We were really good. Our coach was very good, and had been coaching boys and girls of that grade level for years. Good tall kids are a rare commodity, and we had one: our center Keith, who was 6'2". I was a good, maybe the second-best player in our 7th grade class. Then, a year later, Jarod's family built a home across the street from Saint Mark church, on the site of the old general store, moving to town from southeast Kansas. Jarod's older brothers played for a division II school, and later Jarod would, too. He was immediately our best player.
We were dominant and undefeated during league play. I don't remember any of our games being very close. We were a small, rural school, and when we played against even smaller schools. We played against Mennonite kids who probably didn't have enough free time to develop their game. We played against schools that used wooden backboards in their gymnasiums. They were outmatched. Still, we were legitimately good. We played against slightly larger rural schools, too, and beat them. In one case, with our starters held out for half the game, we held a peer school to four points. We played a scrimmage against a few elementary schools in Wichita and won those, too.
Unfortunately, I don't have any proof. I have paper copies of the statistics from the games played during our 7th grade year, but not 8th. I think I transferred those stats to an Excel sheet on my family's 386 Gateway desktop and lost the file to history. Why did I have any statistics? Because one bench player would be responsible for tracking shots, one tracked assists, and so on, and our coach would sum everything up and hand out the resulting "box scores" at the next practice. The only hard evidence that I know exists from our 8th grade year is a plaque the school made to honor our undefeated year, and the VHS tape my aunts recorded at the 1993 tournament championship.
This pains me for three reasons. First, my love of personal history. Second, my love of statistical analysis. Third, my ego. The 1993 tournament championship is the only game I have a record of, and it was without question the worst game of my life.
Our offense was structured with a point guard, a center, two wing players, and one player who stayed along the baseline. I played baseline from the beginning of 7th grade through almost all of 8th grade. I was switched to wing late in the year, or possibly specifically for this game, because of the half-court trap Andale employed. In our newly installed offense to combat the half-court trap, I was to work with our point guard Justin to bring the ball upcourt. If everything went to plan, neither or us would be doubleteamed by defenders, and I could easily pass over the defenders to an open teammate. And everything did go to plan, except for my nerves. I threw the ball away early and often. Let me show you:
Keith is listed at 6'2". I'd like to tell you how big his matchup of Andale #53 is, but my family paused the recording during Andale's introductions. Gotta save precious VHS cassette space.
Keith pumps his fist when they pronounce my name correctly, which must mean they had been doing it wrong the previous two tournament games. I'm listed at 5'8".
Keith wins the tip, I pass to Justin
Justin telegraphs a pass to Jared, which is stolen by Andale #4
Ball knocked out of bounds by Matt
Justin called for foul on jump shot against Andale #42. Questionable call.
No free throws awarded, confusing everyone. There was clearly no contact prior to the shot. Weird ref. Andale takes ball out of bounds.
Jarod called for push on the inbound stack against Andale #53. Speaking of weird refs, check out that guy.
Andale #4 passes to Andale #53, power dribbles left, scores on short turnaround
First appearance of a Mennonite girl walking by the camera. On the drive home we saw a family riding back to their home in the cab of a tractor, which the community allowed.
I miss an easy bank shot in the lane after some nice passing. You can tell our coach scouted Andale's half court trap defense well.
Andale #51 makes an uncontested jumper at the elbow. Assist #42.
I normally wouldn't handle the ball out at half court - this is the new play we put in because we knew they would try the half-court trap. Matt is open, but I throw it over his head.
3 seconds in the lane called on Andale. I assume he's calling it on #53. Our coach calls a timeout, probably because he can tell I am going to ruin this game for us.
I once again throw a bad pass against the trap. Andale #42 comes up with it and dribbles to the right block.
But he shoots an air ball! We're still in this thing! Rebound Matt.
Justin is trapped. You can hear our coach yell, "Dribble!", but we are not really accustomed to a lot of dribbling. I mean, you can tell neither team is. We don't shoot from long range, and we don't dribble around. We pass. Justin passes to Andale #53, who takes it coast-to-coast for a layup and the foul. A twisting, using the right hand on the left side of the glass layup. Foul on Justin.
Andale #53 misses his free throw moments after my aunt is scolded for being in the camera's frame. Rebound Matt.
