Gar-Field’s seniors lead the way

DALE CITY — Whether they’re of the two-overtime variety or cut from the win-going-away mold, most of Gar-Field’s 12 wins this season follow a pattern. Junior Chris Vann leads the team in scoring, and everyone else chips in what they can.

But to break it down to such simple terms would be doing a great disservice to the players who helped bridge the gap between the Indians’ senior-laden 2000-01 state finalists and the scrappy, undersized team that stands in the thick of this season’s Cardinal District championship chase.

Those four players, seniors Demetrius “Dee” Howard, Kirsten McCane, Chris Doss and Devin Stone, were honored before the Indians’ final home game on Saturday night. They returned the favor to the sparse Saturday night crowd by holding Hylton to just 17 points over the final three periods, including three in the fourth quarter, as Gar-Field rolled to a 56-32 win.

“It felt real good,” McCane said of the victory, which improved the Indians to 12-7, 2-2. “I think this is the most pumped up we’ve been for a game this year.”

The Bulldogs (11-5, 2-2) began the game looking more pumped up than the home team, scoring 10 straight points while they built a 15-13 first-quarter lead. But soon after Deon Butler went up and under for a layup to start the second period, Hylton’s shooting cooled off and never warmed back up.

Vann and Greg Tekampe each contributed 3-point plays, and Howard hit a 3-point shot from the corner as Gar-Field surged to an eight-point halftime lead.

Vann had 15 of the Indians’ 29 points at the half, but Saturday’s second half was a prime display of how the Gar-Field seniors quietly contribute.

The Indians frequently stick with just a six-player rotation, one that includes the energetic Doss, rangy Howard and determined McCane.

Doss, who is listed at 6-feet, often plays bigger, getting into the lane and battling big men for offensive rebounds. On Saturday, he harrassed ballhandlers and at one point in the fourth found McCane for a layup with a no-look pass in the lane.

McCane, a National Honor Society member who sports a 4.19 GPA, does the thankless jobs of defending bigger players and crashing the boards. He went up against Hylton’s much larger and more athletic Dana Smith on Saturday, and even knocked down a big third-quarter 3-pointer on offense.

Howard is the tallest Indian starter at 6-6, and averages nearly six rebounds per game. But he likes to step out and shoot the three. He made one in every quarter against Hylton on the way to 16 points.

Combined with Vann, freshman guard Calvin Booth and reserve forward Greg Tekampe, those seniors make Gar-Field a dangerous team to face in the postseason, primarily because of their defensive cohesiveness.

Against the Bulldogs, who in the half-court set thrive on getting the ball into the post or penetrating for layups, Gar-Field allowed just four baskets after halftime. From the time Smith scored in the post against McCane with 2:50 left in the third period, Hylton went without a point until reserve Dominique Mitchell made the second of two free throws with 54 seconds left in the game.

“We stepped up the most on D,” said Howard. “We had some tenacity with it. It was our last home game, and we were going out with a win.”

It had to be a satisfying win for Stone, a reserve guard who called the victory “delicious.”

Cut by the Indians before his junior season, coach Andy Gray hoped to bring a player back after injuries cut down the team’s number of available players. When Gray pitched the idea to his team, they suggested he bring back Stone before he could finish his sentence. And Stone was who Gray wanted back.

“While he hasn’t been able to play as much,” said Gray, “he’s come and worked every day.”

Also an NHS honor student with a 3.6 GPA, Gray said Stone has improved as much as anyone he’s coached.

Stone got big cheers from the crowd and Gar-Field bench each time he touched the ball in the fourth quarter.

The 2001state finalists, which featured eight seniors, may have been the most talented group that Gray’s coached in a decade at Gar-Field. But this one is unique.

“This group has been the most fun group to coach,” said Gray. “My staff is in full agreement. They’ve had the best attitude and worked the hardest.”

That’s something the foursome sees as much a part of their role as scoring baskets.

“It’s to be a role model,” said Doss.

“We’ve got to set the stage for whoever’s coming in next,” added Howard, aware that taking on the Gar-Field name means something in the local basketball arena.

“I think each and every one of them works hard,” said Vann, who was a freshman on the roster of the state finalists. “Without them, we’re not a team.”

Doss and Howard each average about 13 points per game. Sometimes their contributions come in baskets, sometimes — as on Saturday night — bringing energy means as much.

“I know they bring excitement to our games,” said Vann, who has led the team in scoring in all but two of the games he’s played in. “When we’re down, they pump us up … They’re good teammates.”

Gray knows the wins aren’t as frequent as they were a few seasons back, even though the Indians have now won four in a row.

“This group has brought us a lot of joy in other ways,” he said. “We’re 12-7, but this group makes us feel like we’re undefeated.”


HYLTON (11-5, 2-2 Cardinal)

Lestrade 0 0-0 0, Quinata 1 0-0 2, Butler 2 0-0 4, Lindsey 0 0-0 0, Segarra 0 0-0 0, Cooper 4 0-0 9, Smith 4 2-4 10, Wood 1 0-0 2, Mitchell 1 1-2 3, Watkins 0 0-0 0, Hill 1 0-0 2, Allen 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 3-6 32.

GAR-FIELD (12-7, 2-2 Cardinal)

Doss 1 3-3 5, Booth 2 0-0 6, Anderson 0 0-0 0, Stone 0 0-0 0, Dockery 0 0-0 0, McCane 2 0-2 5, Vann 8 4-4 21, Rice 0 0-0 0, Tekampe 1 1-1 3, Winston 0 0-0 0, Howard 6 0-0 16, Frick 0 0-0 0, Sintim 0 0-2 0. Totals 20 8-12 56.

Halftime — Gar-Field 29-21. 3-point goals — Hylton 1 (Cooper), Gar-Field 9 (Howard 4, Vann 2, Booth 2, McCane).

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