No matter where Jeff Mezzatesta turned earlier this season, it seemed adversity was waiting just around the corner.
As most any basketball coach in the state, the Carvers Bay boys head man has come to expect a slew of his players to miss a few games each season due to the football program’s success.
Unfortunately for Mezzatesta, the things you can’t prepare for — injuries at the worst timing and the wrath of Mother Nature — did the most harm.
“It just seemed like one after another,” said the Carvers Bay boys basketball coach. “You had (Hurricane Matthew), and the extension of the season. Those already made things difficult.
“But the injuries really took their toll early, and really put us behind a bit.”
And the Bears’ play early reflected such trials and tribulations as they limped into the new year with a 5-7 mark.
One thing caught Mezzatesta’s eye during that stretch, though — his team showing a willingness to do whatever necessary to become successful.
“These kids held each other accountable,” the Carvers Bay coach said. “There aren’t any shortcuts for them. It is either they do something the right way or not at all.”
Such hard work and dedication has filtered down from the squad’s lone senior to a freshman at the end of the bench. As a result, the Bears’ fortunes have changed as well.
Since the calendar flipped to 2017, Carvers Bay has won nine of its last 11 games — including its last seven.
“I’ll admit, we weren’t much of a basketball team early on,” the Carvers Bay coach said. “But piece by piece, you began to see things turn around for them, and they started to get it.”
The Bears’ late-season tear allowed them to claim second in Region VII-2A. More importantly, it gave them a favorable position in this year’s state playoffs.
“Everyone has a certain talent, so with that in mind it makes things easier for all of us,” said junior guard Andre Marks. “I don’t have to depend on myself to try to make every shot when I have a brother beside me who can do it for me. It really helps everyone.”
Mezzatesta is quite cautious, however, in particular due to his team’s youth.
“We’ll go as far as our belief and leadership will take us,” he said. “The thing is, this isn’t a team made up of guys with titles. They’re all accountable to each other.”
Though certainly not the club’s vocal leader, junior Dijon Goss’ message is a simple one for his teammates.
“Just keep a level head,” he said. “If everyone can do that, we’ll be fine.”