Team work does it for Calabar and MVP McCarthy
Retaining the ISSA-Southern Conference basketball title was always going to be extra difficult for defending champions Calabar High this season.
However, the acquisition of Maliek McCarthy from Ardenne High made things much more probable for the Red Hills Road school to retain their title.
However, the former Ardenne High star and the tournament's most valuable player credited his coach, Ludlow Barker, his teammates and the family atmosphere within the camp for their success this season. He added that in the crucial game three, it was their trust and belief in each other that saw them to their narrow 59-55 win over Camperdown at the National Indoor Sports Centre on Wednesday.
"It was an off night (for me), but I had teammates who weren't off. They made me feel as if I was playing the best game of my life, and that's what pushed me, and that was the big difference - just having each other's back, even in the difficult moments.
"There were things we did that we know we shouldn't be doing, but we did them anyway, and were still behind each other pushing each other. A lot of words were exchanged, but they were positive words. We wanted everyone to know that this was our night, not theirs. We had to show that we are the champions, the real champions. We are true family, and that made the difference," he told STAR Sports after the game.
new school mates
McCarthy, who won Under-14 and Under-16 titles with Ardenne, said he has not been at Calabar long, but already he feels like a part of the family, and he wanted to represent and show his new school-mates what he was all about.
"During the game, I didn't feel it. I really wanted to win, but it just was not there. But because of family, teamwork and teammates being around me, I just wanted to do it for them and represent the school.
"The first and second quarter, I was nervous, but the fourth quarter I just snapped. I told myself that I needed my team to win, and I had to stay focused and take it all the way. My coach gave me the perfect instruction, and I followed it, got my bucket, and we got the lead and just tightened - and that was it," he said
"When coach Ludlow Barker told my mom that I should come to the school (Calabar), I saw it as an opportunity to represent another school and create another history, and it really happened, and I am really grateful for that. But I wanted everyone to know that I am not there to just take a space, I am there to create history, and I did that tonight. It (season) was very hard, a lot of us made a lot of sacrifices academically. But the sacrifices we made ... allowed us to win today," he said on Wednesday evening.
Calabar's coach, Ludlow Barker, says the young player is currently the best in the island, and believes when he fully matures, he will realise his full potential.
"Maliek McCarthy is probably the best player in the island right now. He is also young and immature, but when he grows up and really gets mature, he will know how good he is. He can do it all, and he has done it all for us and the team rallied around him," Barker added.