The end came with two unexpected swats.
First Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Lunden McDay blocked his last shot and then, with the final buzzer, it was official. The Irish had KO’d his team’s state championship dream.
Suddenly Myles Belyeu couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stand, couldn’t see through his tears.
“Everything I had worked for since I was a kid was to get to this point,” the Trotwood-Madison senior standout would explain in a voice that still wavered with emotion more than 30 minutes after SVSM had beaten his Rams team, 60-51, in the Division II state championship game at the Schottenstein Center Saturday evening.
“All my life I just wanted a ring. I wanted to make history, especially with this team. Especially with these players.”
And the defeat was especially deflating because, for the second year in a row, it was the Irish who had gotten the better of Trotwood. Last year, SVSM stunned the Rams on a last-second shot in the state semifinals.
“This was tough,” Belyeu said Saturday after scoring a game-high 20 points. “Coming back to back, losing to the same team in a similar way, it just hit me. It overtook me for a second and I didn’t know how to react.”
At the final buzzer, he had melted into a crouch near midcourt and then doubled over almost fetal like with one hand over his eyes, his shoulders shaking from his sobs. Right behind him the Irish players mobbed each other in celebration.
He was totally crushed and soon his teammates and coaches came out and tried to console him.
They finally helped him toward the sideline, where he briefly pulled his jersey up to his eyes, and then forced himself through the handshake line with the Irish. But as soon as he finished – before the Rams would be awarded their runners up medals and trophy – he was again tearful and tried to walk off the court.
That’s when Trotwood’s stocky sophomore guard Keshawn Huguely grabbed the back of his jersey and hung on as though he were a stage coach driver clinging to the reins of a team of runaway horses.
Huguely wouldn’t let Belyeu pull away. It wasn’t about the medal. It’s just that the Rams didn’t want to let go of the player who had meant so much to them this season.
Belyeu had led Trotwood in every way imaginable.
An All-Ohio first team selection, he averaged 24.1 points per game.
Rams coach Rocky Rockhold said he also was the hardest worker on the team:
“He never stops working. The kid stays after practice every night. He’s the last guy out of the gym. There are times I have to kick him out. I tell him, ‘Myles, we play tomorrow. Let’s go home and call it a night.’
“And he’s completely selfless. Every time this year we congratulated him for winning some individual honor, he’d text me back or say in practice, ‘Coach, one goal!’
“He’d say, ‘My goal wasn’t to be All-State. It would be so much better to win a state championship.’ And he wasn’t saying that so you’d say, ‘Oh, what a great kid.’
“He meant it. He already was a great kid.”
Some of that can be seen in his bond with fellow Rams star, junior guard Amari Davis.
“That’s my older brother,” Davis said with a nod toward Belyeu. “If he wanted to get some (extra) shots up, we’d do it together. Outside of school, if I wanted to ask him about anything, he was there.
“He’s shown me the way.”
Just as the pair was a force on the floor this season – together they averaged 45 points per game – they were just as impressive in the classroom.
Belyeu has a 3.6 grade point average, Davis a 3.5.
“We’re really going to miss Myles, he’s a guy we really leaned on hard for a couple of years,” said Rockhold. “And I’m probably going to miss him more personally than basketball wise. It’s going to take me a while to get over the idea I won’t be coaching him anymore.”
“Our families call us peanut butter and jelly,” Belyeu said of he and Davis. “We just go together somehow. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s on the court and off. We just connected. I understand him. He understands me.”
While they were the two stars of this year’s 26-4 team, Davis, who scored 19 points Saturday, said neither was envious of the other:
“There was no jealously – ever. Both of us want to see each other succeed in life and to be able to further our education at college one day.”
Rockhold agreed: “They don’t fuss and bicker over who touches the ball. That attitude, first of all, attests to a solid home life for both of them and the lessons they were taught there.
“And with our program, I think we’ve finally built a culture that says ‘We are bigger than me.’
“That’s why, just as we’ll forever remember playing in the state championship game, we’ll forever remember the love these guys shared with each other.”
You saw that the protective bond Belyeu had for his younger teammate when, during the postgame press conference, Davis was asked why SVSM – which has beaten Trotwood three of four times in the past two years – seems to “have your number.”
Davis struggled: “Ahhh….I can’t answer….I don’t know about that.”
That’s when Belyeu stepped in, saying quietly: “Amari…I know.”
Then, looking toward their inquisitors, he explained: “It’s tough for Amari to answer. Tough for anybody to answer.
“Amari, in my perspective, is THE top junior in the state. For anybody to stop him, it’s gonna take more than taking away his jump shot or his left. He’s a great player. He had a great game today. He gave it all he had. It just wasn’t enough collectively.”
“I DON’T GET IT”
Myles dad – Scott Belyeu – was a standout basketball player at Trotwood in the late 1980s. Playing for Jim Staley, he set school records for assists and steals and was named the Greater Miami Valley Conference (GMVC) Player of the Year.
A 6-foot-1 guard, he went on to Miami University and played four seasons for the then Redskins, starting 88 of the 117 games he played in. He served as a team captain his senior season and earned a reputation as one of the best point guards in the Mid-American Conference.
While Myles has equaled and surpassed most of his dad’s prep records, it’s not certain he’ll get a chance to do that at the same level of college ball.
Unlike Davis – who said he already has college offers from schools like Miami, Cleveland State, Akron Toledo and IUPUI and has drawn some interest from Dayton, Xavier, Ohio State and Cincinnati – Belyeu said he has no Division I offers.
He said Ashland University, Saginaw Valley State and Cedarville – all Division II schools – have made offers and he has talked to DII Wayne State, as well.
While Rockhold commended the schools that have shown interest, he is puzzled by the lack of D-I interest:
“I don’t get it. We’ve heard a lot that it’s his size and I think Division I schools do have a prototypical player they look for, someone with this kind of wingspan or that kind of height, instead of the intangibles a kid can carry.
“But he’s unselfish and coachable and never stops working. Last, but not least, he has a tenacity a lot of kids don’t have. If I was a D-I coach, I’d be like ‘Why don’t I want that?’
“We asked a lot from him this year and he gave us a lot.”
And just before he left the Schott on Saturday, Belyeu was able to reflect on that:
“Hopefully, I paved the way for Trotwood a little bit. Hopefully I added to the legacy and next year we’ll come back here and win. I really wanted to make a difference with these guys.”
And he had.
That’s why Huguely wouldn’t let go of him.