Around noon on March 6th, senior Ethan Kuo hit a 3 pt. shot with 18 seconds left in the Division IV CIF title game to take a one point lead over El Capitan High School. Ethan’s shot, photographed from countless angles, shared with 1000’s over the Internet, and highlighted on TV and in newspapers, ended up being the game winner and one the Pacific Ridge community will always remember. Nonetheless, Ethan’s shot is much more than an individual moment of excellence. It is the culminating moment of a genuine team effort.
Ethan does not have that shot if fellow captain and leading scorer Scott doesn’t drive middle, spin, and kick the ball out to him on the wing. Scott would never have been in that position to drive if Ben hadn’t stepped up along the sideline with 38 seconds to play and allowed the El Cap player to crash into him, taking the charge and gaining possession of the ball. That incredible charge would never have happened without Elliot sprinting full speed across the court and guiding the ball handler down the sideline. Two minutes earlier we were down nine, and without the aggressive play and hot shooting by both Sebastian and Scott, we would have never gotten back into that game. And that was just the final two minutes.
All fourteen members of the varsity team worked extremely hard over the course of a long season. If I had to sum up this group of players in one word, it would be commitment. One night, after a tough loss, I gave them the option to take the following day off. They unanimously and enthusiastically chose to practice as usual. This team came in to practice almost every Saturday for four months. They broke down film of opposing teams together, put up thousands of late night shots in practice, and gathered every week to be together for a team meal. The reality is, every player on this team played an integral role in getting us to the point where Ethan had the ball in his hands with 18 seconds left, an open look, and hundreds of screaming fans.
Those boisterous Firebird fans were another huge key to the team’s success. Coaches and players alike have commented repeatedly on the absolute advantage we had in that game due to the support of the Pacific Ridge community. I wish everyone could have had 10 seconds to come stand on that court and look up at the electrifying sea of blue. The deafening noise, painted faces, and overwhelming support was simply incredible. The drives, the defense, the hustle, the charges, the clutch shots, and the all-out effort would not have been the same without the wonderful support of our school community. That same support was evident even before the USD game. The overflowing crowds and lively student section in our gym genuinely helped us get on a roll through the end of the season and playoffs. In my years of coaching, never have I been more proud of my school.
We will all rightly remember Ethan’s amazing shot as the game winner, but amongst our players and coaches it is very clear that his shot was made possible by the commitment and effort of every member of this team and the incredible support of the Pacific Ridge School community.Chris Burman
Head Boys Varsity Basketball Coach