The end of a journey

Boys basketball finish season in second round of playoffs


Rohan Parikh

With time expiring, sophomore guard Shelton Henderson races down the court for one final shot attempt. Despite heroics to bring the Cardinals back into the game, Henderson’s final shot fell just short at the rim.

When the clock hit zero, it wasn’t just the end of the game. It was the end of a season, a fairytale, but more importantly a journey of a team that gave everything until the final whistle.

The boys basketball team ended their season in a heartbreaking thriller on Feb. 24, losing 46-45 to Katy Jordan in the second round of the playoffs.

The Cardinals were at risk of creating a hole too big to climb out of after giving up an early lead. Multiple times during the first quarter, the Cardinals were down double-digits but kept fighting.

This fight is the exact kind that helped this team whether the blow of losing their starting guard, Kohlman Dutton, to a season-ending injury and their star center, Anthony “LJ” Andrews, to illness during the postseason. The Cardinals have grown accustomed to fighting and clawing to keep their season alive.

“We fought through a lot of adversity at the beginning but found ways to push through and get where we needed to be,” sophomore Shelton Henderson said. “When it came down to the end we were just missing some pieces to continue moving on to where we expected to be.”

The Cardinals were able to keep it close at halftime, coming out into the second half with nothing to lose. Led by Shelton Henderson with 26 points, Bellaire cut the lead to single digits and turned the intensity to an all-time high.

Senior Dontrell Johnson rises up for a shot against Katy Jordan, his 9 points were second highest on the team. This was the last game of Johnson’s high school career. (Rohan Parikh)

“I think the intensity was definitely there,” Henderson said. “We all had to play with the win-or-go-home mentality so we just locked in on our assignments and tried to execute what coach asked of us and have fun.”

A second-half turnaround has become the calling card of this team, as they have been able to flip the switch in the second half of multiple games throughout the season.

“I think that in the second half, we learned from a lot of mistakes from the first half,” Henderson said. “We just locked in and got stops on defense and the offense just flowed from that and a lot of teams couldn’t find a way to stop it.”
With the momentum fully on their side, Bellaire seemed to have the upper hand heading into clutch time. The crowd was on their feet and despite an early season absence, the fans were making themselves heard during the playoffs.

“The fans really made our game and helped us play better,” senior Dontrell Johnson said. “At the beginning of the season, it was boring playing teams with no fans there. Then, the games really became more exciting when the students, teachers, and staff started coming to games.”

The Cardinals finally captured the lead on a fadeaway jumper by Marquise Johnson with the clock heading under 30 seconds.
With the roar of the crowd behind them, it seems like fate would smile on Bellaire that night. But just as with any other basketball game, there is always one final twist. That came in the form of a Cardinal turnover and the subsequent bucket by Katy Jordan. This would be the last lead change, as a desperate mid-range shot to win the game by Henderson fell just short.

For sophomores like Henderson and Neumann, this represents a setback in their journey for the state championship but doesn’t mark the end of the road. But, for the seniors, this was the end of their high school careers.

“I really felt it after we won the first game,” senior Dontrell Johnson said. “It really felt like there was that possibility that we could have gone home.”

This was the seniors’ final season of high school basketball, and they might never get the chance to play in college or a path like JUCO. That is why this season was so important, and why the seniors, like senior Riley Gilder, especially cherished every moment they were on the floor.

After leading the team in scoring with 26 points, sophomore Shelton Henderson takes in the emotions of his final game. The 46-45 loss to Katy Jordan marked the end of Bellaire’s quest to the state championships. (Jonathan Chiriboga)

“This was my last game, I’m just going to be playing college intramurals,” Gilder said. “We played our hearts out, but at the end of the day we didn’t get what we wanted.”

Even before the playoff game against Katy Jordan started, the thought that this might be their final game was present in each senior’s mind.

“Before our game against Katy Jordan, coach talked to me about how this could be my last game,” Johnson said. “It really hit me at that point.”

And even though the Cardinals were down double digits in the second half, seniors like Johnson would not end their careers without a fight.

“Against Katy Jordan when we were down by 13 at the half, I was thinking about how this could be the last run,” Johnson said. “But I thought we couldn’t go out like this, we have to go out in a dogfight.”

Playoff games like this don’t just end after the fans stream out of the stadium, though. Johnson said the emotion of ending your season can carry past that game, that stadium, and even that night.

“There was a lot of emotion in the locker room after that [Katy Jordan] game,” Johnson said. “There is still even a lot of emotion, just walking around the school, going to classes. It just hurt for us all as a team.”