The holiday period was a quiet time for athletes, coaches and families save for the overseas trip our Boys Varsity Basketball team took to Manchester, England. The Amaechi Basketball Centre was the site for the 11th annual Haris Tournament named in honor of Haris Charalambous, a Manchester Magic alum who tragically passed away in 2006 while playing at the University of Toledo.
Eight teams comprised the 2016 field that got underway on Tuesday December 27th as the Hilltoppers (the lone team from the USA) squared off against the Edinburg U-18 national team. After a sluggish opening stanza against a physical, well-coached squad WA pulled away and secured a very satisfying 84-75 victory. Pool play continued on the 28th and the legs responded as the Hilltoppers, employing all 12 players on the roster, raced past the local Manchester Magic Club (82-51) as well as the Nova School from Spain, (84-57).
The path was set for a semi-final match-up with the hometown favorite All-England U-18 team comprised of the very best English players from across the country. In a fiercely contested game in front of a determined English crowd, WA eked out a 91-88 victory that set the stage for a clash with the Ireland U-18 national team in the Haris Tournament Final.
The lads from Ireland had dismantled the English National team by 22 points in pool play so WA’s young squad was well aware of the monumental task at hand. A shaky start against the Irish zone defense put the team in a seemingly insurmountable 17 point 1st quarter deficit. Whittling the half-time deficit to a mere 8 points, the boys battled nearly all the way back (85-83) with just under 3 minutes to play) before falling 103-91.
Playing 5 games in 3 days was indeed challenging but our team responded beautifully and collectively (5 WA players averaged double figures) throughout. Special recognition goes to Quest Harris ’20 for his selection to the All-Tournament team. In the context of this being the 1st time in school history that one of our interscholastic teams has played overseas, the trip was a monumental occasion and a feat to be duly recognized. A tip of the hat to coaches Jamie Sullivan and Dan Sullivan for a job well done as the logistics of planning, organizing, and implementing a trip of this magnitude were significant and the execution and dynamics of the trip proved to be flawless.
Equally impressive was the conduct and sportsmanship exhibited by our young student-athletes as well as the leadership provided by our team captains Charlie Clay and Jack Zimmerman. For me personally, it was a relaxing, eye-opening, reaffirming week to proudly see the value of educational athletics on display and to smile and appreciate the lifetime opportunity Jamie and Dan provided for our kids.