CONTRIBUTED BY BEN MURRAY
As the clock hits zero, the 2018-19 boys varsity basketball team walked off the court having fallen short. In what had been an exceptionally strong and historic season for the Warriors, Brookline’s amazing run for a championship had come to an end with a playoff loss to rival Newton North.
However the boys varsity basketball team has learned to face adversity. Despite the upsetting loss last year, Brookline hopes to bounce back after an extensive offseason of preparation and hard work by both coaches and players alike.
Both the returning and new crop of players are leaving no stone left unturned in their preparation for the season.
According to returning basketball player and senior Bryce Burke, training started as early as the summer with players participating in multiple basketball leagues based in Boston, Westwood and Dorchester. Starting in the fall, both varsity and junior varsity players joined Beantown Slam, a fall league in Quincy, which has matchups with the same opponents Brookline plays in the regular season.
Once the school year began, Burke said players attended workout sessions held by the high school three days a week in order to brush up on their skills and get back into shape. Sessions usually involved working out, conditioning and lifting.
In his first season on the varsity squad, Sophomore Theo Murray, said workouts lead to a successful season.
“It’s a great opportunity to get our bodies ready for the season with conditioning and weight training,” Murray said. “It’s also a great way to build team chemistry.”
A key factor in boosting the team’s morale and bringing back confidence for this season is head coach Courtney Valentine.
Senior Ben Murray, a returning varsity player, has nothing but praise for his head coach.
“Coach Valentine came in two years ago and he really brought in the attitude of us being very disciplined and making sure that we are always working hard,” Ben Murray said. “He’s just really helpful trying to communicate with us and get us ready for games. He gets really energetic before games and gets us motivated to win.”
Although the team is excited for the upcoming season, unlike last year, Brookline will be without their standout players that graduated this past June.
“They were our spark plugs and leading scorers, so we’re not going to be able to rely on them anymore,” Burke said. “We would just feed them the ball because they were almost automatic when it came to scoring. They could contribute and really help us. We’re going to have to find other ways to score.”
Not only were the former seniors pivotal to the team as the top scorers, but they also brought a lot of energy and took on a leadership role within the team.
“They would set an example on the court by helping out kids and telling them where to go,” Ben Murray said. “They also really got us involved in the game and got everyone ready and prepared, making sure we’re working hard and practicing.”
Nevertheless, this year’s varsity players are not at all intimidated or discouraged by the graduated seniors that have moved on to the next stage in their lives but are confident that they can perform just as well.
“Many people think that this year we’re going to have a bad team because we lost so many strong players last year, but I believe that people shouldn’t really sleep on us because some of the guys that played on that team last year are here again and I’m pretty sure that they can perform as well as anybody else,” Burke said. “If you have a positive mindset, then you could do anything and I believe that me and my guys can do anything that we put our minds to.”
Returning varsity players, such as Burke and Ben Murray, are focusing on how they can step up and contribute as the most experienced members of the team.
“I’m hoping that me and the other guys that are seniors this year can bring that energy so we can open up and really win a lot of games. In the moment, you got to just execute, and if you don’t execute, then you fall behind,” Burke said.
Ben Murray believes that with the right mindset and enough hard work and practice, the team will have another championship-bound season.
“I think that we are going to be a playoff team. Not to get ahead of myself, but I think we have enough,” Ben Murray said. “We have the kids to do it, the will to work hard and a clear goal in mind to get us an outcome that we would like.”
As of Jan. 12, 2020, the Brookline Warriors Boys Varsity Basketball team has a record of six wins against Braintree, Natick, Newton South, Weymouth and Wellesely, and two losses against Newton North and Wachusett Regional.
The Warriors’ most recent victory was 79-61 over Newtown South on Jan. 10, 2020. The team has shown early signs of dominance with multiple 20 or more point victories.
Team captains and seniors Bryce Burke, Ben Murray and Ben Ordonez have lived up to their reputation as returning varsity players. They have contributed to the early success of the team, leading in scoring almost every game and excelling in defense.
Regardless, every player has truly pitched in and performed to the best of their abilities this season, especially the sophomores.
Burke is extremely optimistic for the remainder of the season.
“We feel that we have a strong team, and that there is no team standing in our way as long as we play our game,” Burke said.
The next two upcoming matchups against Walpole (Jan. 14) and Framingham (Jan. 17) will all be at home.
Taking the season one game at a time, the team is hoping to yet again make it back to the playoffs, and finish their season with a state championship title on their hands.