There was no denying that the last month of this boys basketball season levied tremendous pressure on the Beacon High School team. Despite forfeiting all seven of their victories accrued before January for their use of an ineligible player, the Bulldogs insisted they still would make the playoffs.
Sure, it was possible. But the tension built as the season waned.
“A huge burden has been lifted off us,” Beacon coach Scott Timpano said on Wednesday. “It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off our shoulders.”
The Bulldogs are in.
Beacon secured a berth in the Section 1 Class A playoffs with its sixth win Tuesday, a 61-54 triumph over Carmel. Jemond Galloway had 28 points and 17 rebounds, and Alex Benson scored 19 points to lead the Bulldogs (6-13), who have one regular-season game left to play.
“As the season started to dwindle down, we started to feel the pressure,” Benson said. “But we always believed we had the talent and drive to make something happen.”
Beacon began the season 7-3 and, after winning the Duane Davis Memorial tournament on New Year’s Eve, was regarded among the area’s top teams. But it was revealed on Jan. 4 the team had an ineligible player on its roster. The athletic department discovered the discrepancy, reported itself to Section 1 and, by rule, was stripped of its victories. The football team also forfeited games, as the athlete also had helped them earn four wins in the fall.
In an instant the basketball team was 0-10, shaken by the news.
A silver lining, however, was that the postseason still was within reach. Section 1 uses a points-based system for the playoffs, with each team needing 32 points to qualify. A victory is worth four points, and a team is awarded bonus points for each opponent it faces that finishes with a winning record. That meant with a combination of victories and its previous opponents finishing strong, the Bulldogs had a chance.
“The team was being punished for something that wasn’t done on purpose,” Benson said. “It was a tough situation to be in, but we held it together and didn’t fold up. We knew our goals could still be achieved.”
A 40-point loss to Our Lady of Lourdes a week after the forfeit dug their hole even deeper but that, Timpano said, is when his team showed its resolve.
“When things got tough, they fought back,” he said. “We’ve dug ourselves out of a pretty big hole. I’m hoping we can ride this out and give our fans something special to see in the playoffs.”
The team has gone 6-3 since the forfeit. All along, they carried a “chip on our shoulder,” Timpano said. The Bulldogs also were buoyed by a belief that they weren’t really a winless team seeking their first victory, but a good team that simply needed to keep winning.
Beacon has one regular-season game remaining. They were scheduled to host Lakeland on Thursday, but because of the expected inclement weather, Timpano said the game likely will be postponed to 6:15 p.m. Monday. The Bulldogs will be celebrating their Senior Night.
Beacon will earn a low seed — between 18th and 20th, Timpano estimates — which assures them of having a difficult matchup in the first round against a top seed. Lourdes coach Jim Santoro said in January that he was confident Beacon would find its way into the playoffs and he “felt sorry” for the team that faces them in the first round.
“It’s different for us than most of the other low seeds,” Benson said. “We’re probably gonna have as many wins as the teams we’re facing, even though it doesn’t show on our record. And we have something to prove.”
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4