The UTM Division 1 White men’s basketball team played against the Phys. Ed. department in a playoff game last Wednesday night. The bleachers were filled with more fans than usual, and with more on the line, both teams were motivated to play at a higher intensity. Valentine’s Day was a day away, and there was no love lost between these two teams.
Early on, the game looked like it would come down to the last shot; both teams traded baskets and neither team could separate even an inch from the other. UTM’s Ferdinand Peng set a high standard by scoring 11 points in the first half, which made up a third of the team’s score at that point. Jeff Thorpe and Zak Khan also had strong first halves, adding six points each.
The Phys. Ed. department went shot for shot with UTM White despite having only six players in uniform. Leading the scoring in the first half for the Phys. Ed. team was Ahad Bamdealy with eight points, followed by Daneil Dnangronn and Commar Reid with seven each. Late in the first half, however, Khan of UTM White went down with an injury and had to be taken off the court to be looked at. This looked like a game-changer going into the second half, since the game was tied at 30–30 with UTM White now down a key player.
Nevertheless, as the second half began, UTM White didn’t lose a step. Austin Chambers stepped up in Khan’s absence. Chambers scored a remarkable 19 points in the second half to complement his four points from the first half, yielding the highest score in the game. Jeff Thorpe continued his night of solid scoring in the second half, scoring another six points. Dominic Stenka also scored six points.
Phys. Ed. didn’t shy away from Chambers’ incredible second half and saw gritty performances from Conner Reid, who put up 13 points in the second half for a team-high 20 points, and Daniel Dnangronn, who contributed nine points in the second half to make his total 16. Although Phys. Ed. competed hard till the very end, the lack of depth in their roster caught up with them: they had the option of only one substitute, whereas UTM White had players to spare. Perhaps because of this difference in depth, UTM White outscored their opponents by 11 points in the second half for a 73–62 victory.
Due to the talent on White’s roster, Khan’s injury did not prove as detrimental to their play in the second half as it seemed it would. This is where the luxury of having multiple playmakers comes in handy, since equally good players can step up when an important player goes down.
Thanks to the effort by Austin Chambers and his teammates, UTM White will move on in the playoffs.
“Zak is one of our leaders and main playmakers on the team,” said Chambers after the game. “When he went down I knew that I would have to take on a bigger role and be aggressive offensively. I had an awful first half, but at halftime Essam and Riccardo both spoke to me about continuing to trust in my ability to shoot the ball at a high level. I then went to check on how Zak was doing and he said to me, ‘It’s all on you now, Austin.’
“Right then I knew that there was no way I was going to let him and the team down. We’ve worked too hard to just roll over because one of our best players got injured. If anything, I think it inspired the team because we all know how important this season is to Zak, and winning is the only thing that would help him feel better about not being able to play.”
“Wednesday night wasn’t only about me stepping up,” he concluded. “The whole team did.”