Four Seniors Look to End High School Careers Strong

This basketball season will bring about many beginnings and ends. It will be the beginning of another promising journey for the Knights; it will be the beginning of numerous high school careers

the four seniors from this year's basketball team stand on their home court (photo by Amanda Eckhard)

the four seniors from this year’s basketball team stand on their home court (photo by Amanda Eckhard)

on the JV and C-teams; but it will also be the last year that seniors Chase Powelson, Matt Borrelli, Cameron Landers and Jake Kuntz get to play basketball together for their beloved high school team.

“This year is going to be our year,” Jake said. “I know that me, Matt, Cameron and Chase, we’re not holding anything back. We’re letting it all go forward and giving it our all. It’s definitely bittersweet, and little bit of regret. I feel like there are a lot of emotions going into senior year basketball season. I’m definitely going to miss it.”

Their starts in the game may have all come from different places- Matt from New York, Jake from years of select basketball, Chase from the CYC league and Cameron from the YMCA- but the great game of basketball has brought these four total strangers together.

The first person to coach all four of the players together was coach Steve Porter of the Junior Knights feeder team. Coach Porter says that he knew his team was special from the first days of practice. Some of the standout members of his team being none other than the four seniors on this year’s Knights basketball team.

“Chase had a lot of basketball savvy,” Porter said of his first experience with the four. “Cameron also had a lot of basketball intelligence. Matt played tenacious defense; he still does to this day. I would say that Jake Kuntz had all the tools, he just had to apply them.”

Not only did Porter coach the physical aspects of his team in the form of two-hour practices four nights each week, but he groomed the psyches and mentalities of his team to the best of his ability, attempting to instill his love for the game of basketball in his players to prepare them for the next level of competition.

“It’s exciting to see them play together as a team,” Porter said. “I hope that my passion and attitude for the game transferred to them, and I think it may have. I watch how they play today and how much they love the game. I hope that some of my passion came out and they saw it that way. If they weren’t passionate about it, they would’ve quit.”

Quitting was hardly an option for any of the players on the Junior Knights, least of all the four players the Knights call their senior leaders this year. These four were far too passionate about the game of basketball to allow a few practices over school breaks to stand in their ways of being the best that they could each be individually.

None of their individual or past success matters to them, though. All that matters to the four seniors this year is having team success, staying close and having fun, even with the ominous cloud of separation hanging over the entire season.

“It’s sad in a way,” Chase said about the impending last season, “but at the same time, you’ve just got to have fun with it. You can’t be sad about it. You’ve got to go out and have fun with them.”

Cameron agreed.

“It’s kind of sad because it’s the last go-around,” Cameron said, “but we’re hoping to make the most of it and have fun. That’s the main goal. But hopefully we have some team success along the way, with the other guys, not just us four.”

The precedent for success has already been set, as the team defeated rival FHC 55-46 in the opening round of the district tournament last year. The district win against a team that had beaten the Knights in their two previous meetings was a tremendous feat for FHN, and it only served to bring the team closer.

“We’re all very optimistic about this year,” Matt said. “We have a lot of talent, and we’re a close-knit team. So far, we all like each other, and we’ve all been playing well together. I think we have a chance to surprise a lot of people. And us four – the seniors – we’re going to have to step up and be good leaders if our team is really going to reach our potential. Last year, our team didn’t really have a leader. That was one of our biggest problems.”

Matt’s statement is backed up by the words of his coach, Darrell Davis. Coach Davis preaches a “We, not me” mentality to all of his players, but he says that one of biggest reasons that they “couldn’t finish a game” last year is that they didn’t have a leader or a go-to guy late in games. Not having a true go-to guy helped with ball movement throughout the game, allowing for the Knights to continually surprise their opponents with a variety of offensive weapons. Riding the hot hand, or getting the ball into the hands of the player on a good offensive streak, though, is a very unreliable way to run an offense. In addition, the player with the hot hand didn’t always get the ball, shown especially in the Knights’ 50-47 overtime loss to the Spartans in early February at home last season, as the Knights’ offense was inconsistent and ineffective once the overtime period hit. This inconsistency stemmed directly from the lack of a true leader to run the offense through.

“There’s no blame to throw around anywhere,” Davis said. “We just couldn’t finish a game. I know these four seniors and a lot of younger kids have put in a lot of time this summer and this fall. They might have a little chip on their shoulder this year. I hope they do have a chip on their shoulder from last year.”

The Knights hope to reverse this trend of faltering in the second half of the season by finding their offense and their go-to guys in tryouts and practice. No spots are guaranteed, regardless of age or experience, so all of the players are going to have to earn their roles. Except the four seniors. No matter what they show on the court in practice, the four of them are going to be called upon heavily as leaders for their team. Experience is an invaluable trait for any team, and this year’s Knights are no different – they need veteran leadership.

“That defines what these four seniors are,” Davis said. “They don’t care who gets the credit; they just want to win games. On the basketball floor, they know everything we’re doing. We hope that trends down, and that the younger kids will catch onto things a little easier. They’re going to be the mentors to the younger kids, all four of the seniors.”

There is going to be a lot of hard work put into this year by all four of the seniors, but they are all determined to keep the same passion for the game that they had the first time they all stepped onto the court together in seventh grade. The players also realize that they are going to have to step up and pull double duty as leaders and teachers both on and off the court.

“Hopefully, we can show the younger kids that it really does help to be close,” Chase said. “It does help to be a close team. Because it’s our last season, we’re going to give it all we’ve got, for sure. We’ve just got to teach the newer kids that if you work hard, you can accomplish some great things.”

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