Letters Over Numbers: Boys Varsity Basketball 2021-22


Erick Maganda ('23)

Brady Burman (’22) in action for PRS Boys Varsity Basketball.

Skillful shot-making, smooth passing, muscle in the paint and incredible senior leadership, this year the PRS boys varsity basketball team had a strong season and a great winning record. Led by head coach, Chris Burman, and assistant coaches, Christian Vonalt and Scott Nalbandian, the squad of seniors, juniors and sophomores bonded tightly, enjoying many highlight moments not just in games, but with lots of fun and friendship behind the scenes.

After a highly successful regular season, going 21-7, PRS was ranked as the second seed for the CIF playoffs. PRS had a super game in the first playoff round, winning by 16 points against Palo Verde Valley. Next up, the quarterfinals and the opponents were Crawford, a tough team with a talented roster. After one quarter PRS was up 21-12. By halftime the lead was 26-18 and the home fans and players seemed confident of a win. Then PRS was outscored by 12 in the third quarter, in part because star player, Brady Burman (‘22), had to sit out due to foul trouble.

PRS boys varsity basketball starters, 2021-22 (from top left, clockwise) Bird McGuire (’22), Brady Burman (’22), Evan Sauer (’23), Victor Silverman (’22) and Aidan DeLange (’23).

Starting the fourth quarter, the score was 28-32, then PRS outscored Crawford 15-11, tying the game at 43 apiece. The overtime period was only four minutes long, and both teams went on a dry run for about two minutes. Then Crawford scored a layup to lead by two points. To counter, PRS made one of two free throws. With the Firebirds down by one point they needed the ball back, so they were forced to foul, but Crawford made both of their free throws.

Down by three points with 20 seconds left, PRS got the ball, took their time, then shot a tough corner three-pointer, which missed. The buzzer went off, Crawford coming out on top of a close overtime game, final score Crawford over PRS, 47-44. So the PRS boys varsity basketball team fell short of the championship, bowing out in a tight overtime home playoff loss, but they still had a successful season with many highlights.

Coach Burman (left) and the PRS boys varsity basketball team enjoy team-bonding with K1 Sports go-karting.

We asked the Firebirds what their proudest and most fun moments were this year and they responded with various memories, starting off with the preseason. Back in November, the boys basketball varsity team went on a team bonding day of go-karting at K1 Speed. They had a blast, taking team photos and battling it out on the track. Owen Reid (‘23) placed #1, with Brady Burman right behind him and Cade Gahr (‘23) took third place.

Owen Reid confirmed that the team bonding day was a season highlight, saying, “The most fun moments with the team this year were just hanging out in the rooms at Catalina, talking with all the boys, and go-karting.” Aidan DeLange (‘23), added, “Our most hyped moments I would say were the times when we made a huge run during a game and got all hyped up and energized, and those moments led to us winning the game most of the time.” Brady Burman commented, “My proudest moment was breaking the all-time scoring record at PRS and having all my teammates celebrate with me. It was an incredible feeling and I know I couldn’t have done it without all four years of teammates that I played with.”

Senior Night was another highlight of the PRS boys varsity basketball season. The Senior Night opponents were Calvin Christian and the PRS Gym was packed with noisy fans. The event started with the introduction of the five seniors on the team, with Coach Burman leading the ceremony. The last senior to be introduced was Coach Burman’s son, Brady, which proved to be an emotional moment for everyone in attendance. After the introductions, the seniors took photos with the family members, then went straight to warm-ups. After that, the players went to the locker room, had a pre-game team talk, then ran out onto the floor for the tip off. That night’s atmosphere in the gym was extremely energetic, with the PRS fans out in force and totally hyped for the whole game.

PRS boys varsity basketball seniors (l to r) Brady Burman, Wilson Chen, Bird McGuire, Victor Silverman and Gibson Witz.

