Big Red Slam Dunks the Blue; Star Lyons ’03 Scores 22 Points

In their biggest game of the year, the Boys Varsity Basketball team fell just shy of victory. The hotly anticipated rematch with archrival Exeter turned out to be everything the boys had expected. The boys entered the game as underdogs, having lost their first game against Exeter this season, 77-98. Andover had hoped to pull off a dramatic upset. Unfortunately, they were unable to carry over the momentum from their previous win at Deerfield. PA fell to the Big Red, and the game ended with a final score of 65-52. With a raucous home crowd behind them, Exeter jumped out to an early 6–0 lead. Will Heidrich ’03 commented upon the hostile playing environment: “They were jazzed…they got their crowd immediately into the game, and it made a big difference. … Their crowd gave them a lot of momentum.” After Captain Zak DeOssie ’03 picked up two quick fouls in the opening minutes, Andover had to carry on the fight largely without their leader. Although the Big Blue was able to run with the competition for much of the first half, Exeter pulled away after halftime. The Exies relied heavily on their three-point shooting, which was excellent, and an effective defensive strategy. The Exeter D succeeded in stopping Andover in their tracks on numerous possessions throughout the game. Despite trailing by only one point at halftime, Andover found themselves unable to come any closer. Exeter guard Austin Blackmon effectively shut down Andover’s perimeter scoring during the second half. Andover Coach Leon Modeste acknowledged the Big Red’s ability to step it up in the second half, saying, “Exeter got hot in the second half, started hitting some threes.” Coach Mo added, “Blackmon was able to neutralize Coleman.” The Red’s Will Hyatt hit several three-point shots down the stretch, each a dagger more painful than the last to Andover’s hopes in the game. Hyatt’s sharp shooting curtailed any scoring runs that the Blue managed to put together. In pressuring Andover at both ends of the court, the opposition forced DeOssie into further foul trouble. With Blackmon successfully preventing Lyons from scoring and Captain DeOssie rendered inactive, Andover was simply picked apart at both ends of the court. Nevertheless, the Blue’s efforts throughout the game were certainly commendable. Both teams did not disappoint their fans, putting on an extraordinary show and keeping the famed inter-school rivalry alive with great hustle and sportsmanship. The contest against Exeter marked Andover’s final game of the season. PA will finish off the winter with a record of 8–13. Although it took the squad some time to congeal and find a solid rotation, the Big Blue found their rhythm in the second half of the season, with every player settled into their respective roles quite nicely. Post-graduate Lyons established himself as the team’s most potent scoring threat; while at the same time, Tyler Simms ’04 worked with Lyons in the backcourt as a playmaker and equally viable scoring option. Both Colin Liotta ’03 and Andy Heighington ’03 improved drastically over the course of the season, developing into blocking and rebounding machines. With monumental wins over Tilton and Thayer, it appeared possible that the Blue could triumph in all of its remaining games to finish the year with a winning record, a feat that certainly seemed impossible after the first few games of the year. What followed was an extremely memorable five-game winning streak. However, poor showings in rematches against powerhouses like the NMH Hoggers and Exeter Big Red doomed Andover to what was a disappointing finish. This classic struggle with Exeter marked the final game in a Phillips Academy uniform for eight graduating seniors. With the basketball season having drawn to an end, the Andover Hoopsters will have to continue their rebuilding effort next season. Young talents like Joey Lokitis ’06 and skilled rising seniors Simms, Adam Crabtree ’04, and Knef King ’04 will look to fill the shoes of the eight players who will graduate this spring. Said Captain-elect Simms of the team next season, “Because we are only returning four underclassmen, we will be looking to this season’s junior varsity players, along with what we think to be a strong post-graduate class, to help up on the front court.” Simms continued, “Next year, we’re not going to have anyone big. We are going to have to rely upon our ability to shoot and our speed on both offense and defense.” “Even though we were definitely less talented than last year’s team, we bonded together as a team,” asserted King. The rising senior guard continued, saying, “We reeled off a string of huge wins, and each win was a team win. We weren’t talented to win any other way.”