Daniel O’Toole also contributed to this article.
Nothing is better than watching your teachers play basketball. Luckily, students of Malden High School got to watch them take on the school’s basketball teams for the 13th time.
The Student vs. Faculty Game was first held in 2009 as a fundraiser for the Tornado Travelers Club, which, alongside the newly formed Adventure Club, still hosts the event. After a two-year hiatus for the COVID-19 pandemic, the faculty shined in its return last year with an 80-78 victory.
Tickets were sold for $5 at the door but only $3 if purchased beforehand. Many students sold them around the school including members of both clubs. They hope to gain plenty of sales to support their trips and adventures.
The game was initially scheduled for Tuesday, March 14th, but a winter storm delayed the game to Thursday, March 16th.
The day before the game, 11 students were surveyed on who they thought would be the most valuable player of the game. Senior player Jonald Joseph received four of the votes, while history teacher Witche Exilhomme received two. Players Peyton Carron, Ezechiel Noelsaint, Ethan Phejarasai, Aiden Tham, and history teacher Kurtis Scheer each received a vote as well.
Noelsaint expressed his thoughts before the game. Responding to the addition of gym teacher Jonathan Currier, who played college basketball, he said, “Currier is not better than Coach Jurkowski. But, he is a problem.” He also believed that the students would “win by at least 15 points.”
Around 15 players from the boys' and girls' teams and 20 teachers came out to play. During warmups, freshman basketball coach Wiston Jeune, who shined in last year’s game with 19 points and five blocks, showed off his dunking abilities. The crowd was amped up, and the game was filled with excitement even before Jeune and Joseph went up for the tip-off.
Jeune won the tip-off to Victoria Bruno, a teacher who played college basketball at St. Lawrence University. She dished the ball to Jeune who scored the first basket from under the rim. A student miss led to math teacher Bradley Gelling nailing the second score for the teachers, but the students responded with a three-pointer. After a few more possessions, Noelsaint and Meranda exchanged buckets. Exilhomme and Meranda tacked on a few more before Jurkowski knocked down a three-pointer from just beyond the half-court line, firing up the crowd and forcing a timeout by Student Head Coach Scott Marino.
Up 14-8, the teachers had to keep the pressure on to shut down the students. With the bench in, the students capitalized and closed the gap to two points. Another history teacher, Jonathan Copithorne, answered with a big three-pointer before fouling on the next possession. After a few more rough turnovers, Copithorne launched another three as time expired that fell short. After the first quarter, the teachers led 17-16. During the break, Noelsaint said that they “need to break through the 2-3” defense in order to get back on top.
Bruno missed a three-point shot to open the quarter, which was only the start of what was to come. Poor play and tons of turnovers resulted in a 16-0 student-scoring run, giving the students a 32-17 lead. To stop the bleeding, science teacher Shauna Campbell drew a goaltending call to end the run. Then, math teacher Evan Mauser knocked down a mid-range shot on the teacher’s next possession. With the momentum swinging back in their favor, Mauser rushed to defend and swatted a jump shot way past the baseline, earning a roaring cheer from the crowd. He flexed his muscles as he ran past his bench, excited about the play.
While the teachers struggled to score, they were playing great defense. That was until Jurkowski launched a shot from far beyond the arc for the second time, and nailed it again. At the end of the quarter, Jeune launched a pass down to Exilhomme who made a layup. At halftime, the students led the teachers 34-28. Exilhomme applauded Jeune’s play so far, saying that he is “always on fire” and “it’s impossible not to ride the wave.” When asked how they would win this game, he said just three words: “stop playing nice.”
After the organizer gave out prizes to the fans, the game resumed for the third quarter. It started terribly for the teachers, who turned the ball over four times in a row before Mauser drew a foul. After he made one of the two free throws, he scored a layup on his next possession. After another defensive stop, Gelling was fouled and also converted on one of his attempts at the charity stripe.
The students continued to score, making it difficult for the teachers to close the gap. Jeune would convert on three layup attempts and Campbell made a free throw, cutting the lead to eleven points at 50-39. Exilhomme picked up three points before the end of the quarter, but the students scored four themselves. At the end of the third, the students held a 54-42 advantage. Coach Marino, who is also the girls’ varsity basketball coach, said the students just needed to “keep it up.”
The teachers started hot when Currier hit Richard with a great pass for a layup. Jurkowski took the defensive rebound on the other end but missed a three-pointer on the next possession. Luckily, they got the rebound and Currier sank a three-pointer of his own; up to this point, he was 0-5 from the field. Exilhomme missed two layups, but the students weren’t capitalizing on the missed chances. Unbelievably, for the third time, Jurkowski pulled up from around 40 feet and sank it again.
Later, Jurkowski would say that he is “not as athletic as he used to be” and he has to “step out farther and farther to get a shot off.” Shots from that distance are rarely attempted, even at the highest level of basketball. Even the world’s best three-point shooters, such as Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, would struggle to go 3/3 from 40 feet.
After Noelsaint came up with a block, the teachers put their best lineup in for the rest of the game. It was composed of Jurkowski, Currier, Campbell, Jeune, and Exilhomme. Immediately, Currier hit his second three-point shot off of a Jurkowski pass. On the other end, Currier stole the ball and ran down the court for another three-pointer. He had now made three consecutive shots from beyond the arc. Jeune would later deliver a pass to Exilhomme that tightened the lead to just one point and forced a student timeout. The score was now just 59-58 in favor of the students with 3:25 left in the game.
Off of the timeout, Exilhomme found Currier for another long ball. For the first time since early in the second quarter, the teachers held the lead. The students were struggling to get rolling, as both Joseph and Victoria Gammon missed shot attempts. However, senior player Justin Bell hit the tying mid-range shot with 1:42 left to play. Jeune was fouled and converted one shot before Currier came up with a huge steal. Jeune was fouled again, but still made only one shot. With a two-point lead, Exilhomme snatched another steal for the teachers. With the time running down, Jurkowski was intentionally fouled. He made both shots to extend the lead to 65-61.
Just over 30 seconds remained in the game, but the students were struggling. Turnovers led to more intentional fouls and the lead just kept getting bigger. The clock hit zero, and the teachers earned the 69-61 victory.
“Part of our plan was to let the students get up big and think they had an easy win,” Jurkowski said. “It all worked out perfectly.”
Mauser was excited about his performance. “I felt really good about the block. I know the person was massively shorter than me, but that’s part of the game, right?” After failing to score in last year’s game, his five-point night was a great factor in the faculty victory.
Currier, as a first-year teacher, was happy to see this concept in place at the school. “We have great student-athletes and great teachers that want to be a part of this culture,” he stated. “Events like these are what create a community.”
There were so many outstanding performances on the night that it is difficult to choose the best. Still, the Blue and Gold Player of the Game goes to Daniel Jurkowski for his 15-point performance. Honorable mentions go to Wiston Jeune and Jonathan Currier, who scored 10 and 12 points each; Jeune also collected 10 rebounds, a double-double.
The Tornado Travelers Club has done it again, hosting one of the most entertaining events of the spring. Despite the faculty victory, student players had tons of fun playing the same people that educate them 180 days per year. With the community it brings to the table, the Student vs. Faculty Basketball Game is sure to live on at Malden High School.
LEFT TO RIGHT: Jonathan Copithorne trying to get through a line of student defenders; Freshman Ethan Phejarasai steals the ball from Jamie Hill at the beginning of the third quarter. JESSICA LI