Shooting for the Stars

Jess Melvin, Writer

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Under the fluorescent lights of the gymnasium, a dozen or so high school boys are spread across the court. The benches are full of anxious players who watch as their teammates dribble and pass the bright orange ball. The bleachers swarm with parents and students cheering at every movement as the clock ticks down second after second. The stakes are high and the scores are close; the ball cuts through the air and dances on the edge of the hoop. This is the moment. AND… HE SCORES! The buzzer sounds and time is up.
“Good work, boys,” the coach says.
Wiping the sweat off their brows, the Homestead boys congratulate each other for another successful evening practice.
The boys’ basketball team has been working hard, and it has produced results. Its 14 players have seen win after win this season, a satisfying pay-off for all of the work they have put in this year.
“We’re almost in the postseason,” Alec Grinsfelder (10), varsity forward, said. “It’s been great. We’ve improved a lot and learned so much from the beginning of the year.”
The freshmen, junior varsity, and varsity teams stay confident even in the face of difficulty.
“We started off a little shaky and lost a couple games, but we came back on top,”
Zac Bradtmiller (11), varsity point-guard, said.
The varsity team is eyeing the state title, but that glory is a reward rather than an endgame.
“Overall we like to get on the grind and make ourselves better,” Bradtmiller said. “We think just one game ahead.”
Basketball, like many team sports, teaches valuable life and work skills.
“You learn communication, teamwork, and lots of hard work that will help (you) later on in life,” Grinsfelder said.
Of course, the hours spent practicing are not for nothing. The team values the exercise and the time spent together.
“My favorite part about being on the team is practicing and getting better,” Xavier Overstreet (11), junior varsity point-guard, said. “We practice an hour or an hour and a half after school for at least five days a week.”
The team is like a family, with team dinners every Thursday. They have some inside jokes and like to tease each other, all in good fun.
“Sam Buck kind of does some acting,” Bradtmiller said. “Our inside joke is that, whenever he has any soft contact, he’ll throw his hands up in the air, and that’s our thing to make fun of.”
The guys have excellent chemistry, which is something that aids them out on the court.
“I would describe the team as determined, confident, and united,” Onye Ezeakudo (12), varsity point guard, said.
No matter what happens during a game, the team still wins, as the experiences they’ve had on the team will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

“Everything Coach Lines says has a life lesson in it. I’m definitely going to take the things he teaches us with me,” Overstreet said. For example, he encourages the players to be the best at whatever they do by putting their mind to it and believing in themselves.
The coaches, Chris Johnson, Don Lines, and Josh Salway, as well as the varsity assistant Nick Ankenbruck, work together to lead the team to victory at games and in life. They inspire leadership and foster a positive environment.
“Coach Johnson brings that fun environment and Ankenbruck is always by his side ready to joke around,” Bradtmiller said. However, when they need to be serious, the coaches make sure to get down to business.
Coach Johnson recently coached his 300th win, something Trent Loomis (11), varsity small forward, believes indicates the high quality of Homestead’s coaches.
“I believe that we have the best coaches and trainers in the state,” Loomis said.
Ezeakudo echoed Loomis’s opinion of their coaches.
“In my opinion we have the best coaches in Fort Wayne,” Ezeakudo said. “They do everything possible to have us prepared for each game and they are a big part of our success.”
Ezeakudo’s teammates have named him as the player who grew the most this season.
“He has really started to become a leader on the floor,” Grinsfelder said. “He is very good at scoring and getting his teammates involved in the game.”
Even though he is not a loud or boisterous player, Ezeakudo has mastered the art of capturing the crowd’s attention through his talent and leadership. Every player has seen growth, however, and continues to hone their abilities.
“The biggest thing I learned from being on the team is that you need to work hard to be successful,” Ezeakudo said. He plans on playing basketball in college, so his four years on the team should serve as a solid foundation for his future.
Indiana’s basketball scene is very popular, something the team says can make games both demanding and exciting. There’s always a Spartan supporter at every game, whether conference or not.
“Having the crowd there supporting us definitely helps,” Bradtmiller said.
Having fans to support the players boosts their morale, bringing out the best in each player. However, it can be difficult to fill the bleachers, especially when the student section is smaller because games are farther away.
“When turnout is low, like at away games, it can kind of feel like we aren’t there,” Bradtmiller said.
Overstreet described the feeling as akin to playing a scrimmage rather than an official game.
Yet each player’s passion for the sport never fades.
“The attendance isn’t bad, but our student section needs to get louder — a lot louder,” Loomis said.
The boys are thankful for every fan because they make playing a better experience. Though the season is coming to a close, there are still games to be played and memories to be made.

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