The GDS men’s varsity basketball team faced off for the second time against the Maret Frogs on Feb. 7, this time at home, after having beat the Frogs two weeks earlier. Fans packed the bleachers for the matchup, which ended in a 58–54 win for the Frogs after a nail-biting last minute.
The loss put GDS 4–11 and sixth in the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference standings for the season. Their last three games have all been losses, two of which have been by four points.
The game against Maret started hot for GDS, with the Hoppers making stops on defense and gaining an early lead. But as the second quarter started, Maret began penetrating the defense to make shots and stopping the Hoppers on their side of the court. The Frogs scored 24 points in the second quarter while the Hoppers scored only 18, putting Maret up by two as the half came to a close.
In the third quarter, the Frogs scored ten points whereas the Hoppers only scored four. “A common trend with our team is that we start off strong and then in the third quarter we take a dip,” junior Daniel Ford said in an interview before a game in late January.
The fourth quarter started with both teams trading shots until the last minute of the game. GDS was down by two with 30 seconds left and Maret had the ball. The Hoppers had no choice but to foul Maret to stop the clock and give Maret free throws in the hope the Frogs would miss. But Maret’s shooter made two shots, leaving GDS down by four with 20 seconds left and possession of the ball. The Hoppers scored a bucket to make it a two-point game.
Maret managed to inbound the ball and got fouled with ten seconds left, handing the Frogs two successful free throws and leaving GDS once again down four points with the ball. Senior Nico McClure sprinted down the court and made a layup, shrinking the gap once more.
Maret called a timeout, after which the Hoppers again fouled the Frogs, spelling doom for GDS as Maret scored two free throws with 5.6 seconds left. The Hoppers brought the ball down the court and missed a three-pointer to end the game.
“There’s always little things that could go better, but we played as a collective,” Ford said after the game, adding that it was “not a bad game.” He said the Hoppers weren’t prepared for the size of Maret’s players.
The Feb. 7 loss followed mixed results since winter break, during which most of the Hoppers’ roster was recovering from COVID-19. The team lost their first game after winter break, against Flint Hill, which made their record 1–5.
Since then, the team has improved, winning three of its next six games by an average margin of about 17 points. The Hoppers lost their next three games, culminating in their Feb. 7 loss to Maret. Many of those losses were decided by close margins in the final minutes: two losses by one point, a loss by two points, and two losses by four points.
The men’s varsity basketball team has embraced its identity as the underdog and run with it. In an interview in late January, McClure highlighted his excitement about the remaining games, noting that GDS can catch other teams off guard because of how much the team is improving and evolving every day.
When asked about the team’s goals, Ford said, “The goal mainly for our team was to build more of a culture around our program, which we have definitely succeeded in.”
Senior Dylan Bronner told the Bit earlier in the season that he is optimistic that the Hoppers’ strong roster could allow them to succeed in end-of-season tournaments. “I think this is going to be the year we really do make a run for D.C. states,” Bronner said, referring to the D.C. State Athletic Association championship tournament.
Ford said that the Feb. 7 game “proves that everyone in the MAC, except for about two teams, are in the same place” based on their head-to-head results. “I believe we can make it past the first two rounds of the tournament,” he said about the MAC tournament.