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Boys basketball season ends with hope for the future

Finishing the season with its best record since 2002, the boys basketball squad looks to build up their young talent for years to come
Ed Tanaka
Ballard team huddling during an intense timeout.

The varsity boys basketball team finished the season with a 17-5 record, after falling to Seattle Prep 72-79 in their second playoff game. A promising finish to the season resulted from a combined effort, and an all out team win at home against Cleveland, before losing to Seattle Prep.
Unlike most high school sports teams who are normally headlined by upperclassmen, this years team was able to compete through their diverse amount of different ages and grades.
One of Ballard’s starters, sophomore Gavin Matuska, was able to lead the charge and broke the record for most rebounds in a game by a player in school history.
“My biggest accomplishment of the season was definitely when I broke the single game rebounding record,” Matuska said. “I didn’t even realize I got 25 until like a day after, I knew I got a lot but not that many.”
Averaging 8.1 rebounds per game, as well as 1.7 blocks per game, Matuska was able to man the middle as Ballard’s enforcing big man.
“My favorite part of the season was just hanging out with the team after games and getting dinner with them,” Matuska said. “At the start of the season we didn’t know that our chemistry would be great, but as the season progressed, we were a family.”
Starting off with a profound 55-38 win at home against Lincoln, they were able to set the tone for the rest of the season. The Beavers had an other-worldly 8-0 start to the season, and seemingly could not be stopped.
“Being on such a winning team was fun, it was nice to celebrate after all the wins,” Matuska said. “After the playoff win against Cleveland, it was electric, everyone was hyped.”
The integration into the varsity locker room was seamless for Matuska, as he made many friends who helped to encourage him along the way. Despite being one of the youngest members of the team, Matuska was embraced immediately and was able to build unbreakable bonds.

“Charlie [Dunn] was the one who really made me feel welcome. He introduced me to the team and from there I became a part of the culture,” Matuska said. “I didn’t really feel like I was one of the youngest. When we’re playing basketball, our grade levels don’t matter because at the end of the day, we are a team.”
As for senior Jaxon Rider, being a part of a team full of different varieties of ages was very influential. “The range of ages was awesome,” Rider said. “There were a ton of different perspectives and jokes, I think the underclassmen and upperclassmen both benefited a lot.”
Leading the team in points per game as well as being first in three pointers made per game, senior Jackson Carver served as one of the team’s most impactful players.
“The idea of being the leading scorer always made me feel like I had the weight of the team on my shoulders like I had to carry them each game, but I came to realize that could not be farther from the truth,” Carver said. “While I did average the most points, that was only because I had teammates that would set me up, I had everyone’s support also from the bench and the stands and that helped me rise to be the best scorer.”
In addition to leading the team in scoring, Carver was awarded for his on court play and made second team all-metro, as well as winning team MVP. “At first we started off a little shaky, we weren’t connected and didn’t have our team chemistry in order, but all that changed once we started hanging out after practices and going out to eat,” Carver said. “That’s when we not only became a team, but we had formed a brotherhood.”
Carver, who has been on varsity for two years, felt the environment change for the better and build stronger bonds amongst this season’s team. “It was amazing, having underclassmen like that really formed that brotherhood,” Carver said. “You see them as your little brothers and always want to have their backs, having seniors was also awesome because of the experience we’ve had and how we are able to pass that knowledge down.”
With being a senior came a lot of expectations and a role which Carver knew he had to carry for the team.
“I did feel responsible for being a leader to my team, everyone looked up to me, listened to me, and I wanted to be the best role model I could be,” Carver said. “Being a part of this team was amazing, I wouldn’t have asked for a better group of guys.”
One of Ballard’s primary centers, junior Jackson Bean logged the third most rebounds and second most blocks on the squad.
“I had more endurance and was able to jump higher than any other point in my life,” Bean said. “My skills greatly increased by playing basketball at a high level for multiple months, and my teammates also always pushed me to get better and to be my best self on and off the court.”
One of the key reasons for this stellar season was the team’s great leadership.
“Nirvan [Laemmle] was really the glue to the team and Jackson Carver had a set of confidence which was something I truly admired,” Matuska said.
Bean shared a similar perspective on the team’s leadership. “Nirvan and Dylan [Wallblom] were definitely the two biggest leaders,” Bean said. “During every halftime, Nirvan would hype the team up and tell us something we needed to do better for the second half, when we were losing he would bring us up and when we were winning he would tell us to stay locked in and to win the next two quarters.”
“The whole team came together during the season and created an amazing bond which brought in our freshmen and sophomores,” Bean said. “After our win against Cleveland the locker room was ecstatic, we were blasting music and cheering but tried to stay composed because we knew the next day we were playing a very good team in a loser goes home game.”
One of the most essential factors of the team’s success was its exemplary coaching from coach Lorenzo Durant III, who earned a coach of the year award for the Metro-Sound Division 23-24.
“The environment and atmosphere were very energetic and a little stressful throughout the season but the trust we formed with one another helped us rise to the many challenges we faced,” Carver said. “When I first started basketball here, I didn’t have a lot of confidence but the coaches believed in me and kept pushing me to believe in myself, the more games I played the better I got, and that [the coaching] made all the difference.”
Following their exhilarating playoff win over Cleveland, they were just one game away from districts, but were unable to get past Seattle Prep. For many players, this was the beginning of a new journey, for Carver however, this was the end to his high school career.
“This was one of the worst moments of my life, the feeling of knowing I would never play with these boys again was devastating, the feeling of my brothers crying on my shoulder in the middle of the gym,” Carver said. “Now that some time has passed I realize that I will carry the happy memories with me for the rest of my life and have made some lifelong friends. I also now know that I’m leaving Ballard in a great position for future success.”

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