Miracle on Irving Street?

(This was first posted on MaldenPatch.com)

“When the world says ‘Give Up’, Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.’”

Maybe you drive by it everyday, forgetting that it is there.  The brick structure, strong and resilient, continues to stand through the harsh New England climate.  It has stood for over one hundred years, like many of the buildings in Malden.  Yet that building is holding something pretty special inside right now.  It is holding hope.  Behind those walls, there is a small group of boys, supported by a strong coaching staff, that are doing what some thought would be next to impossible.  They are winning basketball games.

Some of the games have been heartstoppingly close, with some wins happening by coming from a deficit to win by one point.  Each game bringing them closer and closer to a miracle of sorts - an undefeated season.

Emergence of real and tangible hope began as this 7th and 8th grade team played in the 39th Annual Malden Catholic Brother Anthony Tournament over the Thanksgiving weekend.  This tournament brought in teams from Malden, Medford, Woburn,  Melrose, Arlington, Lynnfield, Waltham, Everett, and Lynn,   It was an intense weekend, stunning everyone, by not only the physicality of the tournament by all teams,  but by the sheer determination of the Cheverus team in particular.  They never gave up.

This little team, that refuses to allow being behind or listening to others telling them they can’t, for the first time in the history of the basketball program at the Cheverus School, won that Brother Anthony Tournament that weekend.   As other teams fell away one by one, you could see the difference in not only the players but the spectators.   Maybe this team is different because they have known what it is like to lose.  Maybe they stay strong because they know that they have each other, not only from the floor, but the players and coaches on the bench. 

Some say this team wins because of their big guy, 13 year old Nathaniel Ilebode, strong and athletic, who rises above everyone to stand at 6’3”.  This gentle giant, who was awarded the prestigious Brother Anthony award for sportsmanship that weekend, is constantly battered under the boards, fighting, as two and sometimes three opponents are told to surround him in an attempt to stop his game.  Yet, as adults we all know, a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link and one player does not make a team.  This team continues to rise, because of all the players, supporting each other not only on the basketball court but off.  Coach Charlie, Coach Mike, Coach Glenn and Coach Pierre, run the team as a family, reminding all players that the true character of a man is not determined by only winning but by supporting each other academically, socially and athletically.

So is this a miracle?   Many say yes.  I think differently.  This team, inarguably, has a strong starting five, but they also have a strong supporting bench.  This team works hard both off and on the court.  They listen to their coaches and not the outside world.  It is because of this, I believe, is why this team has won all their games to date, defeating even the defending State Champions St. Agnes Trojans of Fidelity House in Arlington, yet there are more games to play.

How far will they take this none of us know, but already they have won in the hearts and minds of many, including their opponents.  As Richard Bach once stated “Sooner or later those who win are those who think they can.”  As we all know, winners in life are not just determined by the score of a game.

So, as you drive by the Cheverus School on the corner of Main and Route 60, think about that small team, studying inside, hoping their miracle will happen for them this basketball season.  May that young team realize, that win or lose, their miracle has already happened, because they continually exhibiit strength of character and perserverance both off and on the basketball court.

Kelly Ilebode is a Malden resident and published author.  You can visit her personal site at http://kellyilebode.com/.