Team Florida wins recreational basketball final


Josh Fleishman/Sagamore Staff

Senior Peter Montgomery takes a free throw for the University of North Carolina in the 2018 Brookline Recreational Basketball Final. UNC played against University of Florida in the final.

Josh Fleishman, Sports Editor

An eager crowd of approximately 20 students and parents packed the Ed Schluntz Gymnasium ready to see a battle. Number one seeded Florida took on second seeded University of North Carolina (UNC) in what could go down as one of the most unbelievable sporting events in the history of the high school: the 2018 Brookline Recreational Basketball Finals.

Florida jumped off to an early lead scoring the first nine points until senior Ricky Khazanov silenced the roll. UNC rallied in response going up 15-12 as Florida took out their starters to try and regroup. Nothing was stopping the UNC Tar Heels and they took a commanding 20-12 lead to cap off a thrilling first quarter.

Florida started the second quarter hoping to regain some momentum by putting their starters back in. In the opening of the second quarter, three pointer shots  were falling for UNC, giving them a 24-14 lead. Junior Ben Caplan hoped to bring Florida back into the contest by getting fouled going for a layup, but sophomore Daniel Dalzell answered sinking a deep three. The strong shooting from UNC flustered the Florida Gators and caused a drop in team morale on the floor.

Florida junior and top scorer Mark Manuel took the team on his shoulders at the end of the first half and drove to the basket twice closing UNC’s lead to 31-26.

A brief intermission kept the fans on the edge of their seats, hungry to see some more high quality recreational basketball.

A quick layup by UNC senior Alex Dukhon — called Loisha by his teammates — set the tone for the third quarter, hyping up the three man bench. The teams went back and forth for four possessions without scoring until Florida’s Ben Caplan knocked down a three from the corner.  

UNC center, senior Peter Montgomery, answered right back sinking a three point shot of his own with a minute left in the third quarter. Florida was unable to respond, concluding quarter three with a score of 42-35 UNC.

The next 12 minutes would decide it all: who was to be the next recreational  basketball champion?

Dhukon was aiming to keep the UNC lead alive draining a three to kick off the final quarter.  

With the thought of a potential title on the line, Florida finally regained the confidence they had entering  this showdown. Excited Florida parents screamed as their kids who broke apart the UNC defense.

Florida brought the game within two points, but Dalzell’s hot hand was still alive hitting another three. The agressive Florida offense kept chipping away at UNC’s lead, bringing it back within two points with two minutes left to play.  

UNC senior Nathan Comerchero took the ball to the basket with power, drawing a foul and sending him to the free throw line to take two of the most important shots of his basketball career. The pressure was too much for Comerchero to handle and he missed both shots, giving Florida the ball. Manuel was back at it, hitting a floater to tie the game at 53.  

Two pairs of successful free throws from Khazanov followed, giving UNC a 57-53 lead as the game entered the final minute. The Tar Heels could taste the victory. Florida maintained composure as Manuel went to the line sinking two gutsy free throws.  UNC’s communication weakened, causing a turnover and an opportunity for Florida to tie the game and send it to overtime. Manuel took the ball at the top of the key, jabbing and dancing through defenders to score a game-tying layup. Florida teammates and fans erupted as the game would entered an additional two minutes of overtime.

Overtime would be decided by free throws as Manuel and juniors Chris Lopez and Max Brodsky each hit one out of two free throws to put Florida up by three. With only seconds remaining for UNC, they got the ball to top scoring Khazanov, but his three point attempt came up short handing Florida the game and the title. The crowd erupted as teammates embraced on the court and UNC players’ heads hung low.  

Brookline High School alumni and Florida coach George O’Dea credited the victory to the courage showed by his players in their final game.

“It was a great game. We showed a lot of grit,” O’Dea said. “We all earned out grit coins from this one. We had a great season.”