As Big Blue readies itself for the fall season, it hopes to improve upon its record last season, during which the team took third in the Metropolitan Independent Football League.
With a current record of 11-2 and the Skyland Conference Mountain Division title secured—their first in several years—the Boys' Varsity Basketball Team is savoring a hard-earned, successful season, not to mention a redemptive one, after finishing a disappointing 4-20 last year.
From the season's outset, the team's goal was simple, explains Head Coach Jason Murdock: Consistent effort with a spirit of competitiveness. That consistent effort has meant the team's willingness to grit and grind their way through the process of getting better, he adds. Respect, togetherness, and accountability have also been team priorities since day one.
These ingredients have paid off handsomely. Six weeks into the season, Big Blue only suffered one loss. Perhaps their most significant win came on January 11, when they defeated Hillsborough, a powerful Group 4 school, 60-48. Their 55-42 win over rival Oratory Prep was another sweet victory. Just before Winter Break, they fell to Watchung Hills, 53-38, but the game—against a team that had recently defeated the #4 team in the state—was a competitive one, with Pingry down by only eight points entering the fourth quarter.
Despite losing four seniors to graduation last year, two senior captains—Nate Hefner and Kyle Aanstoots—in addition to tricaptain Raymond Fluet '20, are leading a very cohesive team or seven juniors and three sophomores.
"I don't want to take any credit. It's all them," says Coach Murdock, who is also quick to praise his assistant coaches, Upper School science teacher Graham Touhey and John Augusta. "They are a gritty, selfless, and competitive group of leaders who enjoy the camaraderie and chemistry they have. To me, their effort and commitment to one other are what make them so successful. I'm pleased that, at the start of the season, they said they wanted something—they set their goals—and they set out to achieve them. It wasn't just rhetoric, it was action. From game to game, the kids have stepped up and played well. They're supported by their teammates and their confidence is building. It's been a really fun environment to coach in."
With the JV team also experiencing a winning, 8-1 season, Big Blue Basketball is off and running. As the Somerset County and NJSIAA State Tournaments near, the varsity team hopes to improve upon their showing last year and advance further. "The Pingry spirit is evident!" proclaims Coach Murdock.