Senior Night is the traditional time to honor the contributions of the outgoing members of a prep sports team.
Last Friday though, it was Hall seniors Alex Olivares and Landon Piccatto who honored their teammates on the Red Devils boys basketball team, forgoing a chance to make their first-ever varsity starts in order to give their team the best chance to win a rivalry matchup against Tri-County Conference foe Putnam County.
The Red Devil reserves — who have both seen action this season, albeit in limited doses, usually in the closing moments of a quarter or half — knew Friday was most likely the only chance they would have to start a varsity hoops contest in their prep careers.
Still, the duo decided it was in the Red Devils’ best team interest to keep their traditional roles on the bench intact.
It wasn’t an easy decision.
But even though Hall came up two points short in the down-to-the-wire rivalry game, it’s a decision neither player regrets.
With six seniors on the Hall roster this winter, one of them was going to miss the chance to start on Senior Night.
Hall coach Mike Filippini — who traditionally goes with an all-senior lineup for the contest — said senior Danny Nolasco initially offered his spot in the starting lineup, so that one of the reserves could have the Senior Night spotlight.
But Olivares and Piccatto had another idea.
“Alex and Landon came up to me and said they wanted the best chance for them to win and to start a normal starting lineup (which included seniors Matt Boucher, Brett Fanning, Erick Fuentes, Nolasco and junior Zach Urbanski),” Filippini said. “Both of Alex and Landon’s quotes were, ‘We want to go for the win coach, not start on Senior Night.’
“That says a lot about their character. A lot of people think they have class by what they do and say, but those two kids were obviously raised right by their parents. It shows in moves like that. Most kids would never do that, never. They would want it to be about them and get their own name in the spotlight and start on Senior Night. They gave that up for the team. That’s the definition of class, that’s the definition of teamwork right there,” Filippini added.
Piccatto, a defensive specialist off the bench, said he knew his more well-rounded teammates would have a better chance to pull of the win over PC, which edged Hall by one point to win the Tri-County Conference Tournament in late January.
“There are kids who are better at offense and defense combined than putting me in there, and we have more varsity experience with the other kids in there,” Piccatto said. “It was just for the whole team’s benefit.”
“I just thought it was more important for all of us on the team to get that victory than who had more minutes or (started). It’s not about the individual playing time, it was about getting that win,” Olivares said.
“It was kind of a big deal for everybody after playing in the championship, so I thought I’d do my part to help out and give us a chance to have the possibility of winning. I’m not up to the skill level of some of those guys, so I figured if I made the sacrifice that we could really win that game.”
With the chemistry of their regular starting lineup intact, the Red Devils were able to roll out to a 7-0 start last Friday — a fast start that Olivares and Piccatto both point out might not have been possible if they were in the starting lineup.
Both players eventually worked their way into the game and contributed in the last game of their careers on the hardwood at Red Devil Gymnasium.
But in a tumultuous season for the Red Devils that has seen a pair of prior starters leave the team, Piccatto said his and Olivares’ real contribution was to team unity with the postseason fast approaching.
“It gives the team more of a sense of unity, lets everybody know it’s about the team, not just one person, one player or even one class,” Piccatto said. “I think, honestly, now is when our team has come together the most and we’re strongest. I think we’re the most dangerous right now, especially since we’ve had some close losses and some wins. I think if we put it together, we can catch lightning in a bottle and make a run.”
The selfless act really shows the character of his seniors, Filippini said.
“Those are the type of kids you would want to date your daughter. If my daughters were the same age as those kids, I’d be perfectly happy to let them date my daughters. There’s a lot of kids in our high school I wouldn’t even want in our neighborhood around my kids,” he chuckled. “But that’s the type of kids those guys are. They’re good kids and it makes my job as a coach much easier when kids step up and do things like that.
“That’s a very adult move, and they’re not adults yet, but they’re awful darn close.”
Chris Yucus is a NewsTribune Sports Writer. He can be reached at 220-6995, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.