Photo by Leo Ambrogelly
The varsity basketball team has come a long way from numerous losing seasons to a State Championship.
JJ Martin, a senior and varsity player at Sage Creek, has played basketball since a young age.
“I was watching the NBA Finals in 2010,” Martin said. “And I was always like a football player, a soccer player and I was never really introduced to basketball and [the] first time I watched it decided that’s what I wanted to play and I haven’t played any sport since…it was just more kind of like love at first sight.”
Players had to make a choice. Whether they should commit to their basketball team and take hours of time nearly every day or quit to have more time to focus on academics.
Martin established the commitment of working extensively on basketball from an early age while balancing all of his schoolwork.
“If you want to be one of the best players…It’s about a lot of time,” Martin said. “[It’s about the] practice that everybody’s not seeing when you’re alone at a park or you’re watching a basketball game…taking notes.”
“Basketball is a very mental [game]…and learning different attitudes to take the game, learning different moves you can make in a game, or different strategies you can go into a game will help you significantly,” Martin said.
During Sage Creek’s Hoopcoming, the community reunites to experience fun and excitement by watching their friends compete in basketball and shoot their way to victory.
For Sage Creek, basketball establishes an atmosphere of excitement and energy especially for fans like Jo Thompson, a senior, who cheers on his varsity friends at their games.
“Without a football team, that allows our school to kind of bend around sports that might not get as much attention at other schools,” Thompson said. “So it’s not just about being a basketball fan. It’s about being a Sage Creek basketball fan.”
Students are hyped to watch these games, particularly Hoopcoming, an event that has become significant to Sage Creek culture.
With all the hard work each player has placed into basketball, they really want to display their best especially on the night of Hoopcoming.
“It’s just us really wanting to put on a night that people remember, not just winning,” Martin said.
For Vishal Jayanthi, a senior and varsity basketball player, playing together with teammates during games like Hoopcoming creates a bond between teammates and connection for the Sage Creek community.
“I think that bond is long-lasting, probably the rest of your life,” Jayanthi said.
Yet, this solidarity took a while to nurture and numerous struggles confronted the team.
When Martin joined the team, they had a 7-20 record and were struggling to win.
“Everybody was just talking crap about how the coaches weren’t good or how the players [weren’t] good enough or how the school sucks because there’s no football team,” Martin said. “And then by the end of the year, we were talking about how great the coach was, how great our culture was…”
With the restoration of a positive team culture and chemistry, the varsity team reunited and established their identity as hardworking Sage Creek Bobcats.
For Jayanthi, this is his mentality, not just for basketball, but for life.
“To get what you want in life, you need to work hard for it,” Jayanthi said.
Instead of just playing basketball, everyone played for each other. Ultimately, this resulted in a State Championship win and a CIF San Diego Section Division III Championship win during the 2021 season.
“We realized that there’s a whole lot of stuff more important than basketball…” Martin said. ..I’m giving [basketball] my all because I know it won’t be forever”