In my first year at Oviedo, we had the misfortune of playing and losing to the great Lake Howell team of Nick Calathes, Chandler Parsons and Joey Rodriquez three times, including a particularly ugly game at Lake Howell where they put the running clock on us early in the third quarter without the benefit of executing more than one set play the whole night. Heady times indeed for the Silver Hawks. The following season those guys were off to college, but Lake Howell was still strong. Early in the year, they beat us at home after we led much of the game. As we entered the game at Lake Howell late in the year it was evident they had a psychological edge on us.
Early in the first quarter of the game, Amir Hill was tracking back defensively and tipped the ball away from a Lake Howell player in front of our bench, ran past the player and stole the ball while contorting his body to stay in bounds. It was a ridiculous feat of athleticism and effort. It changed the game, sent energy and resolve through every player on our team. We won.
Amir was a role player. He played erratic minutes all year, sometimes not at all. It was unquestionably the biggest play of his career. It gave us belief in the face of insecurity.
Last Friday night, Jalen Ortiz gave us the same type of lift. We had been awful for three quarters of the game. So bad that I was beginning to think we would get nothing out of the night and could lose by 30. As the fourth quarter unfolded, Jalen made a series of plays from absolutely nothing that brought us back in the game. The two most prominent were a steal where he tipped the ball away into the backcourt, then out-hustled the Boone player for the loose ball, and a lay up in traffic with a foul. They were exactly the type of plays that were beyond us in the first three quarters of the game simply because we wouldn’t push ourselves hard enough to make them. After those two plays, the other players on the floor and the bench believed we could make a run at the game. We went from enduring the final with minutes of a blowout to charging back into the game. This changed our mentality going forward to this weeks three games.
After the game, I spoke to the team about David Thompson blocking Bill Walton early in the NCAA final, and how that singular play changed the course of the game and NC St won.
A supreme and timely individual effort can inspire the entire team.