White Plains’ Archbishop Stepinac High School boys basketball team’s 2018-2019 season is a testament of this. After beating Cardinal Hayes last year and becoming CHSAA Archdiocesan Champions, the Crusaders advanced to the intersectional playoffs and won the CHSAA City Championship title, knocking out Queens powerhouse, Christ the King. They also won the New York State Basketball Federation title by beating Long Island Lutheran and South Shore. Quite some feats.
However, the team had a rough start to their defending season, as star sophomore wing Adrian Griffin, Jr. missed most of the season due to an ankle injury. The team had a losing record during the time which jeopardized the Crusader’s chances at repeating as champions, even though players like junior point guard R.J. Davis stepped big time in Griffin, Jr.’s absence. However, maintaining a positive mentality helped the team turn its season around.
“As the leader of this team, I always reminded my teammates to remain confident and ignore the negativity,” R.J. Davis tells The Zone. “Continuing to be positive was a key for us and we stuck with the mindset we over me, which carried us a long way. We’re young but we have veterans who have been there and we’re coming together as a team.”
And not just veterans but hungry, motivated, and extremely skilled players like Adrian Griffin, Jr. who proved to be as influential of a player after injury as he was pre-injury, as he helped led the Crusaders back to the postseason after his return. While doing so, Griffin, Jr. has garnered the attention of multiple college recruiters and the attention of The Zone with his exceptional play. Moreover, the team’s resiliency stands out to many.
“That period helped us overcome adversity because it allowed us to realize that our backs were against the wall and we had to prove everyone wrong,” says R.J. Davis. “ No one would’ve thought we’d be in this position because of the season we started with, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Which is why we’re in the championship right now. We’re not done yet. Still have one more game left to achieve our goal.”
Time will tell if Step can repeat as CHSAA Archdiocesan Champions but with a healthy Adrian Griffin, Jr and RJ Davis at its helm, the team’s got its groove back and are well on their way to finishing this season strong, making it count. Up next, they are set to play Christ the King at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 10th, for the CHSAA ‘AA’ championship in a rematch of last year’s final, which Stepinac won 74-65.