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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Team ‘Scottsdale Community College’ takes first in school’s March Madness tourney

Ariel Zhou

As the month of March came to a close, fans waited in anticipation for the winners to emerge from the annual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) March Madness tournament. Meanwhile, on a more local level, a similar lunchtime basketball tournament took place at the school with students jockeying to win the first place prize of $25 Amazon gift cards each — and bragging rights.

By the time sign-ups had closed on March 15, over 20 teams were on the schedule, including one team of teachers, according to senior spirit commision head Johnny Hulme.

Each team consisted of four players, excluding the group of teachers who rotated their roster depending on who was available on a given day. This group, calling themselves “Team Receding Hairlines,” consisted of captain and history teacher Mike Davey, special education teachers Dan Wallace and Brian Elliot, assistant principal Matt Torrens and English teacher Erick Rector. Journalism teacher Michael Tyler, campus supervisor Archie Ljepava, and school psychologist Mike Slone also played in certain individual games.

Matches were played half court to 21 points, with three players on the floor and a substitute waiting on the sidelines, using one and two point increments for scored layups and three-points as opposed to two and three point increments. If lunch ended before games finished, the higher scoring team walked away with the victory.

Many students eagerly anticipated the event, trading several of their lunches for a shot at winning the tournament. Many spectators joined them in the gym to watch and show support.

“The games were a chance for me to reconnect with old friends I haven’t talked with in a while,” senior Arnav Suri said, who was an athlete on team “LSU,” along with seniors Ishaan Bhandari, Viraaj Reddi and Curtis Ng.

However, the hopeful crew eventually lost in the quarterfinals after team “Colgate,” led by sophomore Bryan Wang, overcame a 14-3 start and hit key shots in the last few minutes of lunch, advancing with a score of 20-18.

Some of the most recent games had thrilling endings and nail-biting plays. Sophomore Shane Timmons’s team, surmounted a six-point deficit with less than two minutes remaining of lunch. Their miraculous comeback from 14-20 to 21-20 was the result of streaky shooting and strong defensive plays.

“Team Receding Hairlines” had a rough start before the tournament even began. Prospective center and history teacher Jerry Sheehy was already injured prior to the tournament and was not able to play, leaving Davey scrambling to find replacements.

In their first match, only two members of Team Receding Hairlines were available to play, forcing them to substitute in forward Archie Ljepava. Despite the sudden switch up, Team Receding Hairlines was able to triumph and moved onto the quarterfinals.

Eventually, Team Receding Hairlines found themselves in the finals on March 28 in the finals against the team Scottsdale Community College, consisting of seniors Ayaaz Shah, Patrick Bray, Parsa Hashemi and Shaheen Masoumi, with senior Guilio Morini-Bianzino subbing in when Shah was unavailable.

The finals match ended with a 14-10 score in favor of the students.

“It felt satisfying to compete in the tournament and win, especially by beating the teachers in the finals. I had a great time playing with friends and I wish I could do it again,” Shah said.

Shah, a member of the varsity basketball team, described his experience throughout the tournament as exciting and rewarding. Although each team was only allowed one varsity or two JV players, which prevented Shah from teaming up with other members on his basketball team, he wasn’t concerned.

“The point was to have fun, and win a little at the same time.” Shah said. “I definitely wanted to win the whole thing, but teaming up with some of the guys from the team to dominate would just be unfair and wouldn’t feel as satisfying.”

With the teachers advancing from the quarterfinals all the way to the finals, they have played their fair share of games as well. While the experience was enjoyable, Rector said that, similar to their Friday lunchtime scrimmages, there was an issue with non-basketball players committing hard fouls.

While players experienced with basketball tend to err on the safe side while playing defense, those with less knowledge of the sport were more prone to fouling or making moves that resulted in injuries, according to Rector. Rector was given a “dead-leg,” an injury in which an opponent’s knee drives into the thigh and causes the muscles to stiffen and swell, in the finals while Davey suffered an elbow to the head in an earlier match.

“It’s easier for students to recover from these injuries, but once you get to my age, it’s a lot more significant,” Rector said. “The tournament was fun, but I don’t know if we’ll participate again next year because of the possibilities of an injury. After all, we still need to teach.”

Rector proposed that the teachers play a game against the winning team of the tournament, as a fun no-stakes match. This way, they would limit the number of times the teachers would play against an opponent that is possibly unfamiliar with basketball and thus more likely to injure someone.

Despite the worries over injuries, the teachers still had a great time, according to Rector.

With the tournament finished, almost all participants had a positive experience from playing with their teams.

“It was definitely one of the most fun events I’ve participated in at school,” Shah said. “I really wish I could do it again, but me and my team are graduating so some of the underclassmen have a shot next year.”

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