On Thursday, January 11, the Hopkins boys’ Varsity Basketball team defeated rival Hamden Hall 63-60 in overtime before a raucous home crowd in the Walter Camp Athletic Center. The thrilling finish was made extra special by the tremendous turnout from the Hopkins community who showed up to cheer on their Hilltoppers and celebrate the freshly-renovated gym floor as well as a brand new digital scoreboard and maroon bleachers that were added in December.
In an assembly earlier in the week, Senior Captains Axel Fine ’24 and Benjamin Simon ’24 stood before the Hopkins community to urge everyone to come cheer on the basketball team and dress in a “crazy theme.” They were pleased to find that the community responded to their call for support, showing up in wild outfits to demonstrate their school spirit.
When discussing the win, Fine and Simon credited the huge crowd of Hopkins fans as one of the many reasons they were able to defeat their rivals.
“It was the fans who filled out the bleachers. They got loud, they were energetic, and they really gave us that boost to go over the top,” said Simon.
Fine said that the numerous times the team has played together – a comfortability and an understanding of each other’s movements and passes – has created a unit that helped them defeat the Hamden Hall Hornets when the game went into an intense overtime.
“To be able to play with these guys for so long, you know where that pass is going to be,” Fine said. “Knowing your teammates so well to be able to get through that last little hard spot is really important.”
Varsity Boys Basketball coach Ryan Errico said the boys dutifully carried out their game plan, ensuring the team a victory. “There always seems to be a little extra juice and excitement from the School and the community [against Hamden Hall],” Errico said. “The outcome of the game proved to the kids that they can play with anyone in our league as Hamden Hall is very talented and well-coached. They know that if they compete, prepare with a purpose, and execute our game plan, they will be in every game.”
This is the sixth time the boys’ varsity basketball team played a game in the new gym, a renovation that was finished right after winter break. The installation included brand-new hardwood floors and double the number of bleachers compared to the previous setup. The new look and feel of the floor gave the Hilltoppers a refreshing change that ultimately helped them move the ball down the court and earn those 63 points.
When talking about the new court, Simon said “That extra space helps us tremendously. In general, we can just break it down quicker, we can go our pace. It feels better on your body. When you run on it, when you jump, everything feels smoother.”
Fine echoed Simon’s response, saying, “I think it helps us form a new identity, new place, new play style this year where even when we're not as skilled or we’re having a bad stretch, we're still going to out hustle you down the floor.”
Athletic Director Rocco DeMaio ’86 who helped oversee the renovation said he felt a difference in the room.
“There was definitely a sense of pride and excitement at the Hamden Hall game. There were so many parents and alums saying ‘this is what it's all about,’” said DeMaio.
Errico was excited by the victory but says it’s all part of the game plan.
“Our goals for the 23-24 season have not changed.” Errico said. “We want to compete to win a league championship, ensure we are a part of the FAA tournament at the end of the regular season, and put ourselves in position to qualify for the Class B Tournament.”