Team manager’s arrival lifts Aggies’ spirts; thrilling win leaves chills with everyone

Posted: February 11, 2014 in General, Preps
Tags: , , , , , , ,
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Arbor View senior M’Shale Easterling (standing) was involved in an tragic car accident that took his mother’s life on Sunday, and put him and his sister in the hospital. Monday night he arrived at Arbor View midway through the fourth quarter to lift his team’s spirit at the right time, vs. Sierra Vista.

By W.G. Ramirez

It’s almost chilling, what happened Monday night in the men’s basketball game between Arbor View and Sierra Vista. After all, there was somewhat of an arctic feel to the day for anyone involved with Arbor View – staff, students, parents.

One day earlier, after a 17-year-old driver ran a red light, according to police, and collided with Nneka Geter-Easterling, 42, in her Mustang. The beloved member of the parental body at Arbor View died.

Her teen-aged children, senior M’Shale and sophomore Nekea, were admitted to UMC’s trauma center. Arbor View was devastated by yet another tragedy. Personally visiting the school mid-Monday, there was a stoic feel inside. Call it bleak, if you will, as most were a tad melancholy, just saddened knowing two members of the nine-year old institution had to deal with loss.

While some were unsure of M’Shale and Nekea’s conditions, everyone knew they had survived and were to be released over the next 48 hours. Nonetheless, and as they say, the show must go on – there was a basketball game on the schedule.

Fifth-place Sierra Vista was coming, and it was Senior Night. The Aggies were coming off a heartbreaking, and somewhat controversial, loss at Durango last week, and the emotions were running high. Adding to the anxiety, M’Shale is the manager of the basketball team. His best friend, and fellow senior, Charles Porter is a key member of the team. The rest of the Aggies, well, they all love their team manager, and there they were about to take the court while their close friend was lying in a hospital bed with swelling on the brain.

Sierra Vista jumped out to an early lead in the game, until Cal Santa Barbara-bound Justin Burks drove baseline and delivered a nifty reverse lay-up to put the Aggies ahead, 12-11, with 2:31 in the first quarter. The Aggies closed the quarter on a 12-7 run and led 20-18, as senior Terrell Butler led the charge for Arbor View with seven points.

The game flow seemed erratic, as there were flashes of the “Runnin’ Aggies” the fans had become used to, and then flashes of a pedestrian team that seemed to be elsewhere, especially Porter, who was visibly shaken. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound guard didn’t seem to have a grip on the game, let alone the ball or his jump shot. After all, he had just lost someone who was like a second mother to him.

Arbor clung to its small lead over the Mountain Lions, and went into the locker room with a halftime lead of 39-32, with Butler leading all scorers with 18 points.

Halftime ceremonies included the introduction of the seniors on the team and the seniors on the cheerleading squad. And though the Grateful Red cheering section was exuberant for their Aggies, the players still seemed rattled. Something was missing. Someone, for that matter.

After both teams traded 3-point buckets to start the second half, the Lions began to stalk, and the Aggies were their prey. Sierra Vista didn’t just hang around; it closed the gap and with 1:18 left in the third quarter, and trailed by one, 53-52. At the end of the third quarter, it was the Lions who took a 57-55 lead into the final frame. The lead grew to seven, and while the Lions’ wave of blue in the visiting stands became rowdy, the Grateful Red looked more like a Painful Red, as its team looked like it couldn’t do anything right. Missed passes, booted balls, misguided shots – it looked like, at times, the Bad News Bears had taken up basketball.

At this point there’s no telling how to describe what was about to take place, though someone on social media mentioned divine intervention. The one person who could make things right and get the Aggies on track walked in. Heck, the only thing missing was a glowing light, and a church choir-like roar.

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M’Shale Easterling gave a thumbs up upon arrival at Arbor View High School on Monday night.

M’Shale walked into the gym and straight to the Arbor View bench mid-way through the quarter, while the Aggies were still battling against a seven-point deficit.

“When he came in, he said to me ‘broz I heard you’ve been playing bad, go ahead and get this W,'” Porter said. “When he told me that, it got to me and I knew I had to do it for us. It’s not just me, it’s me, him and his mom – rest in peace – but it’s for all of us, it’s not just me. We’re a family and I do it for everybody.”

Porter had three points in the game at that point, having made three of four from the free throw line. For the most part, Butler and Burks had carried the team; meanwhile, point guard Corey Moore was doing all he could to will his team together and stay out of foul trouble.

Sierra Vista had a 71-68 lead with 1:54 left in the game, and was still ahead, 75-74, with 37.5 seconds left in the game. The Aggies had a chance to take the lead with 17 seconds left, but senior Tristan Lacy’s valiant effort from the corner didn’t fall. The Lions extended their lead to 76-74 after splitting two free throws. Moore had fouled out by this time, and Porter was at the point.

“I thought it was over without Corey,” Porter said. “But M’Shale talked to me again during a timeout and said ‘broz, don’t lose this game.'”

So with four seconds left, Porter took an inbounds pass, drove down the right-hand side of the court, looked to the middle, shifted back to the right and took it straight to the rack, laying it in as time expired and the buzzer sounded. Overtime, 76-apiece.

“My mom was watching over him, making sure he was alright,” M’Shale said. “She was his good luck charm.”

The Mountain Lions had no chance from there, as the place came alive and everything was back to normal. The Aggies used a 17-4 outburst in the extra frame and sealed their win on Senior Night, 93-80.

M’Shale said he’d tried out for the basketball team as a junior and didn’t make the squad, and it was his mom who encouraged him to stick with his boys and become the manager of the team. It was a decision that made him feel like he was a part of the team.

“I told her I would do it and I would always support them,” M’Shale said. “I felt like if she wouldn’t be able to be here, she would be disappointed that I wasn’t there. I wanted to see my boys play. I don’t have no fears. Nothing can hold me back except God and I just wanted to see my boys play on Senior Night, because I’m a senior too.

“Can’t have no hospital bed hold me down. A car totaled can’t hold me down. Only thing that can hold me down is myself and God, so I’m out here supporting.”

Burks, who led all scorers with 31 points, admitted it was clearly the turning point of the game, when M’Shale walked into Arbor View’s gym, giving the team the spark it needed.

“It was really inspiring,” Burks said. “I think it’s great that Chuck got the opportunity to do that for M’Shale and his family cause he was really close with him and his mom and his sister, so I think it was just a really good moment for him.”

Butler finished with 30, while Isaiah Simmons had 13, and Porter finished with 12 for the Aggies.

“I said to myself ‘we’re not gonna lose,'” Porter added. “I did it for him and his mom and everybody else. That’s like my mom too, I’ve known her since the sixth grade and I just do it for us – we’re a family.”

And while that frost around Arbor View may have melted when Porter’s coast-to-coast layup sent the game into overtime, those feelings running up and down your spine, those are chills.

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Comments
  1. Thomas Clements says:

    M’shale and kea are great kids they don’t desire this horrible life changing accident. But with a great, grand mother (Grama B) and friends they will be fine. Coach Tommy.

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