Algonquin Dover-Sherborn basketball teams play at Boston’s TD Garden
BOSTON — As the smell of gasoline wafted through the back of their bus Saturday morning, members of the Algonquin boys’ and girls’ basketball teams couldn’t help but laugh.
“We were almost all laughing, but we knew something was wrong,” said Algonquin Girls senior captain Jada Carter-Ferm. “We informed the coaches at the front of the bus and they came back to see. The boys’ coach opened the emergency exit on the roof of the bus to let in some fresh air and soon we were stopping at the gas station.
With a possible oil leak on their bus, the Algonquin women’s team had to spring into action to find another way to get to TD Garden in time for their 10 a.m. game against Nashoba. So, at the Natick pit stop on the Mass Pike, the girls’ team members called relatives and friends to pick them up and drive them to Boston.
No gas or oil leak would prevent Gonk from accessing the Garden.
“We were able to get everyone there safely,” senior captain Dani Adams said.
On Saturday, 20 different high school basketball teams participated in the Andrew James Lawson Foundation Invitational held at TD Garden. Algonquin and Nashoba were the only two schools to have their boys’ and girls’ basketball teams participate in the one-day event.
The Gonk Girls defeated Nashoba, 48-43, while the Nashoba Boys defeated Algonquin, 52-38. Win or lose, the biggest draw of the day came from playing basketball on the famous parquet floor.
“It was a surreal experience playing at the Garden,” Adams said.
Algonquin Boys captain Joe Russell said, “Something I will always remember.
“Hands down the coolest place I’ve ever played,” said captain Jack Gamache, who waited with his teammates at the Natick stop until another bus came to pick them up.
Algonquin basketball players and coaches boarded a charter bus at 79 Bartlett Street in Northborough at 7:45 a.m. About 20 minutes later, players began noticing a funky smell.
“It (smelled) strongly of gas and made some of our players sick to their stomachs or dizzy,” Adams said.
“It smelled really bad on the bus,” said captain Nicole Egizi.
Once everyone arrived at the Garden, players began to soak in the bright lights of the home of the Boston Celtics.
Historic court where NBA greats have played
Before their 10 a.m. denunciation, the Gonk girls performed a pregame tradition. Huddled in a circle, Adams began to whisper “T” and the rest of the team followed by whispering “Hawks”, as Algonquin’s mascot was once known as Tomahawk.
The girls repeated the chant with Adams dipping her body when she said “T” and the rest of the team dropping when they answered “Hawks” until everyone was screaming their heads off.
“It’s really fun and it motivates us all before every game,” Carter-Ferm said.
The Algonquin men’s team got to watch and cheer on their women counterparts during the first half before preparing for their own game. But even then, the Gonk boys were able to observe their classmates because each locker room had a television.
“We were able to watch the girls game while preparing for ours,” Gamache said.
In Dover, the Dover-Sherborn boys’ basketball team boarded their school bus at 3 p.m. Luckily for the Raiders, their journey to the TD Garden didn’t experience any major issues.
“Our bus rides are mostly very relaxed,” DS senior captain Ethan Lynch said.
When the Raiders arrived in Boston, they also tried to soak up the moment. When it came time to play, each team member scored a point as DS beat Dedham, 66-41.
“It was just a great experience and just a fun place to play,” Lynch said.
Junior DS guard Daniel Sullivan celebrated his 17th birthday in style on Saturday by scoring six points. His last two points came from the free-throw line when he sank two shots while the DS student section sang “Happy Birthday” to him.
“To say that I played on the same floor as Larry Bird once, that’s so cool to me,” Sullivan said. “Getting the win was very nice because of where we were playing and being on my birthday was the icing on the cake.”
During halftime of the DS game, members of the Dover-Sherborn women’s basketball team shared their thoughts on the chicken tenders they purchased from the TD Garden concession stands.
“Reviewing the chicken tender, I got a 10 out of 10,” said DS Senior Kelly Devine.
“I’m going to do 7.75,” said junior Riley Spalding.
“They’re a bit pricey,” sophomore Erica Hills concluded.
Other than the food, what was it like being at TD Garden?
“As exciting as it was, it was also difficult to adjust to playing in such a big, open arena because we weren’t used to it,” Adams said.
“The pitch was super bright,” Egizi said.
“Hands down the coolest place I’ve ever played,” Gamache said.
And what was everyone’s favorite thing about the TD Garden experience?
“I enjoyed playing on such historic ground where some of the biggest stars in the NBA have set foot,” Adams said.
“Walking the court with my teammates and getting the W,” Lynch said.
“It was great to watch the jumbotron and see us play,” Hjerpe said. “It was unreal to play on the same pitch as players I’ve looked up to since I was little.”
Not a bad way to spend a Saturday. Even with the lingering smell of gasoline in the nostrils.
Tommy Cassell is a senior multimedia reporter for the Daily News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tommycassell44.