Holiday Basketball Analysis: How did We Even Make it to the Finals?
It was unexpected that the HKIS team would even progress past the first round of the playoffs of the Holiday Basketball tournament. However, against incredible odds, the HKIS team made it to the finals. Let’s take a look at how the team accomplished this feat in perhaps the greatest underdog story in all of HKIS high school history, bringing school spirit to the forefront.
What went well
When asked how the team succeeded, all the players pointed to a common theme: HKIS was simply more hardworking than the other teams. Many players credit much of the success to the backbreaking effort that they put on defense. As Mr. Evans himself puts it, "We had to have a good defense and be a very physical team that is not so reliant on skill, meaning we had to outwork the other teams.” In essence, the primary reason that we were able to advance so far into the playoffs was because of the strategy of constantly outworking and outmuscling the opposing team.
Our team’s game strategy was very similar to what Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Gladwell describes an infamous 1971 NCAA game between the Fordham University Rams and the University of Massachusetts Redman. The Rams were made up of unknowns, whereas the Massachusetts team was led by none other than Julius Erving, considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
Against all odds, the Rams won 87-79 against the Massachusetts team, marking one of the biggest upsets in basketball history. They managed this by overloading the Massachusetts team with pure muscle, scrap, and hard work. This strategy of a physical team has been shown throughout basketball history to be beyond effective, and was definitely just as effective for our basketball team.
In addition, Ben Cherry was named the unanimous MVP by all sources. Ben was “clutch,” “got us through the playoffs,” and played “astoundingly well.” When seeing him in action, it is hard not to disagree: he made shots and drew fouls against one of the best teams in the tournament as if it were child’s play.
Another factor that lead to the team’s amazing playoff run was the addition of freshmen and sophomores on the team. Alec Kinsman (10) said of Noah Leddel (9) and Josh Pak (10), “They came upon big throughout the tournament. Noah wasn’t starting but by the end of it he was, so I would say they were pretty important.” The fact that underclassmen were able to break in to the starting lineup shows the value of giving underclassmen a chance.
The story of the team’s character is a touching one, contributing to their motivation and success. A recurring theme throughout all interviews was that the team wished to give Sid Verma (12), the team captain, a great last Holiday Basketball tournament. Alec said, “We played for Sid because we knew that it would be his last Holiday Basketball.”
What went wrong
There are very few areas where the team could have done much better — Mr. Evans’s first thought when asked how the team could improve was “I don’t know, we did pretty well.”
However, he went on to mention that free throw shooting was one of the critical issues that the team had throughout the tournament. Anyone who watched the basketball tournament can tell you beyond a doubt that we missed a massive portion of our free throws, especially in the finals. Free throws to most are considered the easiest way to score in basketball, yet when it mattered, many in our team simply could not score.
The second and final supposed shortcoming of the team is something that just can’t be considered their fault. According to various players, the loss in the finals ultimately boils down to the difference in “talent level”. The opposing team in the finals simply overwhelmed ours with their talent. The team that ultimately won the whole thing(insert here once I find out) had won the previous Holiday Basketball tournament, and are widely considered among the best varsity basketball teams in Asia. As Ethan Alfert (9) recalls, “The reason why we lost was simply that their team was overall better than ours. Their plays and players completely overwhelmed our team.”
However, the fact that our team was even able to make the finals and compete with such a dominant team was a clear source of pride and spirit for HKIS students. Our team was somewhat of a wild card going into this tournament, but we still managed to meet and exceed even the best possible standards for us. Best of luck to the basketball team in their future endeavours!