Reflection: On the road to the final four


MSHS Journalism file photo

THREE! Senior Thor Flett takes the open three against James Irwin while the James Irwin bench and fans look on.

Gideon Aigner, Guest Writer

I remember day one of practice. I walk into the gym, sit down and take a look around. Most faces are familiar, some are
not. And that’s perfectly fine. As I marvel at the machine that keeps track of time and score, fellow manager Paige Laurie (12) sits down next to me. We bump elbows and talk. It’s early in preseason. There is plenty of time to get acclimated. And I did with Paige’s help. Paige is just about the best conversation I’ve had in a very long time, and her humour was able to brighten a few very difficult days. The day before the first game, I’m extremely nervous. It’s just against Rye, but that “just” is very deceiving. I try my best to get the guys psyched up. I want to help them start the season right, so I say to Lars Marquardt (12), “I triple-dog-dare you to dunk in a game this season.” He did not end up dunking in a game, but he improved his game every day during practice and worked hard to be the best that he could be. I am so proud of the progress he made and the man he was every day to motivate his teammates. We’re in Salida. Both the C team and JV team had just lost to the Spartans, and with that drive, I’d prefer to go home happy. Both our Varsity team and theirs are undefeated, but only one will remain so. As the game goes on, it gets closer and closer, until Salida is up by 1, with roughly 3 seconds remaining. Salida fouls Isaiah Thomas (I call him T) during an inbound pass. T goes to the line, and sinks the first. Internally, I am going crazy, but I have to keep my composure. At the very least, we are going to overtime. He dribbles, lines up the second shot from the charity stripe, and hits it. From my perspective, it’s effortless. Salida doesn’t get the ball inbounds in time, and we win. T and I start talking in the locker room, and Joah knocks a bottle out of my hand while doing a “Shammy crossover”; and I say to T, “I love that you’re clutch. Just make it so that we never have to see it again.” As part of the organization, I hate close games. It’s practice in between Banning-Lewis and La Junta. We remain undefeated at 7-0, and have hopes of keeping the streak going. The Tigers are not good, but any team can win on any night. The guys are in a shooting drill, and afterwards, Coach Vecc is not happy. He calls them together, and he says, “I only see one guy positively motivating this team right now, and that’s Nate!” Nate Haas, or as I like to call him, “Big Haas”, is a constant pillar of leadership. He keeps the young guys humble, but is always a loud voice, keeping everyone on track for our ultimate goal of making it farther than any team in 30 years. We’re 9-0, and we are gonna face Ellicott in a couple days. Vecc is trying to motivate both JV and Varsity to perform in the last “easy” game of the season. He singles one guy out of the crowd. “In my years involved in Manitou basketball, the best teammate I could ever hope for is Jesse.” Jesse Jorstad is one of the more level- headed guys that I’ve met, at least when it comes to his sports. His presence was reassuring, because regardless of when he subbed into the game, he would make the best choice he could; and he tried to teach the younger guys to do the same. Jesse was a class act all season. We beat CSCS, and now we’re on to Woodland, one of our main rivals. We don’t play them often, and for good reason. We are in practice, and it is time for shooting. At one point I saw Thor Flett make 9 straight three- pointers. He misses one, but then he hits another 5 straight. Then another 4, then 2 more. He is one of the deadliest shooters I have seen, and I doubt I will see another one soon. He is loud and sound as a defender, as a teammate, and as a person, and he has my respect. Through the season, he never wavered in his determination. We are at St. Mary’s. How I wished that this was a home game. Our gym’s vibes are immaculate, while those of St. Mary’s are drab and weary. The first quarter is close, where we are trying to play at their pace, fast and faster. Joah Armour goes up for a rebound and comes down on the foot of a St. Mary’s player. It is rare that I am left speechless or gasp, but this made both happen. I wish I could have gone over, but I had a job to do: film. During halftime, while Vecc is discussing strategy, I walk up to Joah who is standing at the bottom of the stairs, whose landing St. Mary’s was forcing us to use as a locker room. As we stared up at the halftime speech, I somehow put an arm around his shoulder and we hugged. I remember how much a sprain hurts, but I can’t even begin to imagine how much pain this caused at the time. We ended up losing, but it made everyone mad in time for the playoffs. We have a first round BYE, and I bring up the idea of a watch party to scout whatever team we end up playing to Vecc. He loves the idea. We watched a great game between Buena Vista and Coal Ridge, and it felt almost normal, which is rare right now, needless to say. We face the Coal Ridge Titans on our home floor, and go down 8-2 in the first 2 minutes. Joah is still healing, but he goes in. I see pain on his face with every step, but his presence energized everybody, like Willis Reed in the 1970 NBA Finals. Joah scored 9, T scored 11, and Lars scored 17 in a 18 point win. Then, we get a visit from Colorado Academy. The Mustangs in Red give our boys a scare in the first quarter, but we battle back due to the young talent that the Seniors helped to develop all year. T led Manitou in scoring with 17, and the whole team rejoiced at getting to a place that nobody from Manitou had in 30 years. The rematch against St. Mary’s. We know the story. We led for most of the game, but the Pirates got hot just as we went cold. Only one team goes home with rings at the end of the season, and we were not them this year. However, I can say that I am happy, and I am proud. For most of the Seniors, that game against St. Mary’s was the last game of organized ball they will ever play. Most realized that on the bus ride home. However, I do not think that we could have had a much better season. We outscored our opponents 1076-744 collectively. We held Peyton to 2 points in a whole half. I would say we did pretty well. We made sure that Colorado knew who we were, and not to underestimate us, and that is largely because of the leadership, sportsmanship, and example provided by the Seniors this year.

Thank you.