Sure it was only November when February is when it really counts, but don’t tell that any members of the Miami Springs Golden Hawks basketball team who poured onto the floor at their gym last week in mass celebration.
The night before Thanksgiving, Hawks players had a lot to be thankful for when sophomore guard Jesus Alfonso, with the clock down to five seconds and his team locked in a 58-58 tie with Booker T. Washington, drove the lane and scored as the buzzer sounded giving Springs a dramatic 60-58 victory.
Thanks to previous wins over South Dade, Varela, Belen Jesuit and Jackson, the win moved the Hawks record to a perfect 5-0 on the young season and clearly has players and coaches excited about the next few months and the special season that could lay ahead.
“A great start to our season and a great win for us to beat a very good Booker T. team,” said Springs head coach Delmar Wilson. “What was really great about this particular win was the way we battled back after losing an early lead. It showed that the kids know how to keep their poise and not get rattled.”
Wilson spoke of his team’s blazing fast start that had them up 21-9 after the first quarter, only to have things fall apart in the second quarter to trail by seven at halftime. Then to score the first seven points of the second half to tie it, only to fall behind by eight again early in the fourth, and then finally to battle back in the final five minutes to even the game at 58.
When Booker T. missed the front end of a one-and-one with 10 seconds left, Wilson called a timeout to set up what he hoped would be a game-winning play and knew who to turn to.
“Even though he’s only a sophomore, the one thing I know about him is that he’s just not afraid to have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line,” said Wilson referring to Alfonso. “We had been spending a lot of time in practice over the previous few weeks working on specific out-of-bounds set-up plays in the final few seconds with different scenarios so I think the kids were perfectly comfortable when we set something up for Jesus. It was a called high-ball screen where we put the wings in the corner to create an isolation for him to either spot up for a jumper or drive the lane and he made it happen.”
“I inbounded it to my teammate (Sebastian Aderete) who I play AAU ball with and we’ve worked on the play a million times,” said Alfonso who finished as the game’s leading scorer with 18 points along with four assists. “When I saw the Booker T. defender come out and play up tight on me, I knew that I would be able to get around him and drive the lane. I also played AAU ball last summer with their center (BTW center Keith Stewart) and know that he’s not quick so I’d be able to make it to the basket before him which I did and I laid it in.”
While the last-second buzzer-beating win had Wilson and his players feeling awfully giddy as they went home that night to get ready for Thanksgiving goodies the next day, they know all too well that the 2014/15 season is in its infancy stages and much work lies ahead.
In fact, all five wins are of the non-district variety. With one more non-district game this Friday against Krop, things will get down to the nitty-gritty next week and the week after preceding the Christmas break.
That’s when Springs will get into the heart of its district schedule with Goleman and Norland next week followed by Mourning and Carol City after that. And yes, that’s the same Miami Norland squad that has won the Class 6A state championship each of the last three years.
“District games are what counts and that’s where you really find out where you are as a team,” said Alfonso. “It feels great to be off to a 5-0 start but the pain of what happened to us in districts last year is still fresh and we really feel like we need to go out there and take care of business in our district games.”
Alfonso was referring to Springs’ incredibly brutal loss last February in a district semifinal contest where the Hawks held a seemingly comfortable 10 point lead on Carol City with just over three minutes left and by five with a minute to go before seeing everything go south as the Chiefs scored the final eight points in the final 55 seconds to stun the Hawks 51-48 and end their season.
“I’ve reminded them about that game every minute we were working out last summer and since the first minute we took the floor last month to start getting ready for this season,” said Wilson. “It’s a loss that cost us a berth in the regional playoffs and one that has haunted all of us ever since.”
“The only good thing to come out of that is that it really motivated us all during the offseason,” said Alfonso. “You can tell that all of us are coming out really determined and focused and we want to try and keep that going.”
Springs’ lone graduating starter from a year ago was Victor Troya, who landed himself a nice small school hoops scholarship to Manhattanville College, so experience and the fresh memories of that painful loss to Carol City will likely serve as a plus for the Hawks throughout the next two months.
“The kids did a great job of working hard all summer, whether it be camps they went to or AAU play and that will in turn only help us be a better basketball team this season,” said Wilson. “While there is still a lot of basketball in front of us, getting off to this good start will only help their confidence.”