Pirates’ journey to Class 6A tournament derailed in Waco
The bus was stopped at a Waco Target parking lot on the side of I-35, three hours into a trip to San Antonio for the UIL Boys State Basketball tournament, when Wylie Coach Stephen Pearce got the news. The tournament was cancelled; basketball, for this year, was over. The reason – fear over the Coronavirus pandemic.
Even if the games were to be, somehow, played at a later date, it would be difficult to prepare since all school activities have been suspended. That means no practice, no film, no coaching sessions.
“When the word came, I wasn’t surprised, given all the other cancellations – NBA, NCAA, March Madness,” Coach Stephen Pearce said. “I just tried not to show any hurt because I knew it would hit the boys hard. It was just such a missed opportunity.”
Pirate basketball was in its first ever state run, one of the Top 4 Class 6A teams in the state, with a unique mix of seniors and underclassmen who streak.
“It was disappointing. This is something we seniors had envisioned since we were freshman,” senior shooting guard Jacory Dawkins said. “And to not have the opportunity to get the chance to do something special for ourselves and the school is upsetting.”
The team had spent the days leading up to the tournament in intensive practice sessions, going over fundamentals, and watching many hours of film on the teams they were supposed to play in the Semi and Final games in San Antonio.
“You know, after watching film on the teams, we knew we had our work cut out for us,” Pearce said. “But we also felt like we had made the adjustments we needed to and we truly felt like this was going to be our year. We would have loved to play those games.”
Part of this year’s success, besides phenomenal athletic talent, was the team chemistry. Key to winning was the bench.
“I can’t say enough about the players who didn’t see a lot of playing time,” Pearce said. “These are guys who could have been a little angry because they didn’t get much time on the court, but they were the first to support the starters. They were the most gracious players I’ve ever coached.”
Instead of “welcome home” fanfare, the bus pulled into the lot, players got off, and headed to their homes. School had also been suspended for another week. The “what if” question weighed heavy on all of them.
“It didn’t feel real because we had all worked so hard together,” small forward Thomas Van Trier said. “As seniors, it was a moment we had all been dreaming of for 4 years.”
For coaches and underclassmen there is always next year. The real tragedy is for those seniors who will live with the question for the rest of their lives – How would we have fared at that next level?
“To be honest, I would rather have gone down there and gotten our butts beat than have to live with this uncertainty,” Pearce said. “The only ill feelings I have are for these boys, who played their hearts out all year. I hurt for them.”
For more stories like this, see the March 19 issue or subscribe online.
By Cindy Anderson • English and journalism teacher at Wylie High