Early in the first half of their game against Hartwick College on Feb. 20, the Bombers find themselves trailing 8–4. Hartwick’s players are bigger than Ithaca College’s, and the Blue and Gold are having a tough time stopping the Hawks in the paint. Then, their leader takes control.
Freshman guard Peter Ezema finds senior captain Sam Bevan at the top of the 3-point line. A simple flick of the wrist sends the ball swishing through the hoop, narrowing the deficit to one and electrifying the crowd at the Hill Center. Just a few hours earlier, however, Bevan was enjoying a quiet Saturday morning.
9:15 a.m., 4 hrs. and 45 mins. to tipoff
Bevan wakes up at 8:45 a.m. on an unseasonably warm late-February Saturday to prepare for another men’s basketball game, something he has done countless times over his four years here on South Hill.
The only difference is that this game will be his last. Bevan, the only senior on the men’s basketball squad, is to be honored before the Bombers’ regular-season finale against Hartwick College on Senior Day in Ben Light Gymnasium.
Before heading up to campus from his house on South Aurora Street, Bevan dresses simply in a T-shirt, khaki pants and boat shoes with no socks, and heads out the door. On the way to campus, he makes a quick pit stop at Rogan’s Corner for a protein bar, Gatorade and pretzels.
“Sometimes I’ll make myself breakfast,” Bevan explains. “But if there’s nothing in the house, I’ll stop here for something.”
Bevan arrives at the locker room deep in the heart of the Hill Center and prepares to hit the court for a morning shoot-around. The 6-foot-2-inch guard moves with purpose, changing from street clothes to a warm-up outfit in the blink of an eye. The process is slowed, however, when it comes to his choice of sneakers.
“Honestly, this is the hardest part of my day,” Bevan says. “I can never decide what shoes to wear.”
Once the small crisis of footwear is solved with the selection of a worn pair of Nikes, one of three visible in his stall, Bevan takes to the court, joined only by freshman guard Aiden Fite, who is working on his perimeter shooting.
The pregame routine is fairly simple: Take as many shots as possible and stay loose. Bevan picks up one of the basketballs lying on the court and begins to work on his ball handling, with a sudden realization.
“This is the last ball-handling drill I’ll ever do in my life,” Bevan says. “Unless I get drafted by an NBA team, then I might have to do some more.”
10 a.m., 4 hrs. to tipoff
The rest of the team members have now made their way onto the court. After a few minutes of shooting around — and joking about Fite’s claiming the closet containing the rest of the basketballs is locked, when it is, in fact, open — head coach Jim Mullins calls the team to order.
After a tough loss to Utica College the night before, the Bombers have only one chance to make the playoffs, the Eastern College Athletics Conference tournament. The ECAC is a tournament that allows teams that do not have access to a conference tournament the opportunity to participate in postseason play. The Bombers cannot make the Empire 8 tournament, so Mullins explains to the team that he submitted the tournament application after the Utica loss Feb. 19 before turning to the afternoon’s contest.
“This game is about three things,” Mullins says. “Legacy, which is mainly for Sam, how he wants to be remembered. It’s about the future, for all of you who will be back next season, and it’s about liking yourselves. Can you look in the mirror tomorrow, regardless of what happens, and say that you like what you see?”
With that, the morning walk-through begins as assistant coach Sean Burton runs the Bombers through what defenses they will use against the Hartwick Hawks.
11 a.m., 3 hrs. to tipoff
With the walk-through and brief film session finished, the team is turned loose for some free time before the game. In the locker room, the talk centers around food. Sophomore guard Carroll Rich announces his plans almost immediately.
“I don’t know about you guys,” Rich says. “But I’m going right back to my kitchen to chef.”
Bevan decides to have his “cheffing” done for him and jumps in his car with sophomore guard and fellow captain Marc Chasin to head to Wegmans. Once there, the pair decides on identical meals of salmon, green beans and mashed potatoes for their pregame meals.
12:40 p.m., 1 hr. and 20 mins. to tip off
Bevan returns to the gym with Chasin to work on more shooting drills. The shots taken are more game-realistic. Bevan works on catch-and-shoot shots from beyond the 3-point line and lay-ups from both sides of the net.
Even though the game is fast approaching, the two captains keep the mood light with behind-the-back passes and flashy rebounding preceding almost every shot attempt. Once the shoot-around ends, Bevan detours to the athletic training room, picks up a foam roll and heads to the locker room to suit up.
SAM FULLER/THE ITHACAN
1:20 p.m., 40 mins. to tipoff
Joined by the rest of the team, Bevan and the Bombers go through their pregame warmups. Shots fly at the hoop from every direction, and no player is standing in one spot for too long. Ben Light Gymnasium is starting to look increasingly game ready, as a few fans have now filed in and DJ Washburn is setting up his turntables to perform during the game.
1:30 p.m., 30 mins. to tipoff
The team heads to the locker room to discuss final points of strategy before taking the court. Burton calls out individual players and asks them what they know about Hartwick’s best players. Mullins then takes the helm and reiterates his points of the game’s being about legacy, the future and liking yourself.
Finally, Bevan brings the team together in the center of the room and breaks the huddle with the message:
“Guys, this could be our last game of the season,” Beavan says. “Let’s end it on a high note.”
Before tipoff, Bevan is honored at center court with a framed jersey bearing his number five and a yellow rose to present to his mother, Nancy. As the PA announcer reads off his impressive list of stats, Bevan is all smiles as he poses for pictures with his parents.
2:07 p.m., tipoff
Game time arrives, and the Bombers come out firing. Bevan only has six points in the first half but has six assists, most of those contributing to Chasin’s 18 first-half points. The first half concludes with an 8–0 run by the Bombers, giving them a 47–38 lead at the break.
Back in the locker room, Bevan talks to the team from his corner locker, keeping the message simple and concise.
“Guys, we’re up by nine on a playoff team,” Bevan says. “Just keep pounding and we’ll be fine.”
Unfortunately, the Bombers are outscored 63–40 in the second half and fall to Hartwick College 101–87. Bevan is taken out of the game with a minute left.
The look on his face is one of disappointment, knowing they let a golden opportunity slip away, but the high-fives and hugs from his teammates draw a smile out of the Bombers’ leader.
“I’m not looking for special treatment,” Bevan said earlier in the day. “I just want this to be a normal game.”
Despite those wishes, Bevan takes a seat on the bench and stares out at the standing ovation he is receiving from the crowd at the Hill Center.
3:33 p.m., Postgame
In a subdued locker room, Mullins waits to address the team while Bevan is upstairs giving interviews. The captain walks in and sits down heavily, tearing up as Mullins begins his talk.
“I’ll tell you what,” Mullins says. “It doesn’t matter what happens with the ECAC. I’m proud of you all, and I am very pleased with how this team came together.”
After going over the practice schedule for the upcoming week, Mullins leaves it to Bevan to end the night.
“One last time,” Bevan says as he approaches the center of the huddle. “Together on three. One, two, three…”