Gibson Witz took the tip off and won it, provoking wild cheers from the home crowd, but the first quarter was a tight game. Then the second quarter started and the Firebirds went on a massive run. Brady Burman made layup after layup, Bird McGuire (‘22) made steal after steal, Aidan DeLange pass after pass, Victor Silverman (‘22) three-pointer after three-pointer, Gibson Witz (‘22) rebound after rebound, and Evan Sauer (’23) seemed to be everywhere. It was destruction, with everyone making great plays, like when Aidan DeLange’s incredible pass to Brady Burman resulted in a score that shook the whole gym.

By the end of the game, we had many of our fan favorite players come out and play. Wilson Chen (‘22), Cade Gahr (‘23), Sam Steiger (‘23) and Colin Roselle (‘23) came onto the court and gave it their all. Owen Reid and Henry McDonald (’23) played quality minutes and the two sophomores, Sameer Goswami (’24) and Ethan Huntington (’24), also showed their moves on the court. Wilson Chen scored and the whole gym went wild. “PASS IT TO CADE!” the fans screamed, then Cade Gahr got the ball and made a floater. The crowd yelled, the gym shook and the game ended with a 67-41 PRS victory.

For the rest of the season the Firebird seniors continued to be an inspiration to the team. By the end of the season Brady Burman, playing his fourth year on varsity, had broken the record for PRS all-time basketball career points, passing the 1,300 mark. Victor Silverman, in his third year on varsity, had broken the record for most three-pointers made in a game, with nine, and most points in a game, with 35. Bird McGuire had become one of the top rebounders and passers of the PRS boys basketball program. Gibson Witz was clearly one of the biggest and most powerful players ever to play at Pacific Ridge. Wilson Chen, in his first year playing basketball at PRS, was already a fan favorite.

Andres Jaime-Mendez (‘22), the GOAT live game-caller in PRS sports history. (Erick Maganda (’23))

Oh wait, there’s one more! Andres Jaime-Mendez (‘22) wasn’t a player on the team, but a big part of the team’s games (and a star player on the PRS boys varsity soccer team). At all home games you could count on Andres calling the plays over the PA with enthusiasm, love, humor and an incredible memory for player names, including opponents on other teams. He was like a TV broadcast professional, so good at describing exactly what happened on the court that sometimes he made the refs hate him, which made the Firebird fans love him even more.

The 2021-22 season was a big step forward for the PRS boys varsity basketball team. The previous season was a tough one, with a record of 7-17 while playing D3 with only one senior. Despite the win rate of 29%, the team developed their young core with bonding and a plan to get ready for the following year. They didn’t get down about their losses, but rather grew from their mistakes to become better. This year not much changed from the roster perspective, but the team clearly grew individually and as a whole by pushing through those challenges together.

One example of that growth mentality was the early season one-point loss to West Hills. The game was an intense battle and PRS was up 40-38 with about 10 seconds left. West Hill inbounded the ball and their point guard dribbled it across the court, then passed it out wide. With five seconds left the player on the wing shot the ball, hit the backboard, and bang! It went in for three points. After a very tough and close game, Pacific Ridge experienced their first loss of the season, 40-41.

Instead of getting down about the loss, and seeing it as a setback, the PRS players pushed themselves to a higher level. After that loss to West Hills, the Firebirds went 19-6 for the rest of the season to make the playoffs as second seed. Along the way members of the team achieved some impressive statistics, as a team and individually.  Here are some of the key stats for the 2021-22 season: the team-leading averages per game.

Points: Brady Burman (14.7)

Rebounds: Brady Burman (6.8)

Assists: Aidan DeLange (3.7)

Steals: Victor Silverman (2.3)

Blocks: Brady Burman (0.9)

The PRS boys varsity basketball team, 2021-22, with Coaches Burman (left) and Vonalt (right).Beyond the stats, the 2021-22 season was about something even more important for the PRS boys varsity basketball team. To sum up the season, Victor Silverman explained how everyone on the team was selfless and showed amazing chemistry, both on and off the court, based on a clearly defined motto. To quote Victor, “I think the motto of the team really encapsulates the main change and goal for this season: Letters over Numbers. This means that we are focusing on the wins over individual stats, and it shows in our playstyle.”

The PRS boys varsity basketball team, 2021-22, with Coaches Burman (left) and Vonalt (right).

To read about Ashay Kalthia’s experience and process writing this story, click here.