The buzzer sounds. A timeout is called. It’s February 28, there is 1 minute and 38 seconds left in the first playoff game against River Hill High School, the Raiders are down by seven, the gym is filled with the heat off the players’ backs and the nervous tension of the coaches, parents, and students. A lot is at stake for these players: it is the first round of playoffs. The anxious roar of the crowd grows as the players huddle closer. The buzzer sounds again and the Raiders win their first playoff game 48-44.
The Atholton boys varsity basketball team had a 16-4 record this past season. They made it to the MPSSAA 3A state semi-finals, the farthest of any Howard County boys varsity basketball team.
This team is built around the philosophy of being a family.“Team is family,” said Jared Albert, coach of the Atholton boys varsity basketball team,“a successful team does not have to be wins and losses” Senior Ayyub Rabb, shared his perspective on the dynamic, “even the coach is family, he’s like a father to me, I’ve never been on a team like this, it is very, very good..I love it” The team believes that their success is due to this close knit community, “We have the most chemistry of any team I have ever been on,” said Senior Arya Parekh.
This past basketball season has been an outstanding one for Atholton’s Varsity boys. Finishing with 16 wins and only 4 losses, these players have done it all. They had a phenomenal start to this season, with 11 wins in a row, and some players even beating their own personal records.
With COVID having a significant impact on all athletics this year, the winter sports were even more impacted. In late December, COVID numbers rose, which caused HCPSS to put a three-week halt on the basketball season.
Due to this season being amidst the pandemic, the team faced hardships unlike any other year. Coach Albert said “that was difficult,” when talking about the three week shutdown due to the abundance of COVID cases “but [he] thought [his] kids really responded well to [it].”
Amir Shaheed, one of the youngest on varsity, commented on how COVID affected his team, “we won most of our games.” The sophomore player felt his team “thrived after the COVID break.”
Even with missing last year’s whole season due to COVID, it was no trouble for the players to finish the season strong. In their last season (2019-2020), they finished with a 19-7 record. That year they made it to the final four, which was the same ending position as this year. The season prior (2018-2019), they lost the second round of playoffs to Mount Hebron, resulting in them ending with a 19-3 record.
Looking ahead to next season, there are many unknowns, coaches, students, and players don’t know exactly what to expect. With eleven seniors leaving and many opportunities for younger players to come up to varsity, next season will be a surprise. “The beauty of it and the thing I love most about it is not every year is the same..every year is going to be different,” said Coach Albert.
Parekh believes that to be successful, the team can’t just be good, “we have to love each other, love playing with each other, and love the game.”