By Mark Singer
After eight years of anticipation for this moment, the boys’ basketball team’s first playoff game in nearly a decade, the Senn Bulldogs had to wait another 40 minutes. Marine Academy arrived at Senn at 5 p.m. for a 4:30 tip.
Ultimately, though, it was the home team that was slow to show up.
Senn trailed early in the first half and never recovered, falling 82-69 Wednesday evening in the first of three playoff games in the Blue North conference. First-year Senn coach Terrell Walsh worried in Tuesday’s practice the players wouldn’t be ready at game time, and his fears were realized when Marine (10-11) went up by 13 midway through the second quarter.
“They’ve never made the playoffs, so this is what they do,” Walsh said of his players after the loss. “All season we’ve this been telling them the same thing over and over and they just don’t realize it, so is what happens.”
Slow starts have plagued Senn (10-4) throughout the season. Starting point guard Noah Chapman said the team was ready to play, but the group just couldn’t recover after falling behind.
“We weren’t nervous,” Chapman said. “We just came out slow, which we always do.”
His coach says otherwise.
“Yeah, I think they were nervous,” Walsh said. “It is what it is.”
Nervous or not, Senn was rattled by the hot hand of Marine’s KeyAndre Spann. The shooting guard scored 18 of his team’s first 22 points and finished with a game-high 27.
“We started off slow, and [Spann] hit a couple of shots. He killed us,” Senn assistant coach Marcus Riley said.
Riley said the team shouldn’t have been nervous since they were playing at Senn, but it hardly felt like a home game at times. A small group of Marine supporters regularly drowned out any noise by the approximately 60 Senn fans that attended the game.
Even though he had a full roster to work with, Walsh stuck to a six-man rotation for the duration of the game. Senn beat Marine less than a month ago with a similar strategy, but Marine Academy simply buried the Bulldogs with 13 made three-pointers.
The Bulldogs have two more chances left in pool play to prove they belong in the playoffs. Despite the rough start, Walsh sees his team making it out of pool play, which takes point differential into account.
“We have to a blow team out to get back in it,” he said. “I believe it’s going to work in our favor. … We still got two more games. It’s the playoffs. Anything can happen.”