To say that the Covenant Life School boys' basketball team was just playing for a Potomac Valley Athletic Association championship, another banner to hang up on a wall, would be a tremendous understatement.
A month to the day prior to Saturday's championship, coach Alan Snyder lost his wife to breast cancer. Fans by the hundred piled into Thomas S. Wootton's gym for the championship against St. Anselm's donning hot pink and baby blue “We love Mama Bear” shirts in honor of Snyder's late wife. And what a way to honor the woman they rallied around.
Behind 25 points from Brandon Thompson and 21 more from Snyder's son, Kevin, Covenant Life dominated St. Anselm's from tip to finish, winning 84-64 for the PVAC title.
“It's been a tragic month,” Alan Snyder said. “We just committed ourselves to winning, not for them, just playing hard and making this a memory and an honor to them. Winning it was great, and even if we didn't win, it would have been an honor to them. The fact that we did it is just so satisfying, because the kids wanted it so bad.”
The Cougars' biggest move was made midway through the second quarter, up 27-21. Nate Lotinsky drove through the lane with just St. Anselm's center T.J. Duckett to beat. He went right over top of him, drawing a foul, Duckett's second, and making the basket for an and-one.
St. Anselm's coach Paul Grenaldo pulled Duckett, who had scored 12 points at that point in the game, for the remainder of the half. Covenant Life took full advantage of the vacated middle, running off a 16-4 run to close the half up 45-25. The Cougars would never allow St. Anselm's to come within 15 points the rest of the game.
“Huge,” Alan Snyder said. “Huge. It was a 10 point game and we went into the half and it was 20. It wasn't a 20-point game. But, that was our strategy, just get him in foul trouble.”
There were still 3 minutes, 32 seconds remaining when the “MVP” chants began raining down from the Covenant Life section. They were for Thompson, who had been the riddle St. Anselm's, or any other team in the PVAC for that matter, couldn't solve. The 5-foot-8 guard combined with his backcourt mate, Snyder, for 18 fourth quarter points while knocking down 12-of-14 from the line to quell any hint of a late comeback.
“We definitely came and we did what we wanted to do,” Kevin Snyder said.
“We've been playing since we were like 4, just coming out here, having a blast,” said Thompson, who was awarded the Most Valuable Player. “So we've always had that connection.”
The championship won and the various awards handed out, Alan Snyder needed to sit down. It had been a heartbreaking month. He needed a second to let everything settle. When he did, as various fans came to offer their congratulations with tight hugs, Snyder went over his team's record since he lost his wife exactly a month ago.
They were 7-0. Perfect.
Covenant Life 84, St. Anselm's 64
Covenant Life (24-4, 17-3) 17 28 17 22 — 84
St. Anselm's (16-12, 12-9) 14 11 17 20 — 64
Covenant Life: Brandon Thompson 25, Kevin Snyder 21, Josh Merryman 14, Chris Mitchell 10, Nate Lotinsky 8, Brian Layman 2, Daniel Marable 2.
St. Andselm's: T.J. Duckett 29, Thomas Bui 12, Devan Abercrombie 9, Brian Murphy 7, Ellis Burnes 6, Mark Yoe 1.