only 30 seconds on the clock. Sheridan called a timeout—and had the ball on the baseline under their basket. Oakley, positioned on the inbounds man, used his length and instincts to deflect the ball—twice. Eventually, Lowell came away with it, and after a Sheridan foul (only their fourth on the team), Lowell had to get the ball inbounds to seal the game.
Ten seconds left. Ezra finds Julian. Foul. Eight seconds left, Ezra passes to Jacob. Foul. Pass to Sam. Foul. Six seconds left. Ezra sends it in to Oakley. He was fouled too, the seventh on Sheridan, giving Oakley a 1-and-1 situation at the stripe. Yesterday, the team spent over half of our practice working on free throws. Today, with the game on the line, Oakley stepped up and nailed his shot. Lowell led by two, 35-33. The Leopards called time out.
With only two seconds on the clock, Oakley was instructed to just simply hit the rim. Sheridan was out of timeouts and would not have a chance to set up a play unless the shot was made. With all of his teammates outside the three-point line behind him, Oakley successfully hit the rim, Sheridan scrambled for the rebound, and time ran out as the championship was sealed: LOWELL MIDDLE SCHOOL BOYS ARE 2019 BURKE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS!
First Round: Lowell vs Burke
It was a day of prowess for all 12 of our athletes. In the first game versus Burke, Alejandro filled in for Jacob who was dutifully taking his SSAT and made his first start of the season. Alejandro knocked down a key jumper in the first quarter getting the Leopards on the right track. Nicolas was dominant in the post getting nearly every rebound. He set up a second-half sequence for Ezra in which he scored seven straight points—in 22 seconds.
Ollie was everywhere. He had deflections galore, and offensively, he showed off his pump and clear move. Ollie got by his defender—both to get shots off and to set up his teammates. He assisted Joshua under the basket—who scored a big layup in the fourth quarter. Joshua was smooth, taking the ball hard to the basket. James worked hard with Julian at the top of the key to defend Burke’s guards. He worked very hard in practice this week on sliding his feet—and today he was terrific forcing the competition to pick up their dribble. Eli got his defender in the air as well—scoring as he stepped by Burke for a layup. On the perimeter it was Chiekh who got fouled while shooting a three. He has been hot this week in practice, and made two out of three free throws, just like in our scrimmage. Lowell defeated Burke, a team that also beat us last season, by a score of 38-23.
After the first round, the team watched Sheridan vs Green Acres and studied their tendencies—just like a classroom. Victory required the intellect, effort, and energy of every player today. In the first game, eight Lowell players scored. In the second game, four players scored at least eight points—showing off our depth and balance. As the seconds ticked off the clock, it was our senior leadership—with Jacob making the key lay up as well as Oakley’s defense and foul shot that put the game away!