By Nate Todd
In the midst of the only snowstorm of 2011, we departed Athens for the ISST basketball tournament in London. While all other ACS students were sleeping through the snow-day on March 9th, we woke up sharing one goal; to claim the gold. Even though we seemed relaxed when we arrived in London, we were all chomping at the bit to get on the court and prove ourselves. Although I was not on last year’s team, I was aware of the crushing defeat they suffered in the semifinal game, and the returning players made it clear that this year belonged to ACS. Not only did they want to win the gold, they wanted to prove themselves against the team that had prevented them from winning last year-ISB.
That night, the eight of us that were housed together got plenty of rest in order to prepare for the first day of competition (A big thanks to our housers, what a pain we must have been!). The competition was hosted by ACS Cobham (in England) and consisted of 12 international schools from all around Europe, as well as Cairo. After several more hours of nervous waiting, we finally faced the first opponent - Cairo. We knew that we were good, but we weren’t sure how we would stack up as a team, because we hadn’t played against most of the other teams (we played TASIS twice in the ACS Anti-Drug tournament). Thankfully, our outstanding coach, Annie Constantinides, had prepared us well, and on the first day we beat both Cairo and Paris. From the second we won the tip-off against Cairo, we knew who we were, and what we had to do to reach our goal; we won the game 90-27. Our confidence was sky-high and we believed that we could not be stopped, demonstrated by the fact that we defeated Paris (74-38). We made few mistakes in that game, and our defense was smothering. We returned to our house ecstatic. Not only had we steamrolled the competition in our games, but we had seen most of the other teams play, and thought that they were no match for us.
On the second day, we faced the American School of London. In the first half, ASL showed us that we would have to play well if we wanted to continue winning. We realized that just because we were on the court, we weren’t going to automatically win – we would have to play good basketball. At the end of the first half, we were up by just ten points. After an intense locker room session with our coach, we played great basketball in the second half, and beat ASL (66-41).
This victory was not as strongly celebrated, because after the game we found out that we had to face ISB in the ensuing semifinal. The faces on the returning players were stern; they told us how much a victory over the International School of Brussels would mean to them, and that we simply could not lose. With our team spirit soaring, we were able to quickly extinguish ISB’s chances of winning (we took the game 66-44), and headed to the finals. The semi-final game was extremely physical and it was our strength that propelled us ahead of ISB. We were all relieved that night, because we had defeated ISB. We remained hopeful for the final, trusting that our euphoria would carry us to victory over TASIS, our opponent in the final. We had already played TASIS twice during the ACS Anti-Drug tournament, and were victorious both times. We soon realized that the game in Cobham, a mere thirty minutes from TASIS, was practically a home game for TASIS. We were shocked by the intensity of the TASIS supporters during warm-ups the next day. Thankfully, we did have some of our own support from a small contingent of ACS parents and from our own housing family. It was an excruciating game, because every time TASIS scored, the crowd roared in delight – they were also screaming when TASIS was on defense. Despite these distractions, our team relied on each other and our coach to secure a very hard-fought victory with a 59-43 win.
We had great performances from our seniors in that game, as it was the last time that they would play for ACS and they left it all on the floor. It was incredible to hold the trophy in our hands, as each one of us had hoped to witness from the beginning of the season. To finally receive the gold in its tangible form was an unbelievable feeling, one that none of us will forget. Led by our coach, camaraderie, and confidence, we saw every game as an opportunity to prove who we were, winning each game by at least 16 points. We outplayed every team, driven by our overwhelming desire to win. For those of us who will return next year, we cannot wait to repeat this amazing experience and will seek to maintain the pride of ACS Athens! For our teammates who are leaving this year, it was a great ride and we wish you the best of luck in the future.