Latin students gather in DePaul’s bleachers, livening the navy rows with splashes of orange. (Cherish Curtis)
Latin students gather in DePaul’s bleachers, livening the navy rows with splashes of orange.

Cherish Curtis

A Tough Day for Romans; Latin Loses the First Big Game

December 16, 2022

At any school, it’s common for students to live their lives on different paths, but every year at Latin, the Lower, Middle, and Upper School students come together for one thing—the Big Game.

As basketball makes another return, a sense of competitiveness begins brewing within the Latin community. A chance to beat Parker is at stake, and everyone knows there’s nothing better than bragging rights for the rest of the year.

“I like having a rival and being able to go against them,” junior Calvin King, IV said. “Especially because everyone’s able to come together and just have fun. I think [it’s] a beautiful thing and that competitiveness is amazing.”

Another junior and member of the varsity team, Rogan McClendon, added, “Obviously it can be a very intense rivalry, but Latin has what it takes to come out on top.”

This year, traveling just under 15 minutes to the McGrath Phillips Arena at DePaul University, the boys varsity basketball team was set to play Parker. Dressed in suits, they sat in the bleachers, waiting for Parker’s girls game to end. (Parker opted not to play Latin in their girls’ home game at DePaul.)

Finally, as the scoreboard was reset, Latin’s varsity boys strutted onto the court in their vibrant orange jerseys, confidence displayed in every step. The team swiftly began their opening routine.

During their warm-up, Aidyn Jones, a freshman and grade representative, commented, “I’m really excited because it’s such a big game, and Latin is known for beating Parker.”

Parker took the lead in the first half, which ended with them up by 10 over Latin, 28-18. Coming out of the break, though, Latin closed the lead behind the shooting of Ryan Mbouombouo, who made three mid-range jumpers, bringing the Romans to within two points, 30-28.

Near the end of the game, with Parker maintaining a five-point lead, Latin Head Coach Aubrey DeNard used different defensive strategies to get stops. Junior Aidan Hart said, “He gives us what we need to succeed, whether it be new moves or plays.”

Similarly, Dylan Flohr, a senior, added, “Knowing that he believed in us definitely helped us to continue to play hard and tough.”

It’s clear that regardless of who walks away with the win, the varsity teams feels a clear sense of love and compassion for the game. But with just under a minute left in the game, Parker fans raised their feet and slammed them down on the bleachers, creating a rumble. They begin to chant, “I believe that we will win,” a slogan that often resurfaces at every level of athletic competition, including during the 2022 World Cup. As the chants grew louder, Latin students and players became even more concerned with one thing—winning.

Senior Terrell Johnson brought the momentum back to Latin, making a tough layup.

Latin was then forced to foul to keep their comeback hopes alive. As Parker readied for a free throw, the Latin students stomped their feet on the bleachers, hoping to throw off the shooter’s game. He hit the first but missed the second.

Junior Nick Rotter then stole the ball, weaved through the defense and scored a breathtaking basket, bringing the score to Parker 49, Latin 47.

With another chance at the free throw line, Parker again converted only one of two, and the fate of the game now lay in Latin’s hands, down three points with 15 seconds to go.

Terrell drove into the lane and got fouled. He stood at the foul line staring down Parker’s net, the sound of his dribbling drowned out by the chanting of fans on both sides. All you could hear was the collision of “Let’s go Parker” and “Let’s go Romans,” as both sides eagerly stomped their feet on the bleachers to cheer on their teams.

Terrell hit a free throw, bringing the score to 50-48.

The varsity team raced across the court and huddled alongside Coach DeNard with the clock now at six seconds. Meanwhile, Latin’s loud, orange donning fans overpowered Parker’s, hoping to repeat a comeback similar to last year’s, when Latin hit a game-winning, buzzer-beater three.

A bit of additional time was added back to the game clock—from 6 to 7.8 seconds—and a wave of relief flowed through the Latin crowd.

The game resumed, and the ball ended up in the hands of Parker’s star player, Payton Pitts. He dribbled it over midcourt and struggled to fight his way through Nick’s defense, but in the final second, he managed to make a layup, giving Parker the win with the final score of 52-48.

It was a disappointing loss for Latin, but both sides showed sportsmanship and compassion, clapping as their classmates, friends, and family members walked off the court.

After the game, Andrew Aguirre, a junior, said, “They shouldn’t have their heads down. They’re an amazing team, and I would bet on them every single time. It was a close game and it just didn’t fall their way this time, [but] all that matters is that they’re there for each other so that they can bounce back and have a great season.”

Charlie Yannias, a freshman, added, “Going in, I had already known that Parker was a relatively strong team, although I still believed in our team and that we could pull through and win. We had a perfect comeback, [which] almost [led] us to the W.”

Similarly, Aidyn added, “The loss isn’t a reflection of their passion or desire to win.”

After the game, Calvin said, “With it being my first DePaul game, it felt great to hear those cheers. People just need to keep their chin up. We’re going to be okay, and we’re getting better every day.”

Calvin also concluded his interview with The Forum with a message of appreciation. “I have to thank all of the coaching staff for mentally and physically preparing us,” he said. “My teammates were also great supporters, they kept each other calm, and much more.”

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    Armaan ShahDec 17, 2022 at 1:22 am

    Great article and photos, Cherish.