PV ends season with loss and fond memories
Indians fall to Franklin in the first round of the Tournament of Champions
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At Pascack Valley, girls basketball reigns supreme.
The small Hillsdale high school boasts the state’s all-time winningest girls basketball coach, Jeff Jasper, has sent over 20 players on to Division 1 schools, and is tied for the second most state group titles among public schools with six.
But all of that tangible success is momentary.
While in the heat of a game, or directly following a game, it may seem like that win or that loss defines the team at that moment, but even after No. 4 seed Pascack Valley’s 70-50 loss against No. 5 Franklin (23-7) in the first round of the Tournament of Champions at Pine Belt Arena on Thursday, Jasper reminded his players after the game that it’s not about basketball.
“Basketball is minor,” he said. “Life is about being selfless, being disciplined, being committed, supportive, compassionate, being caring. If you can walk away from basketball using that as the vehicle to teach those things… we’re undefeated.”
The Indians (30-2) were coming off of a Group 3 title game which they only won by three points against what Jasper called “a wonderfully coached” Ocean City team and entering the game, PV had won 14 straight games, good for the second best streak in the state among active girls teams.
This time, the task was Franklin, led by guard Diamond Miller and forward Monique Davis-Campbell.
Miller went off for a career-high 30 points and added 17 rebounds while Davis-Campbell added 12 points and nine rebounds.
The two shot a combined 17-for-32 and made more than half of Franklin’s shots. Franklin also outrebounded the Indians 44-30, which allowed the Warriors to get out in transition, push the tempo, and use size and physicality to their advantage.
The Indians, on the other hand, shot just 17-for-57 and got just 12 points in the paint and scored just nine points in the fourth quarter.
However at one point, PV was able to go on a 17-7 in the second quarter to tie the game at 29 with 1:19 left in the second quarter, helped by two 3-pointers apiece from Brianna Smith and Kelly Petro.
Smith finished with nine points and two rebounds while Petro finished with eight points, three rebounds and three assists.
Brianna Wong also had an all-around game going 6-for-6 from the free throw line for 10 points while adding seven rebounds and four steals. And despite a statistically poor performance from the floor, it was her heart and determination that stood out to Jasper.
“I thought Brianna Wong was outstanding,” he said. “She was remarkable. She made every hustle play she could make. She didn’t stop.”
And it wasn’t just Wong who played with heart and hustle.
Senior forward Shannon Culloo was noticeably emotional after playing in her last game, and after finishing with 10 points and six rebounds, received a standing ovation from fans and teammates alike.
A catalyst on PV’s recent run, she too chose not to dwell on the loss, but rather reflect on her time at PV and the impact it had on her.
“It means the world to me,” she said. “All of the work we’ve put in, playing since we were little, the culmination of that isn’t what we’ve won or what we’ve accomplished. It’s just the fact that we were able to come in every day with the best attitude and we were with our best friends.”
And Jasper, who professes to be a good teacher of the game rather than a good coach, also taught Culloo a valuable lesson.
“It’s not about how many points you score or how many wins you have, it’s about the people you do it with,” she said. “It’s hard to put into words how much everyone means to me.”
Jasper acknowledged that while Culloo is the only senior who receives regular playing time, that the other five provide support, stability and loyalty—none of which can be discounted
“It’s the faces in here that are most important,” he said. “I reiterated that and hope that out of those six seniors in there [Culloo, Rita Kochakian, Danielle Miller, Sara Bousleiman, Kayleigh Basovsky and Sophia Johnston], and I picked out their strong suits of those six, and I hope those kids can walk away and realize that this is really what life is about.”
And while PV’s season ends with a loss, Jasper’s disappointment stems not from the loss itself, but rather from the fact that it marks the end of his season, and one which will see this team’s record and accomplishments hanging from the rafters.
“I’m disappointed that we don’t get to practice again tomorrow,” he said. “They’re disappointed that we don’t get to practice tomorrow. The season ends here. We understand that. But we walk away from it with such joy.”