I dribble into trouble, Andale #4 steals what I think is a pass, and immediately travels. 8th grade basketball, feel the excitement!
You can tell my family is recording this, because the camera shows me about to throw it in from the baseline, and none of my teammates are in frame. So how did Keith become wide open under the basket for his quick 2? It's lost to history.
Baseline jumper missed by Andale #42. Keith can't handle the rebound, ball to Andale #53. He misses a turnaround, rebound to me.
I dribble up the right sideline, passing an opposing guard, but #53 is still running with me. I take it to the rim and (I think) attempt to pass it to Keith instead of get a layup blocked. It's tipped by #53, and we get the ball back on the baseline.
No one guards our future Division II stud, so I pass to him for a wide open jumper. Swish. If this game was nothing but inbounds plays, my stat line would be off the charts.
Poor job by our 2-1-2 zone. Fun fact: that zone worked best on our home court, because our home court was not full-sized. You know how the 3-point line curves around the top of the key and down the sidelines? On our home court, the sidelines made the court much skinnier, so the only 3-pointers you could shoot were above the free throw line. Keith fronts Andale #53, so #42 lobs it to him. Matt is late to help, easy layup for #53.
Our new offense kind of works. Keith is fouled by Andale #53 when receiving a pass.
Andale #42 almost steals a pass from Justin, then Andale #4 really steals one when he can't get a bounce pass past him.
Andale #4 attempts the first three-pointer of the game! Haha just kidding, it's a pump fake. We are very white kids.
Andale #51 either shoots it behind the backboard or has it blocked. (I am scoring it as a block for Keith, because I can't imagine the shot taking that trajectory without a block.) The deflection goes to #42, who saves it from going out of bounds and hits #54 at the free throw line, who misses a jumper. Rebound to #53, whose shot is thown by Keith. Eventually the ref calls a kick on Justin and it's Andale's ball on the baseline; I am pretty sure the ball only touched the shins of an Andale player, so nothing should have been called.
Ryan subs in for Matt, the first substitution of the game for St Mark. I recall Ryan got a lot more playing time as the year went on.
Andale #51 inbounds, then receives a pass and attempts a baseline turnaround. It misses long. Ryan blocks out #54, who is called for a foul on the rebound.
It is clear that Jarod is our only player who can dribble in a composed and competent fashion.
Jarod misses a layup. Rebound to Andale #51.
Andale #42 misses a baseline jumper. Ryan is called for a foul as #53 grabs the rebound. I am pretty sure these refs automatically call a foul if someone is behind the rebounder, regardless if they actually go "over the back" to foul.
Andale #51 airballs a baseline jumper. At this point, my advice to all non-giant 8th grade children is to practice the baseline shot, because it's about all either team has attempted. Rebound to Justin.
Justin doesn't force a fast break. We swing the ball around to Jarod who nails a -- you guessed it -- baseline jumper. Assist Justin.
That white padding that is hanging over the cinder block behind the basket looks very thin and sad. This game is being played in Partridge, a town I know nothing about. In fact, there were several schools we played this year that we had never played in the past, either in basketball or in our summer baseball league. There may have been some kind of realignment.
I steal a pass from #4. It's our first steal of the game. Andale already has 5.
Jarod is fouled while driving baseline by Andale #54.
I try to inbound it to myself off of an opponent's back, but my feet are touching the line when I collect the ball. My fourth turnover in the first quarter.
Andale #53 can't use his left hand, I guess, but he's using the right just fine. Another twisting right-handed layup on the left side of the basket. He made some contact with Ryan but no charge was called. Assist by #4.
Welp, this is the one of the plays I remember clearly. I throw a baseball pass over Ryan, who was not far enough away to warrant a launch like that.
Andale #52 can't handle a pass from #4. I'm scoring it as a #4 turnover.
Keith is fouled by Andale #53 on a long pass by Justin. 2nd foul on their big man and the game's leading scorer. He's left on the court. We play four six-minute quarters, and it was rare for players to foul out. Justin has been on the court with 2 fouls for a long time now, as has Andale #54.
Jarod shoots and misses a rushed baseline jumper as the buzzer sounds. End of the first quarter. Andale leads 10 to 6. Andale #53 has 8 of their 10 points. Jarod has 4 of our 6.