hree..two..oneâ¦excitement spread through Taper Gymnasium as parents and siblings counted down the final seconds of the fourth quarter. As the buzzer sounded, the game ball was thrown into the air and my team rushed onto the court to celebrate. Everyone was jumping and screaming. Before heading over to the sideline, I paused to look at the scoreboard: Harvard-Westlake 70, Flintridge Sacred Heart 20. The final score of my last game on the junior varsity basketball team.
I smiled. Turning, I left the court to high five the other team, wave to the fans, and race downstairs to the girlsâ locker room. My teammates were running around, hugging each other, and writing “UNDEFEATED!!!” and “JV=BEAST!!!” on the whiteboard. My coach, Lâtanya Robnett â00, came through the door a couple minutes later.
“Great job ladies!” she said. “Youâve worked hard all season, and now we have an undefeated season and a Mission League championship to show for it!”
“Now, we need to support our varsity team as they continue playing. Also, for those of you who donât know yet, Tiana has been moved up to varsity for [CIF] playoffs! Tiana, good luck on varsity, and to everyone, congratulations on a great season!”
And just like that, it was over. Surrounded by my JV teammates, I watched the varsity game from the bleachers for the last time. Later I received a practice schedule from Head Coach Melissa Hearlihy and went home to rest over the weekend before starting over with a new team.
The first few practices on varsity were tough. Half of the players had been on the team for three years, and now everyone had kicked it up a notch in their determination to win a CIF and state championship.
I was the only JV player who was moved up, alone as I tried to learn new skills, new drills and new plays all at a much faster pace. However, my new teammates were extremely supportive. Whenever I did something wrong or just looked confused, someone would immediately step in to explain what was going on.
The first game was played against Duarte High School at Harvard-Westlake. Though I had already practiced with the varsity team for half a week and felt comfortable with the players, it felt strange to pass by my cheering JV teammates as I jogged around the court for the pre-game lap. The team smoothly transitioned into warm-ups, but I struggled slightly to keep up; the order of the warm-ups blurred with emotions of happiness and extreme anxiety that came into my head upon running into the gym.
When Coach Hearlihy told me to check into the game, my heart literally stopped beating for about five seconds. I jumped up and ran to the scorersâ table, nearly deafened by the cheers of my thrilled JV teammates, family, and friends.
After high-fiving Sydney Haydel â10, the player I was replacing, I took her place boxing out a defender at the free throw line. Then the shot went up, I grabbed the rebound, passed the ball to point guard Nicole Nesbit â10, and fell into the flow of the first varsity playoff game of 2009.
By the time the game ended, I had racked up four points, four rebounds, two steals and one block in about 10 minutes on the court.
In our next game against San Marino, I played around 15 minutes and added three points, three blocks, five rebounds, one steal, and one assist to the teamâs 68-22 win.
The last game I played in was a home game against Oaks Christian in which I had two blocks, two rebounds and two steals in my five minutes of play. I was surprised to see my average of two blocks was the highest on the team.
For the rest of our playoff games I cheered on my team as they took down Windward, Pacific Hills and Kingsburg before a devastating loss to Mater Dei on the way to a state championship. The long bus ride home from San Diego was bittersweet, as my teammates were upset about the loss but happy that we won CIF and got as far as we did.
While I felt that winning would have been great, I was just happy that I got to be a part of the varsity team as a sophomore and go through playoffs with such a talented and tenacious team.
Making the jump from JV to varsity right before playoffs can be a challenge for anyone, but at the same time very rewarding.
I was so nervous at the beginning of this experience for many reasons. I was unsure if I would be accepted, scared and anxious that I wouldnât be able to keep up with the other players, and lonely because I was the only JV player to be moved up.
However, if you talk to any athlete around the world they will probably tell you they feel like their team is a family. I feel so grateful to my coaches and my teammates on both JV and varsity because this winter, I not only had an undefeated season, was given the title Most Valuable Player on JV and won a CIF championship; I had the incredible and seldom received opportunity of being a part of not just one, but two amazing and unique families.