Updated: Jun 5
Two incredible runs for one program through the T.B.C. Tournament culminated in one championship, as the 2021 and 2022 squads from Mass Commanders Ice Basketball (MCIB) claimed co-champions honors in the boys varsity NBA Division.
The run to the title game was a resounding statement for both squads, who each embody the MCIB motto, instilled in them by their Program co-Directors Rudy Crichlow Jr. and Markus Potyranski: "Bet on Yourself."
It sounds simple and straightforward, but for a program that has cut it's teeth and built itself into an area power by recruiting the under-the-radar, overlooked ballers who outwork, out hustle and out execute far more heavily hyped programs, it is so much more than a catchy slogan. For MCIB, a program build on undersized guys who didn't catch the eye of sneaker sponsored programs or name prep schools -- but who show up with a 7 foot chip on their shoulders to prove their doubters wrong, the saying is the embodiment of the sheer will, effort, and hours in the gym that they use to prove their doubters wrong every day on the court.
MCIB's players don't have entourages, Top 50 programs calling them every day, or a shoe brand sponsoring their travels. What they have is themselves, and Crichlow and Potyranski have been instilling in them the belief that that is all they need. And it's proving prophetic.
The Co-Championship was equally meaningful for both the MCIB teams, but in different ways. For the MCIB 2022 squad, kids just emerging from the basketball shadows with just one year left land the eye of a college scout and snag a roster spot at the next level, it was a statement to the college basketball world: "I belong. Don't sleep on me like other coaches have in the past or I'm going to embarrass you and your squad if I catch you on the court."
MCIB's run to the championship was powered by the usual suspects: Combo guard Marat "Big Shot" Belhouchet, arguably the best back court defender in the league, forcing opponents to fight for every inch of all 94 feet of hardwood on one end, only to witness him nailing a back breaking three at the other end. Point guard Derrick Thomas Jr. continued to be the heartbeat for MCIB 2022, burying 3's, getting to the rack and finding teammates. And high-flying forward Nate Rosenay continued to play above the rim. But it was Kyle Bovell who emerged as perhaps the most impactful player on the team, playing elbows above the rim at both ends of the floor.
Playing the semifinals against an incredibly well coached and executed Mass Select team, featuring 6'6" and still growing forward and recent Worcester Academy Commit Todd Brogna, who played out of his mind and was nearly unstoppable for stretches, it took a team effort to finally score a 63-52 win on Sunday, May 23.
On the other side of the Bracket, the older brothers of the MCIB program, the 2021 squad had a different motivation when they were laying waste to their opponents: To turn their last summer together as teammates into one long victory lap. and prove every coach who passed on them in college recruiting wrong.
MCIB 2021 was led by Tournament MVP Alex Momo, who might as well have been repeating Luka Doncic's line "you're too small" every time he drove to the rim. Momo was brilliant, blowing past, flying over, and just steamrolling through defenders seemingly at every touch and scoring at will to lead MCIB 2021 to the title game. Momo got good help from shooting guard Karim Belhouchet (older brother of Marat) and solid contributions up and down the roster, but he stood out as the star in their 75-31 destruction of HST in the other semifinal With the prospects of facing each other in the championship, and several more big tournaments ahead in the succeeding weeks for each team, the program opted to have them crowned co-champions to reward all of the blood, sweat and tears they'd shed together, instead of risking injury by pitting them against one another.