Junior Ryan Mbouombouo breaks through Parker’s tight defense in attempt to score a point for the Romans. (Cherish Curtis)
Junior Ryan Mbouombouo breaks through Parker’s tight defense in attempt to score a point for the Romans.

Cherish Curtis

The Big Games: Victory Beyond Discrepancy

February 1, 2023

When people think of American high school sports, they often think of cheerleaders, letterman jackets, and football games. But for Latin, DePaul’s McGrath Phillips Arena hosts annual basketball games against the rival Francis W. Parker Colonels.

At 6 p.m. on January 27, students, families, faculty, staff, and alumni began trickling into the DePaul bleachers with a sense of competitiveness in their hearts. 

Before the game, senior varsity player and UIC commit Megen Sanaj said, “Our coaches have done a great job preparing us for every game this season. They have helped us not only with the skill aspect, but with the mental aspect as well.”

She added, “We are feeling very confident about the game. We played them this season and our performance was amazing. We beat them by 42, and if we play how we played that game, we’ll be good.”

Ava Nelson, a freshman and girls game attendee, said, “Going into the girls game, I was very excited because I know that both teams play well and that it would be a fun game, especially with the rivalry.”

The girls varsity team set out with high hopes. In the first quarter, the Romans dominated ball possession, earning several rounds of applause as both junior McLean Moroney and Megen scored tough 3-pointers. Latin led 28-7 at the end of the first quarter, and they continued to control the action throughout the game.

Thanks to the team’s flawless coordination, a growing crowd, and motivation from Latin’s new fourth grade cheer squad, the girls wrapped up their game with a dominating 74-31 win.

Despite a strong team performance, Megen was disappointed by the low fan turnout. “Being a fan is simply just showing up,” she said. “You don’t have to be the loudest and you don’t have to be the one holding a sign, but just being there to watch us play is what being a fan is. We, as a team, put in so much time and effort, and for us to get little recognition is disheartening.”

McLean offered a similar critique, comparing the crowd for girls games with that of boys varsity basketball games. “The turnout for girls games in general is very low at Latin, which is really upsetting. At our games specifically, not many people come unless we [heavily] publicize them, and I think the audiences should be fairly equal.”

As the boys tipoff approached, more orange and blue donned fans continued to fill the arena.  

At 8 p.m., it was the varsity boys’ turn. Senior starters Dylan Flohr and Terrell Johnson, joined by juniors Ryan Mbouombouo, Griffen Snyder, and Nick Rotter, took to the courts amid waves of cheering from Latin’s student section. 

Kicking off the first quarter, Dylan earned Latin’s first points with a 3-point shot, following two baskets by Parker. Immediately after coming off the bench, Latin junior Ryan McLaughlin set a rapid pace with fluid movement and passing. The quarter ended with a basket by Nick Rotter, but Parker was already up 17-8.

Parker built on their lead, and the score was 32-19 at halftime, but Latin’s student section’s spirits showed no signs of wavering. Signs were raised high and balanced precariously on the heads below; the bleachers followed their typical seniority seating arrangements.

In the second half, Ryan Mbouombouo shined, and Dylan and Nick hit shots as well, but Parker widened its lead to 51-33. Latin was never able to close the gap. The final score was 68-46.

It was a disappointing loss for the Latin boys, but none of them walked off the court with their heads hung low. Instead, they wiped the sweat from their foreheads with a growing and irrevocable sense of passion and sportsmanship.

When asked about how they felt about any challenges during the game, junior Rogan McClendon said, “I feel like I benefited from having that experience. Everyone did, [and] when we play them again in February, we’re going to be a different team.”

After the game, junior and proud Latin fan Andrew Aguirre said, “It wasn’t the outcome anyone wanted, but that shouldn’t take away from how amazing everyone played. They’ll come back from this loss and do great throughout the rest of the season. I’m excited to keep watching them.”

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