Getting caught in the deluge that hit the area last Wednesday evening, Chris Hatchell was running late to hit the court for Winberie’s as it faced Northeast Realty in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.
Arriving as the contest was about to tip off in the Princeton High gym, Hatchell hurriedly peeled off his warm-ups, realizing he was needed to be the fifth player for his squad.
Taking a while to get into the flow of the game, Hatchell had just four points in the first half.
“I didn’t try to force anything,” said Hatchell. “I was sitting back and letting my legs get together first and then taking a couple of shots.”
Ending up with only six players, Winberie’s labored, trailing 25-21 at half and 39-31 in the second half as former PHS stars Anthony Brown and Davon Black provided some sharp shooting for Northeast.
Despite the deficit and being shorthanded, Hatchell wasn’t fazed. “We are a veteran team and as long as we play defense, we can claw back into the game here or there,” said Hatchell.
With Hatchell catching fire from the perimeter, Winberie’s did claw back into the game, nudging ahead 42-41 and then hanging on as the teams headed into overtime, locked in a 50-50 tie at end of regulation.
“I was looking for it a little more instead of trying to come off screens,” said Hatchell, who scored 11 points in the second half.
“I just wanted to bring the ball up and try to create a little bit and if I didn’t have it, kick it to one of my teammates.”
The fierce battle turned into a marathon with Winberie’s finally prevailing 66-61 in three overtimes as it remained undefeated on the summer, improving to 6-0.
Hatchell acknowledged that Winberie’s made things hard on itself in the overtime.
“We made a couple of mental mistakes and a couple of turnovers when we were up by two,” said Hatchell.
“We could have stalled the ball out instead of scoring real quick. It is all about the time and possession, it is not about the actual score.”
Coming through with a big score, Hatchell hit a long three-pointer to give Winberie’s a 57-54 lead with seconds left in the second overtime that was answered by a trey from Brown.
“I knew if I could get a good look, I had a good chance of making the shot,” said Hatchell, who added a basket in the third overtime to end up with 20 points while Brown tallied 19 in a losing cause with Black chipping in 18.
“I just needed to create a little bit of space to get my shot off; it happened and it went in.”
With Winberie’s off to a very good start this summer, Hatchell believes the squad can contend for the title.
“We have been playing together for a while and as we got older, we actually got younger guys,” said Hatchell of Winberie’s, who fell in the summer league 2013 semis after winning the title in 2012.
“We got the three guys from the PA Blue Devils (Jesse Krasna, Zack Sibol, and John Sibol) to come over along with Jay Frank and Terrence Bailey so we added more youth to the veterans. It is a great mix, we just have to get used to playing together a little more. All of these guys scored in high school or college so it is really all about our defense. If we get our defense together, we’ll be OK.”
Seeing the end of his hoops career fast approaching, Hatchell is playing with a sense of urgency.
“This is my last year,” said Hatchell, acknowledging that he is closing in on his 40th birthday.
“I am a plumber and pipefitter and I come straight to the games from work so I am tired. I have just been playing for the love.”