Latin Dunks on Parker in the Big Games
February 1, 2024
The girls varsity basketball team beat Parker by a score of 60-32, and Latin’s boys varsity followed suit, winning 67-59, in this year’s Big Games at the UIC Pavilion last Friday night.
Held every year, the Games may appear to capitalize on the rivalry between Latin and Parker, yet at their core, they are a chance to celebrate a beloved tradition and honor the seniors who have been committed to the teams for years.
Freshman basketball player Annabel Nitekman said, “I’m a lifer, so I’ve been watching the games for a while, and it was super cool to be in it for the first time.”
Lifers and new students alike are familiar enough with the games to know that winning by 28 points is no easy feat. The girls’ victory was largely due to the efforts of seniors Reese Benford, Tatum Keogh, Lizzy Wells, and McLean Moroney.
“I got a lot of playing time as a freshman, so I really appreciate that experience,” freshman Cali King said. “But I was really proud of our seniors today and how they really showed out for Senior Night. They really just put their whole life into basketball.”
“[The Big Games are] such a fun thing that was so special to experience and a really good way to bond with your teammates,” Lizzy said. “It was really fun to do this with my senior friends because it was all of our last times, and this game felt the most special.”
Not only is the UIC court physically larger, but the number of fans and noise level create issues that players would not be able to manage without the support of their enthusiastic teammates. “It’s kind of a rite of passage and something that sometimes takes a little bit for the kids to get used to, but I thought that they all came out tonight and played really hard,” Varsity Girls Head Coach Max Rouse said.
After a tremendous effort by the girls, the boys prepared to take the court and keep the crowd’s energy up. Senior Rogan McClendon scored the game’s first points, while senior Nick Rotter shot 16 free throws throughout the matchup. As the game escalated, other seniors on the team also stepped up, with Ryan Mbouombouo’s notable finishes, and Griffen Snyder and Brendan Berman scoring in double figures.
“The energy is really electric,” Ryan said. “It’s honestly amazing. You really feel it on the court too, like I felt like I was running a little bit faster and jumping a little bit higher—you just absorb all of it.”
“We have lots of weapons on this team, every player adds something unique,” Varsity Boys Head Coach Aubrey DeNard said. “They understand their jobs and try to be stars in their roles.”
Harper Anderson, an eighth grader and sister of senior player Gavin Anderson, said, “I get to share so many experiences with my brother, and I get to bond over so much with him. I feel so proud and so emotional when he plays really well, so even if he has a really bad day, just seeing him on the court trying his best and playing with his teammates means so much to me.”
A deep three-pointer, a quick pass, or a noteworthy fast break may appeal to fans of the Big Games. But behind the scenes, players’ ability to navigate the challenges of the Latin-Parker atmosphere is commendable on its own.
“We talk every day about composure through adversity,” Coach DeNard said. “Obviously, there was a lot of adversity in that game. However, the biggest adjustment that we needed to make for the big game was hand signals for our play calls. It’s so loud in that atmosphere that the players can’t hear the coaches.”
“Watching is very fun and intriguing, you’re always into it, but playing is much more overwhelming and you feel like all the attention’s on you,” sophomore Thomas McLaughlin said. “I just tuned it out and tried to be in the moment.”
Despite the difficulties that the teams may have faced on the court, their consistent efforts throughout the season paid off in their success against Parker.
“Last night was my 35th Latin versus Parker game,” Coach DeNard said. “This game brings the whole community together. You see little kids from the Lower School and Middle School, and you also see alumni and retired employees. It’s something that really creates joy for the Latin School of Chicago and all of its supporters.”