Ballin’ through the halls
February 27, 2017
Keepin’ it original
Experience is something the Cougars, a CYC boys’ basketball team, uses to their advantage. During his sophomore year, Jake Millenbruck, senior, and some of his friends had the idea of starting their own team after deciding not to play for KHS’s boys basketball team.
“A lot of people love to play basketball,” Jack Barbieri, senior, said. “But once you get to high school people either don’t want to commit or they aren’t good enough. It gives us a chance to bring our friend group closer together.”
Originally named “Brothers in Christ,” they decided to change up the name of the team at the start of their second season. Thus the “Cougars” dynasty was born, because a majority of the players are very passionate about animals and like that a cougar is viewed as fierce. And this fierceness is really brought out in practices and games, Connelly said.
“We push the tempo and we like to think we are the most in shape team out there, so we have a better chance of winning,” Joe Connelly, senior, said. “A lot of defenses just can’t keep up with us, so that plays to our advantage.”
This somewhat bold strategy should be credited to Millenbruck, who was given the head coaching position after blowing his knee out last year. The confidence he bestows upon his team and the dedication he shows is what pushes them to be their best every week, Millenbruck said.
“Being a coach this year, I’ve taken on a whole new role,” Millenbruck said. “Being a leader to these guys is something I look forward to every week. Being there for my boys is what it’s all about.”
With a current record of 5-3, the 10-member team is determined to get back to the championship game this season. Getting below .500 is not ideal for a team that loves to win every week. Whether on the bench or out on the court, the Cougars are constantly hyping each other up.
“This league is so fun because it is not serious at all,” Connelly said. “But all the teams in the division we play take it serious enough to where it’s competitive and worth playing.”
In their mind, there is no question that they would beat Cooper’s Hoopers because of the experience and they would beat the Yandas because of their bigger hearts. While the Yandas use nicknames and Cooper’s Hoopers is brand new, the Cougars have been around for three years and can’t find a reason to change anything about their success story.
“We are like Carl’s Drive-In,” Barbieri said. “While all these other restaurants are trying to innovate with these new eating fads, we just stay true to our roots and customers keep coming back and we don’t want to go away from that.”
Ballin’ all day in SJ
Confident. Enthusiastic. Ballers. These are three words Katie Hackett, senior and co-captain, used to describe Cooper’s Hoopers, a CYC basketball team that started this year.
Last year during lunch, a group of Hackett’s friends were joking about trying out for the golf team. After realizing none of them had any experience out on the course, they had the brilliant idea of forming a basketball team. The inspiration behind the team name is none other than journalism teacher Shawn Owens’ son, Cooper, who is a favorite among the girls on the team.
“Mr. Owens is our coach, but Cooper is our mascot and inspiration,” Celia Rose, senior and co-captain, said. “He is our name sake, because he really pushes us to be the best we can be and he’s smarter than us even at a young age.”
While most of the team doesn’t play sports, Rose said she had the desire to be more athletic her senior year and wanted to tap her inner potential of Michael Jordan. With Rose’s confidence leading the team, they are currently undefeated with a record of 3-0. Through chants and cheers, they consider themselves an intimidating squad with a total of 18 players.
“Although the scoreboard might say otherwise, we know that our passion for the sport will keep us going,” Rose said. “We would 100 percent win against the other teams, because we have special skills.”
Even though Cooper’s Hoopers is a new team, they don’t believe it will be a disadvantage. They find time to practice on a consistent basis, whether it is at someone’s house or at the Lodge.
“If we are down points, we really put a lot of work in to get back up to be number one,” Hackett said. “It’s still really fun because in the beginning of our first game you could just hear us laughing at our mess ups because even pro athletes mess up.”
The team’s strategy during games is to use man-to-man defense and full court press, because they are so competitive. But Audrey Kelly, senior, said it plays to their advantage to get on the refs’ good side before the game even begins.
“The refs generally really like us and they give us pointers during games,” Kelly said. “We like to win over the refs and then they help us, because they like to see us having so much fun with each other.”
With no expectations and an undefeatable spirit, they don’t see any team getting in their way, especially not the Cougars or Yandas, who are two other CYC basketball teams from KHS.
“The other teams are just there to boost our confidence,” Hackett said. “If we are down during the game we really push ourselves to get the ‘W’ and I always say ‘Remember to check yourself before you wreck yourself.’”
Although Cooper’s Hoopers will most likely retire after their opening season, they hope their legacy lives on and inspires future teams.
“It brings you closer with people you wouldn’t otherwise be on a team with,” Rose said. “It is a fun way to hang out and do something new, because it gets you out of the house and changes up your schedule.”
(Yan)duh we dunk
For Colin Murphy, senior, basketball is something that has always been a part of his life. During his freshman and sophomore year at KHS, he played on the boys’ basketball team. But he decided not to continue his junior year and instead started a CYC basketball team, called the Yandas, with a group of friends.
“It’s a fun way to keep playing the sport,” Murphy said. “High school basketball is really serious and a big-time commitment, so it’s nice to be able to play however you want and whenever you want.”
Murphy was the main instigator of the team and he scouted all the players. He first asked Dylan Funk, senior, if he wanted to help form a team and they never looked back. One day on the basketball court, the two shared a pivotal moment that ended up being fate for their future team.
“Marshal Yanda is an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens,” Funk said. “Colin and I were watching him in the Super Bowl the year before we created the team, and he was actually a really good player. Colin and I went out onto the basketball court one day and acted like we were playing like Marshal Yanda and we got the ball stuck in between the rim and the backboard, so from that point on we called that a Yanda. And we named our team after it.”
After getting inspiration from legend Marshal Yanda, the team knew they needed to bring the same intensity to games and practices in order to be successful. By either blocking from behind or goaltending, the other teams often freak out and don’t know how to respond to such talent, Funk said. This is typically what gets the crowd fired up and part of the game.
“We are actually getting a lot of support this year,” Murphy said. “My grandma is one our biggest fans and supporters so we are very excited.”
The Yandas have come to appreciate their family and friends who come out to support at their games, but after having such an exciting season last year, they are expecting much larger crowds.
“This year the stands are just going to be packed,” Chad Karrer, senior, said. “We expect half the school to be there, including the staff.”
But the factor that really puts this team over the edge is their bold mascot. Although not a very obvious choice, they believe it is a way to psych out the competition.
“Last year our mascot was a wizard, but this year it is an armadillo,” Funk said. “We like to spice things up and switch things around so we keep things hot. We made it armadillos this year, contrasting to our wizard that put the magic on people last year.”