Boys basketball: Team loses to Saratoga HS 55-56 in closest game of season

“This is not a negotiation.”

Fans from both teams had been disappointed in the fouls and travels called throughout the Valentine’s Day MVHS senior night matchup against Saratoga HS. But it was the backcourt violation, the call that spurred the referee to shout back, the call that led to a foul that allowed SHS to score with 6.2 seconds left in the game and break a 55-55 tie, that really upset MVHS fans.

The MVHS boys basketball team had mixed feelings going into their Feb. 14 senior night game. On one hand, they had barely lost a 50-53 game against number two ranked Lynbrook HS, and thought they could continue this performance in the SHS game.

“It being our senior night,” senior Aditya Mohan said. “I was pretty pumped up and just wanted to play as well as I could.”

Seniors Aditya Mohan and Ron Talmor pose with their families. This was the last home game of their high school careers. Photo by Rana Aghababazadeh

On the other hand, the last time these two teams had met, the Matadors came away with a stunning 51-70 loss. It was one of nine double-digit losses the team suffered early in the season.

By this point in the season, MVHS had changed key strategies and went from a one-man offense to a team-centric offense. Rather than continually looking for opportunities for themselves, new coach Jim Forthoffer told players to focus on moving the ball to teammates if they couldn’t get an immediate open shot. And this strategy paid dividends, with the team going from 25, 27, 29 point losses to three point losses, against the same teams.

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Junior Zachary Whong picks up a loose ball. Strong defense from SHS led to many loose balls during the first half. Photo by Rana Aghababazadeh

It was this SHS game which would serve as the biggest indicator of how much the team had evolved. MVHS’ new offense went up against the one-man offensive team of SHS, easily breaking a press which had crushed them before. They ended the half up by four points.

“They ran the same defense they ran last time… [we] forced them to switch a few times,” senior Ron Talmor said,  “… so we were more ready for their speed.”

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Double teamed, junior Ryan Lee struggles to make a shot. Double teaming was one of SHS’ strategies that allowed them to pull ahead in the third quarter. Photo by Aditya Pimplaskar

Frustrated by this change, SHS returned with a newfound intensity by scoring two quick baskets at the start of the third quarter, and bringing the momentum to their side.

The Matadors were unfazed. However, despite their initial preparation, missed shots from the Matadors, double teams and continuous SHS free throws gave SHS the advantage, and the third quarter ended 37-45.

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Junior Ryan Lee and sophomore Akshay Gopalkrishnan guard an SHS player. By the end of the game, the Matadors weakened their defense for fear of fouling. Photo by Rana Aghababazadeh

“That’s what they did to us last game,” Talmor said, “so we were ready for it and we knew they were going to come with more energy so we were trying to get fired up and come up with more energy to match them too.”

The Matadors did keep fighting, and with a barrage of three-pointers, managed to tie the game 55-55 with 48.2 seconds left in the second half.

“It was just like get the win somehow, just play as well as I can, motivate my team,” Mohan said.

But a backcourt violation gave SHS the ball, and an SHS player was fouled with 6.2 seconds left. He made the free throw, and the game ended 55-56. It was an abrupt and anticlimactic ending to the highlight of the MVHS’ boys basketball season. However, Talmor is not disappointed.

“At the last few seconds you just, you forget it’s senior night,” Talmor said. “You wanna win, of course… but you always wanna win in a close game…  we just ran what we were supposed to do, it didn’t work out.”

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