Abel Sanchez didn’t receive any postseason awards like many of his Highland Park teammates and playing time was scarce for the senior guard on the talented squad that finished 23-2 with an appearance in the 5A state championship game.
Sanchez scored 14 points in 14 games in what will likely be his last year of playing organized basketball, but drilled two 3-pointers in the opening minutes on Senior Night in his only start giving him a memory that will last him a lifetime in a season he’ll never forget.
As time was ticking and Lansing was celebrating I knew that was it.
Not only that we were going to lose the state championship game, but also my career as a Highland Park Runnin’ Scots was minutes from being over.
When I was a freshman I played for Topeka High, and it was a great experience to play for coach Robbie Sanders. He taught me a lot as soon as I began to play. As great as Topeka High was it still didn’t feel like home. I transferred to Highland Park lurking for a place to find that family-oriented team. From the coaches to the new teammate and also my classmates and teachers I knew this was the place I have been looking for.
As soon as I got to Highland Park I met coach Ken Darting. I also met Mrs. Karen Darting, the greatest, nicest person you will ever meet. I will never forget what she has done for me and the team. Coach D never just coached the varsity team. If you were a freshman or transfer he would help you. He is always looking ahead. So if you were someone he thought had plenty of potential to help HP win a game, be prepared to work harder than you have in your life. Ken Darting wasn’t only a coach on the court he was a mentor, a father figure and much more. Whenever you wanted some advice about life or school he was only a phone call away. That’s how it was with all the coaches.
I will never forget coach Mike Williams, Travis Hamilton, Robert Brown, Mike Calhoun and the new addition to the coaching staff, Reed Hein. Coach D told me as the season went on I probably wouldn’t get a lot of playing time but I’m on the team for a reason. I’m a shooter. That’s what he wanted me to do when I got in the game and that’s what I did.
Highland Park wasn’t only a place to play basketball for me but it was also my home where my family was. My classmates gave me the reassurance of that. My junior year the team with filled with great seniors like Tray Wheeler, Steffon Kyles, O’Shai Clark, Patrick Glover, and Jamon Fulton. They weren’t only my teammates, but also people I learned so much from as they were real leaders on and off the court. I will never forget them, I love them and I wish them the best of luck to them and their bright future ahead of them.
Once my senior year started we got the news from Coach D that he will retire from coaching. We took this season not only our last but also his. Jahmal McMurray, Shaffee Carr, Alex Ruiz, Eddie Hunt, and Kameron Clark— those are my teammates and the other seniors on the 2013-14 basketball team. That’s not all they were to me though, they where my brothers. There are stories about every single one of them I can tell you.
From Jahmal practically never missing a shot he took, Shaffee dunking on someone, Eddie and his elbows and how strong he is in the paint, Kameron being the general with the ball on the court being so vocal, and Alex always guarding Jahmal.
I was a streaky shooter. When I was making shots I made them in a flurry and that’s when Coach D would get mad at the first team. It is so funny to me at times, but then sometimes it wouldn’t because Coach D would get mad.
I will never forget senior night after my name was called for the starting lineups. I gave Coach D a hug and told him, “Thank you for this opportunity” and he replied with “you earned it.” It probably wasn’t much, but it gave me enough confidence to go out there do when I do best and that’s to shoot the ball. I started the game 2 for 2 from the 3-point line and gave the team a spark to start the game. It was my senior night and also Darting’s 500th win. Man, it was such a great feeling.
Finally, I would like to give a big shout out to my senior class. I will forever love every single one of you. I would like to say thank you to all the coaches for always giving us a helping hand when we needed help. Thank you to all the support we got from former players Kyle Weems, Adrian “A1” Herrera, and Theron Wilson. To all the fans–not only students, but also teachers and staff. Students from other schools also showed us support as well, thank you. This year was a year I will never forget.
Last of all I would like to say thank you to Coach Darting. I love you coach. You have taught me so much about the game and also life. I will never forget… It will always be great to be a Scot!
Last but not least, “Don’t go huggin’ babies”!