What goes into the making of a champion? Here are a couple of my observations from the Riverdale Academy championship game last Saturday. They apply to any endeavor if you think about it.
First I want to thank Delta Academy Headmaster Barry Finnie for doing a superior job of play-by-play for the tournament games. He is a former coach of the Delta basketball team and knows the game inside and out. Thanks Barry for a great call.
I noticed prior to the Rebels game with UCA a couple of little things that set the stage for their performance. The boys arrived wearing nice shirts and ties. And Coach Steve Weir and his assistant coaches were dressed for business. UCA showed up in a variety of t-shirts and shorts of different colors. Their coach wore slacks and an open collar shirt.
The Rebels were loose during warm-ups, always smiling and kidding as boys do. The facial expression of some of the UCA stars was different, not serious about the game, but they looked as if they would win because they were Union Christian.
The beauty of the sport came up while Parker Almond was in the game in the second half. The Rebels needed a boost at that moment in the contest. Almond made a fall-away three point shot and the ball hit the net as he hit the floor. Almond jumped up and so did the Riverdale fans shouting their appreciation. It added to the Rebel momentum just at the right time.
Another example was important foul shots taken by Ty Jones. He is an eighth grader who plays with maturity beyond his years. It was a tough situation late in the game. UCA fouled Jones who went to the line. On the radio broadcast Barry Finnie remarked that Jones had ice water in his veins. Nothing upset him. He calmly made both free throws while a storm was raging on the court.
One of the small things that made a huge difference was team and individual discipline. Riverdale was all business. They played the game as they had been coached. In the first half the UCA bench drew a technical foul because three players jumped up and screamed at the referee for a call they did not agree with. That cost UCA two points.
When the game got tight in the second half, the UCA coach did the same thing. He also kicked over a chair and was up in the ref’s face. Another technical foul and another two points for Riverdale. The crowd behind UCA took their hint from the bench, yelling and loudly disagreeing with every call.
There were calls that Coach Weir did not agree with, however he handled them differently. He made his dissatisfaction known to the officials in a manner that he got his point across. And Weir’s example kept order on the bench. The large following of Riverdale fans reacted positively with huge cheers whenever the team scored. There was little dissention with the officiating.
This reporter’s observation is that the little things of team discipline, attitude, dress, and personal demeanor went a long way to helping Riverdale win the state championship. I am sure the UCA fans are convinced that the refs were against them from the start and poor refereeing cost them the game. But consider if you are angry and upset, can you give your best performance? After it was all over, the final score had UCA down by three, 44 to 41. They gave up four unnecessary points to the two technical fouls that were a direct result of poor discipline and a less than stellar example set by the UCA coach.
It is an old lesson but a true one that discipline leads to character. And great character will carry you when everything else seems to be going against you. Congratulations to Riverdale for earning the state championship for both boys and girls. But the groundwork for those outstanding performances was set during numerous hours of hard, grinding work.