MORRISTOWN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — On Wednesday night, senior Zachary Dees sunk a 3-point buzzer-beater in triple overtime to bring the prep championship home to Morristown-Beard.
“I was just in the moment,” Dees told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock. “Couldn’t think about anything else.”
“Just the emotions, and, like, we did it for Franz, we did it for the team, and we did it for the school,” added teammate Justin Rodriguez.
Coach Eddie Franz said it was the highlight of the season. He didn’t think that would be the case early on in the game. The Crimson started out slow against a bigger, stronger Pennington team. But post-halftime, after a talking to, his starting five, all seniors, stepped up their pace.
“The gym filled up, the energy changed, and it became just game on,” Franz said.
Every moment got better than the next, he said. And his team showed resounding resiliency,
“Resiliency’s been a big theme in my life, and certainly in the last year,” he said.
About a year ago, Franz was diagnosed with lung cancer.
“Each moment after that, it was worse,” he said. “It wasn’t just the lung. It had spread to the lymph nodes and all of that.”
At that point, he thought he’d had to give up coaching.
“I got over to Sloan Kettering, and they found a genetic mutation that could be treated by targeted therapy,” Franz said. “And I haven’t missed a day of work.”
He hasn’t missed a game, either.
“When I’m in here for 90 minutes, or the other night for almost two hours, I don’t think about cancer,” Franz said.
His players say he hasn’t wavered in who he is as a person or a coach
“He’s always been that caring guy that always wanted the best for his kids,” Rodriguez said. “Now he’ll get on our cases, but we know it’s all love.”
Ian Beumee calls Franz a father figure.
“I’ll walk off the bus after away games and he’s driving us home, and I just say, like, ‘Thanks, Franz, I love you,'” Beumee said. “So he knows he truly means something special to us.”
“Franz says, ‘You don’t when the ball’s going to stop bouncing so might as well give it your all,'” said Raphael Castillo.
That’s exactly what the young men did Wednesday night to win the prep championship — and it seems the mantra their beloved coach lives by on a daily basis, both off and on the court.