Bronx Science couldn’t have known what it was walking into when the Wolverines arrived at Mott Haven Campus for its second-round Public School Athletic League playoff game last week.
Mott Haven had spent the majority of its season playing home games in front of sparse crowds due to a “no spectator” policy instituted after an incident between fans and school security earlier this season. Science was even required to produce a list of people who wanted to attend the playoff game — and if a name wasn’t on the list, that person wasn’t allowed in.
Few Science backers, therefore, were in attendance.
Mott Haven, however, placed no such restrictions on its spectators as the Mavericks’ spacious gym was crammed with a raucous home crowd, which made for quite the inhospitable welcome for the Wolverines.
Those less-than-ideal circumstances helped knock Bronx Science off its game as the Wolverines fell into a big hole early and could never dig their way out as Mott Haven rolled to a 50-38 victory to end the Wolverines’ season.
“We had no one there, but people who were there for Mott Haven were allowed in,” a frustrated Bronx Science coach Michael Mei said. “The crowd was literally wall-to-wall. There was not an empty seat in the house, and people were even lining up along the walls of the end lines.
“To me, it was pretty shallow what took place.”
Christina Satina played her final game in a Bronx Science uniform, and her younger sister didn’t even get to see it, the coach said. “It’s just stuff like that that just doesn’t sit well with me.”
Mei admitted the bizarre circumstances played a role in his sophomore-dominated team falling behind early.
“To walk into that gym with a young team, with all the things that were going on, I know that definitely played into how we started,” Mei said.
Science was down 11-3 after one quarter and trailed 27-11 at the half as the Wolverines struggled through a rare poor shooting night. It was an uphill battle right from the start for Science, especially given the hostile environment.
“For me, I’m sort of used to it. But for some of my teammates, it was a little different,” said sophomore guard Sarang West, who led Science with 18 points. “It was a pretty big gym and it was packed. It was a very loud environment right from the beginning. (But) as a team, we just had a very bad shooting night. It was just one of those days.”
It was an especially painful loss as Mott Haven has become Bronx Science’s archrival over the past few seasons. After knocking off the Mavericks in the regular-season finale three weeks prior, the Wolverines were looking forward to ending their season in the playoffs. Only it didn’t work out as Science hoped.
“It was pretty disappointing, especially to lose in the manner that we did,” West said. “We weren’t playing our best game, and we lost because of us, not because they outplayed us in any way.”
It was their slow start that ultimately doomed the Wolverines.
“We just couldn’t buy a bucket,” Mei said. “It was a difficult beginning and part of it was we weren’t mentally prepared for what we were walking into, which honestly, I couldn’t blame the kids. All the shenanigans that took place that had nothing to do with basketball prior to the game, I think, just got into everybody’s head. Myself included.”
It was not the way the Wolverines wanted to end their brilliant season, one which saw them go 16-2 in the regular season and fall just a game short of Mott Haven for the Bronx A South Division title. But West her teammates say they will remember this game and use it as motivation.
Even Mei wants his young players to remember the sting of the loss and use it to prepare for next season.
“I told the girls, ‘Now the ball is in your court,’” the coach said said. “An early exit from this year’s playoffs means you get a week’s head start on preparing for next year. Now it’s all about what you do in your offseason to get yourself ready for the 2019-2020 season.
“You’re not going to magically get better by sitting on your behind. You’re not suddenly going to become an All-Borough or All-City player without putting in a substantial amount of work.
“That’s the message I left them with, and they listened.”