When it comes to March, there is no other month in the calendar year that can bring the emotional highs and lows of the game of basketball to a fever pitch. It’s called March Madness for a reason.
And for David Magley, head coach of the National Basketball League of Canada’s Brampton A’s, this March has been a particularly emotional one.
So when his team beat the London Lightning 102-92 last night in Game 5 at the Powerade Centre to give the home team their first playoff series victory and a chance to move on to the division finals against Windsor, you can forgive him for getting a little teary eyed.
You see, they weren’t tears of joy because he wanted to win for himself. They were tears because he wanted to win so badly for his big brother, Bill, who passed away suddenly late last year.
In fact, most of Coach Magley’s social media posts in the last 100 days or more concluded with the hashtag #WinForBill.
“You know how much I miss my brother,” he told me following the game. “And this has been a very difficult year for me because you get in a rhythm in life where you speak to your siblings on a regular basis. When someone is gone, that person you lean on is no longer there.”
“After my wife and kids, that siblings relationship I have with my two brothers and sister is really special. When we lost one of the four musketeers it really hurt us. It hurt us bad because we lost our Mom when we were really young and our Dad when we were really not that old. So all we’ve really had was each other for a long time, for about 35 or 40 years.”
This year, the players on the A’s squad have come together at the right moment to help Coach Magley and his quest to Win For Bill.
“God bless Coach Mags,” said Brampton’s Akeem Scott, one of the more outwardly spiritual and tenacious players on the hard court. “It’s been a long season for Coach, y’know. He’s had to send some guys home for disciplinary reasons and to top it all off his brother passed away. So you can only imagine what these games are meaning to him right now.”
“When someone dies in your family, especially the closest thing to your heart, you want to dedicate something to him. He wants to dedicate this year to his brother and we’re all trying to rally around him and give him what he wants.”
For Scott, even a severely twisted ankle suffered in the fourth quarter of last night’s game wasn’t going to keep him from helping out his teammates and rallying to come back out on the floor late in the game.
“I just leave it all up to God and I speak to Him and thank Him for taking care of my body,” he explained. “I feel like my body is a machine and I just put it all out there and let Him take care of the rest.
“But at the end of the day I don’t want to leave my brothers out there, and who am I to let my guys out there stranded? Sometimes you gotta be the wolf and there’s no one out there who is going to tell me I can’t do it.”
Brampton’s score sheet was probably the most uneven it’s been all year, with only four A’s scoring in double digits: Kyle Johnson, below, hitting 10 of 19 from the field and 7 of 8 from the foul line for 28 points to lead the Brampton squad.
Akeem Ellis finished with 20 points and Cavell Johnson had 18. Johnson also played the most minutes on the floor for the home side to make up for the loss of Tom Granado, who was ejected from the game in the first five minutes of play along with a London player for rough play.
Looking ahead to the division finals with Windsor, Coach Magley is optimistic with the Brampton squad’s chances against the defending NBLC champions.
“We don’t have a losing record against anybody in the league over the last two years. I’ve always felt that is significant because, as we go into the playoffs (with Windsor), there is no edge. At the end of the day there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get them.”