by Ed Morrone
Bobby Markey heard the jeers cascade down from the boisterous student section inside Episcopal Academy’s gymnasium on Friday night.
Road basketball crowds in the Inter-Ac League can be unrelenting, and Markey’s floppy, disheveled red hair made him an easy target. Every time the junior guard touched the ball, the packed section in the corner straight across from Springside Chestnut Hill (SCH) Academy’s bench serenaded him with taunts of “Ed Sheer-an!”
No matter. Markey fed off the adversity and at one point late in the third quarter of Episcopal’s ultimate 65-63 win in an instant classic of a basketball game, he caught a pass right in front of the home students and swished one of his five three-pointers to give his team a 49-48 advantage, before turning around to directly stare down his detractors.
The Churchmen may have won the game, but Markey’s 15-point effort quieted the fans temporarily and served as a coming out party for the reserve guard. Yes, SCH lost the game, but Markey’s performance in a hostile environment kept the Blue Devils in the game while some of his high-scoring teammates struggled.
“The atmosphere made the game 10 times better, and the student section was awesome,” Markey said with a grin. “You’ve got to expect that kind of stuff when you come in to play these away games. I just tried to use it to my advantage to quiet them down.”
Markey shot 5-for-8 in the game, all of from behind the three-point arc. Three came in the second quarter, then the stare-down shot, and, finally, the biggest one he hit all night pulled his team within 65-63 with just seconds remaining. The Blue Devils had a chance to send the game to overtime on their following possession, but senior guard Ki’Shawn Williams missed a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining, and senior forward David Robinson’s put-back attempt as time expired rimmed out.
The loss stung for SCH in the moment, but Markey’s emergence provided long-term confidence for the team on a night when its top two scorers — Williams and senior guard Delonce Hines — combined for just 12 points. His 15 points were second to Robinson’s 20.
“My role is to come off the bench, hit shots, just try to be a spark plug and bring some energy,” Markey said. “Tonight, my shot was falling, and my coach just ran with it.”
Indeed, Blue Devils head coach Julian McFadden has had to find more minutes for Markey off the bench. Not only has the sharpshooter been knocking down long-range shots at a high clip, but Markey, who additionally plays football and baseball at the school, also brings intensity on the defensive end.
McFadden, a 2006 graduate and former basketball player himself at SCH, has loved what he’s seen from Markey in a season he hopes has what it takes to end in an Inter-Ac championship. Malvern Prep is the favorite, probably followed by Germantown Academy, but the Blue Devils, at 7-7 overall and 1-1 in the league, are right in the thick of things, and Markey’s ability to knock down big shots with ice water in his veins adds a lot to an already deep team with plenty of talent.
“Bob is one of the hardest workers on the team,” McFadden said. “He’ll take an extra 150 shots after every practice, and he’s forced my hand the last couple weeks in that I can’t not have him on the floor. Him making shots consistently is really valuable coming into the Inter-Ac season. It’s hard to stay in the game with our two best scorers struggling, but he kept us there. His ceiling is so high, and if he can add more ball handling and creating his shot off the dribble into his game, he could become the most dangerous offensive player I’ve had in my four years here.”
Not only that, but McFadden, who knows firsthand how unforgiving road crowds can be, was left impressed by Markey’s cool-under-pressure performance.
“Them calling him Ed Sheeran was the best one I’ve heard since Penn Charter was chanting Lil Bow Wow at me back when I played,” McFadden said with a laugh. “Bob is one of those kids who plays with a chip on his shoulder, even if there’s no reason for him to have one. He’s one of those guys you want in a back alley with you if you get into a fight. Our staff loves him. The school loves him.
“He’s also the nicest kid, but when those lights come on, he’s right where he wants to be. It was great to see him live through some adversity. His preparation and strong mental capacity have allowed him to have a successful season.”
The more big shots Markey knocks down, the better chance the Blue Devils have to make a run at a league title. There’s a ton of basketball left to play, and his shooting ability gives SCH a true ace up its sleeve.
“It’s so much fun playing in this league,” he said. “Every game feels like the Super Bowl. You’ve got to win as many as you can when they’re all like playoff games. We couldn’t get the job done tonight, but it doesn’t set us back too much. It’s only one loss. We can build off this. I know myself and my teammates hate this feeling. We put it behind us right away, and if we can come out and win the next game, you never know what might happen the rest of the way.”