Playing in postseason something to savor
Mar 03, 2013 (The Philadelphia Inquirer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
As the players go through the NJSIAA boys' and girls' basketball tournaments, it's difficult to appreciate the frenzied atmosphere this one-and-done format creates.
That's because everybody is so focused on getting to the next game.
Still, Sterling senior guard Marcus Taylor has been able to take a brief moment here and there to soak in the maddening and euphoric atmosphere that this one-and-done tournament creates.
Taylor helped prolong his career with Friday's stunning 62-53 semifinal win over top seed Haddonfield.
Few saw this coming, unless they were looking out from the Sterling huddle.
No. 4 seed Sterling had lost to Haddonfield by a total of 46 points in two regular-season losses. None of that mattered to Taylor, who scored 16 points in Friday's win.
"We expected to be here," he said.
Where here is happens to be in the South Jersey Group 2 final on Monday at No. 3 seed Medford Tech.
"The seniors and I have taken charge, and it's great to see everybody grow," he said.
With an all-senior starting five, this Sterling team is experienced and using an age-old formula: getting hot at the most appropriate time. The Silver Knights' three playoff wins have been by a combined 62 points.
For a team that opened the season with a 30-point loss to Haddonfield, Sterling has come a long way.
Yet Taylor and his teammates feel that now is not the time to stop. Of course, Medford Tech and the other sectional finalists feel the same way.
What's interesting is that Taylor has briefly taken the time to soak in the atmosphere of what this past week has been about.
"You look around and you are in packed gyms and people are going crazy," he said. "It's like you are on stage and they are watching you, and it's pretty cool."
Senior guard Jerry Crismond, who like Taylor was also a standout on the Sterling football team, has taken some time, too, ever so briefly, to enjoy the atmosphere.
"I hear the crowd, and it's a memory I will have forever," he said.
And then on cue, he added, "But right now, my focus is trying to win that next game."
For this Sterling team, the tournament has greater meaning because, last year, the Silver Knights just missed qualifying. And even though the Knights won 10 of their final 11 regular-season games, March Madness was staged without them.
"That is what has made this so special," coach Rob Atene said. "We felt we were a tournament team last year."
During the win over Haddonfield, 6-foot-5 junior Marvin Jones came off the bench and scores 23 points, many on emphatic dunks.
What was interesting was how the seniors saw a player having a career night and kept feeding him. Sterling provided a selfless performance against Haddonfield, the kind that enables a team to play another game.
And that means another night of hearing the cheers that begin at the opening tap and, in Sterling's case, probably haven't stopped yet.
"It was like a home game for us against Haddonfield became we brought so many fans," Jones said. "They gave us great support."
Players can feed off fans at any level, and high school is no different.
Those in the state tournament, especially the seniors, likely realize that from an athletic standpoint, it might never get better than this.
No matter who wins in this week's sectional finals and then state finals, those who have made it to the second week of the postseason have experienced quite a ride.
One that will likely be relived each year at this time by those who helped create the memories and will savor them well after their playing days are over.
Contact Marc Narducci at email@example.com. Follow @sjnard on Twitter.
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