It’s not always about the players who start the game.
At Garner-Hayfield-Ventura, it’s about who comes off the bench.
“It seems like we play nine guys and every different night there’s a couple off the bench that have a night,” head coach Joe Albertson said. “Could be the backup point guard, could be a guy that comes off and defends. Tonight Matthew got his hands on a lot of balls and shot a couple of good shots, he’s active, I thought he brought us good energy.”
In Tuesday’s night’s Class 2A district final against Forest City, Matthew Heinemann high-fived senior Nick Joynt as he entered the floor in the second quarter.
The 6-foot-1 senior had a spring in his step, snatching the ball from Indians’ score-leader Sam Snyder to drive down to the basket for a layup.
Heineman grew up playing with this senior class, but he’s been patient along the way.
“As a player, freshman year it wasn’t too great, sophomore year you know you play a little better game,” Heineman said. “Junior year is when you step up and try to be a main guy. The four of us on the bench were all playing JV, but we were all up to varsity senior year… and it just kind of clicked.”
Heineman lists seniors Colton Schroeder, Jonah Albertson and Ray Cataldo as his fellow come-off-the-bench players. The four don’t highlight the stats on paper, but their unselfishness is what instills the team-aspect of the game.
“I just want fire, fire, fire for this whole team, and just being a helpful player,” Heinemann said. “I’m not about myself, I’m about the team. I want them to have their moments and I guess tonight, I was on fire.”
Heineman banked a three in the second quarter, in addition to containing the Forest City offense with his three steals. One of which, he drives down court for a basket and misses, but junior James Betz is able to recover.
Cataldo would offer his two-cents with a layup in the fourth. Schroeder shined in the previous week against Osage.
The wait-your-turn concept can be lost in the world of sports with star-players moving to varsity rosters at younger ages, but even senior starter Ryan Meyers says it took awhile for him to develop.
“I feel like Coach A has really developed me as a player, playing JV my sophomore year, I ended up with more experience on the court,” Meyers said. “It all turned over, so I could have really good varsity experience.”
Meyers is the top-scorer on the Cardinals this year with 402 points, averaging 16.8 points per game. Betz and Joynt are close behind.
“He needed to get a lot of those shots and handle the ball so when he took that step last year, he was a regular.” Albertson said.
The Cardinals trust a development process catered to their individual needs, which play into their different roles. There are eight seniors on the varsity team and three of them start, but the other five come off the bench to change up the game.
It’s that kind of seasoning that makes a team stronger.
“I told some of my buddies on the bench when were up a little bit that I don’t want this to be my last game,” Heinemann said. “I want the last game to be down in the Well no matter what...I just want to make it down there.”