The mental exercise was not working.
“We did a lot of envisioning this season,” Evan Dickey said quietly. “As we always say: ‘See it, before you go do it!’”
The 6-foot-4 senior guard for Chaminade Julienne said he and his teammates would do that when they put up shots in practice or imagined certain plays unfolding.
He’d taken it a little farther, though, and privately fanaticized how he and his CJ teammates would play well in the state tournament at UD Arena this weekend and end up hoisting the Division II trophy as they celebrated on Blackburn Court in front of the Eagles’ roaring student section and all their joyous family and friends.
It was something he hadn’t been able to do in 2021 when he was a sophomore starter on the Eagles team that surprised many and made it to the state tournament, only to get roughed up by Columbus St. Frances DeSales.
This time was different though.
The Eagles came into the game with a 26-2 record and a talent-laden team, including Michigan-bound George Washington III, who was just named the Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year.
That’s why this moment was so difficult.
Dickey hadn’t envisioned this.
He hadn’t entertained thoughts of losing in the final seconds to Lutheran West, 56-54, in Friday’s D-II semifinal at the Arena.
CJ had led by five points early in the fourth quarter, but in the final three minutes the Eagles managed only one free throw.
Lutheran West’s 6-foot-6 Matthew Meyer tipped in a teammate’s miss with an with 38 seconds left to tie the score 54-54 and then scored the go-ahead lay-up with just 3 seconds remaining.
With 2 seconds left, CJ had one last-gasp effort to avoid the stunning defeat.
Dickey took the ball out of bounds and rifled a perfect pass that Joe Burrow couldn’t have thrown any better with a football.
Washington made a leaping grab near the Longhorns’ three-point line, turned and hoisted an impressive shot that just rattled off the rim as the game ended.
Had the trey gone in, CJ would have won.
“I felt I could get the ball to George and I placed it perfect,” Dickey said. “I’ve seen George hit that shot a million times. As soon as he released it, I thought it was good… But this time it wasn’t.
“My heart just fell on the floor.”
Dickey — who scored 13 points Friday while Washington had 14 — had experienced the 2021 state tournament loss, too, but that had been by 17 points. And he was just 15 years old and — envisioning then, too — believed he’d get another crack at the crown before he graduated.
“This one’s a lot harder to take,” he said as he stood in the shadows on the ramp at UD Arena. “I put in a lot of work after that last one and I felt I had the leadership to help us this year.
“We got here … but now it’s over.
“This was the last I’ll ever wear this uniform.”
Praising Mr. Everything
This season the team added the 6-foot-2 Washington and his younger brothers, BB, a 6-foot-6 junior, and JJ, a 5-10 freshman.
They’re the sons of Jackie and George Washington, who joined Tamika Williams Jeter’s coaching staff with the UD women’s basketball team this season.
After the loss, George III and Dickey joined CJ coach Charlie Szabo at the press conference. It gave the coach a chance to praise his two stars:
“George is as advertised. We got here on his back. He made big play after big play after big play all year. I’m very happy that he won that Gatorade Player of the Year. He’s very deserving.
“He had the best individual offensive season of anybody in Chaminade Julianne … and Chaminade … history and that’s going back almost 100 years.
“How he was not a finalist for Mr. Basketball is beyond me.”
When it came to Dickey, Szabo smiled: “Evan Dickey had one of the most storied careers of anyone to wear a (CJ) jersey.
“He’s not a guy who has to take every shot. He’s not a guy who feels he has to score 20 points to impact a game. He does so much for us that’s unseen. He guards the other team’s best player. He helps bring the ball up. He helps control the ball late. He rebounds. He led the GCL (Greater Catholic League) in assists or at least was right up there.
“He’s been Mr. Everything.”
Szabo said the most impressive thing Dickey did this season was embrace Washington with open arms:
“He was going to be the best player coming back this year and then we get a player like George.
“Evan embraced it. There was never any jealousy. Never any: ‘This was supposed to be my year!’
“He embraced (George) and his whole family. We don’t have the year we had without Evan’s leadership.”
Later Dickey shrugged off that praise:
“I don’t have a problem not being the hero all the time.”
Growing up in basketball
After the game, Joyce Dickey waited for her son just inside the door of the Connor Lobby in the front of UD Arena.
“I haven’t tried to text him or anything yet,” she said softly. “It’s hard to see him after this one. It meant so much.
“I’ll just tell him to keep his head up and to stay humble and that ‘what’s meant for you will happen for you.’”
She watched that thought come to fruition for him as he grew up in Trotwood and began an to gravitate to basketball already as a 6-year-old, even though he played with older kids because he had skipped the first grade.
She and her husband had a hoop at their house. One of Evan’s uncles had one too, and so did his late grandparents, who lived near Dunbar High. He played at all of them and with an AAU and a Metro team, too.
He followed his older sister Kelsey to CJ, where she was a cheerleader before going to Michigan. She cheered for the Wolverines for two years, too, and now is a senior.
As for Evan, he’s under-recruited.
He said the only scholarship offer he’s received is from Division II Wheeling University in West Virginia.
“There’s someone here from Duquesne watchdog him today,” Joyce said. “I’m hoping and praying that comes through for him.
“I hope this is not his last time on the court. He wants to play college basketball. It would be a waste for him not to get a chance. I think he could flourish.”
She smiled at the thought.
She was envisioning.
She was seeing it before he went and did it.
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