Pinkerton Friday night

Pinkertonֱs Jackson Marshall surveys the scene before a full house in Friday nightֱs Astrosֱ win over Bedford.

Every winter, the conversation gets louder.

Prep schools are taking the players, ruining the high school game. It prevails in other sports, but is most notable in hoop as athletes seek higher levels of competition, more exposure, and most importantly, that extra year of eligibility they canֱt get in the public school ranks.

Some say the publics are powerless to respond.

The folks at Pinkerton Academy might beg to differ. Friday nightֱs showdown with Bedford was a prime example of the public schoolsֱ arsenal in full effect.

Walking into the hulking Hackler Gym, from deep in the parking lot ֱ thirty-plus minutes before tipoff ֱ you could feel the electricity.

Iֱve been to 50 or so prep school hoop games over the years, watching talent destined for the NBA, and never once have I felt the same way.

Pinkerton, on Friday night, was an advertisement for the true high school game.

Two premier teams. Two legit scholarship-level players in Pinkertonֱs Jackson Marshall and Bedfordֱs Luke Soden. and high drama.

The game itself and more than a handful of them for power teams in the winter remain the top defense for the prep school emigration.

Itֱs evident, though, that a place like Pinkerton, under the supervision of athletic director Brian OֱReilly, gets the fact that the school itself has to play a major role as well.

OֱReilly is a coach, the most successful football coach in state history in these eyes. He knows what it takes to succeed.

Everything about Friday night was first-class. If you have not taken a game there, youֱre running out of opportunities.

Tickets? Nope. Itֱs a freebie. Great concessions, an upbeat atmosphere and a world-class ֱJumbotronֱ style scoreboard scream ֱbigtime.ֱ

Pinkerton is clearly doing all it can to make every student-athlete special, not just the great ones, but everyone.

The administration is fighting to deliver for the kids. and itֱs paying off.

ֱItֱs been crazy here at the Academy. We had a pep rally here (Friday afternoon) for the kids, and seeing this in the stands, I havenֱt seen this in a long, long time here,ֱ said coach Mike Dunham.

ֱAnd itֱs been really special to me, back at Pinkerton, seeing the crowd like this, and performing like we did (in the 91-79 win over previously unbeaten Bedford). Itֱs pretty awesome.ֱ

Marshall, who stayed home to be with friends and represent his people in Pinkerton Red, is a giant piece to the puzzle.

As dynamic as he is, he has brought the Astros community together. He has embraced it, and the school has his back.

I think back to the fall, walking up the hill into a full house at the Astrosֱ football stadium for Mack Plaque Weekend and the showdown against archrival Londonderry.

The first familiar face I see, decked out in red war paint and hair dyed red, in the front row of the student section is the 6-foot-9 Marshall ֱ arguably the stateֱs best player in two sports, baseball and basketball.

Thatֱs respect. and itֱs shared.

But it doesnֱt happen without the school first looking out for the kid, making them feel important.

Somebody is paying attention at Pinkerton. Friday night, it was great to see.

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