Late night film sessions
I’ll always remember the late night runs to Krispy Kreme with DJ.
When our coaching staff prepares for a regular season game, we will spend dozens of hours watching film of our opponent to put our guys in the best position to succeed. That becomes a lot more challenging when you are getting ready for your fourth game in five days, like we were when we were getting ready to take on Davenport in the Final Four. With such a jam-packed schedule, the coaches cram as much film as possible into the time available, and my roommate DJ Bettinger and I often watched film late into the night.
After the coaching staff finished our pregame prayer with just under 20 minutes showing until the game started, I sat alone in the locker room and opened my Bible. I had been praying the words of Romans 5 and James 1 over our team, especially Lane. I knew we would face adversity as a team, and I knew that how Lane responded to this adversity would go a long way in determining how far we could advance. Lane is often his own worst enemy, so I wasn’t praying for his success but rather that his character would be evident as he persevered through whatever challenges he would face during the game.
We held a 62-60 lead with just under two minutes left on the clock, but Davenport was surging and had the ball. Lane had not played up to his standards to this point (3-13 FG and 5 TO’s), and as we took the floor after a timeout, I wondered how he was going to respond. Was he going to continue his subpar play, or was he going to step up and make a big play in a critical moment as he had done so many other times throughout the year?
On the first possession, a ball screen was set for Dominez Burnett, the 2-time national player of the year. Lane stepped over and took a charge, giving Burnett his fifth foul. On the very next possession the ball was rolling off the front of the rim after a missed shot, and Lane came lunging in and somehow tipped the ball in to give us a 4-point lead. Even watching the replay I am not sure how it went in.
Those plays put us in a great position, and we were up by 2 with 20 seconds left. As Davenport brought the ball up the floor, DJ and I noticed they were lining up to run a specific play before they called time out that we had seen several times while watching film. We both looked at each other and alerted Coach T to what was coming.
As Coach T diagrammed the play that they would run out of a timeout, I knew the late night film sessions were all worthwhile. And as Lane made a great defensive stand and gathered the rebound off of a broken play to seal the win, I knew that all of the time spent building a relationship with him and praying for him was worth it as well. This game wasn’t as pretty as some of Lane's 30-point performances, but without the perseverance he showed all the way to the end, we probably wouldn’t be playing for the national championship the next night.
-Coach Jay Mercer