FALLS TWP. – Where shiny trophies and championship banners are nice, the real rewards in scholastic sports come from the lasting friendships that are formed. The players on this year’s Pennsbury boys basketball team definitely know how true this time-honored adage really is.
For starting point guard Tyler Sessa-Reeves, the bonding process started when he was eight years old. “My uncle (Ron Martino) and my grandfather got me started. My uncle worked at the tech school and he took me to the gym and had me shoot around and my grandpa would teach me stuff in his driveway.”
Tyler liked basketball’s fast-paced, non-stop action so much he joined a local AAU team. There, he met his future Pennsbury teammate Addison Howard, a union that would prove both lasting and influential.
“I started out as a point guard. As I got older, I played a little off guard. Me and Addison knew one of us would have to be the point guard so I decided to take that role on.”
By the time he reached high school, Tyler not only added more to his growing list of friends but also a real vision of his role on the court. “Going into games, I wanted to take a defensive stand. That was my mission because I knew we had Mark (Flagg) and Addison to score. I wanted to be a defensive stopper out front.”
He also adopted the role of field general. “On the offensive side, I wanted to see what defense the other team was in and read that and decide what set we were going to run. If I got open shots, I wanted to knock them down.”
Tyler and his new classmates picked up valuable tips watching the 2014-2015 Falcon team go all the way to the state quarterfinals. Going into this season, they wished to make their own mark on Pennsbury basketball history and enjoy their last season together.
“This year was fun. We had nine seniors that I grew up playing with or against. We had a lot of older kids and also kids who were younger than us. We knew they needed to grow. We tried to take them under our wing and help them develop and keep Pennsbury a successful program.”
A true team player, Tyler took this task seriously. “At practice and in games, I tried to correct them. Personally, I don’t respond when people yell and scream at me. I let the coaches take whatever route they wanted to and then I take the young players aside and assume the captain role by telling them what they did wrong and trying to fix it.”
Unfortunately for Tyler, he fell victim to the kind of sports injury every athlete dreads. Eight games into the Falcons’ season he suffered a concussion.
“I got it in the Chester game at Widener. I dove for a loose ball and another kid diving for the ball actually hit my head into the ground. I felt fine then. I wasn’t groggy nor had any symptoms. I had a little headache on the ride home. The morning after, I ended up vomiting and I knew that was a symptom. I told my parents and we had to go through the coach.”
No stranger to concussions, Tyler knew to take the injury seriously. “It was a little scary. This was my fourth one. I had to go to a specialist to get it diagnosed. I had to take concussion testing and see what my scores were. I had to do a bunch of stuff to get my brain back to what it was. I took a precautionary route. You have to think about the rest of your life.”
Having missed three weeks of the season, however, Tyler was anxious to rejoin his teammates. “It was definitely hard to just watch. There were certain stretches when I felt I could have impacted the game. It was especially hard my senior year. Having been in the program four years, the last thing I wanted to do was miss games.”
Tyler resumed his role as offensive spark in time for the Falcons’ district playoff run. An opening round 71-55 loss to a red hot Penn Wood team knocked Pennsbury into the playback bracket. Here, Tyler experienced what might rank as his career highlight game, an 84-83 victory over Norristown.
Tyler will longer remember this overtime win. “That was probably the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of. We were down six with six seconds left. At the end of the game Addison made his first free throw and then missed on purpose and Mark got the chip in with five seconds left. We got up by 12 in overtime and they had to foul. I had been struggling all four quarters so I was trying to act as if it were a new game. I made 6-of-6 free throws in OT.”
The magic didn’t last as Pennsbury bowed out of the tourney with a 58-55 heartbreaking loss to Lower Merion. The defeat went deeper than just a loss. “Us being in the program for over four years, we were all pretty upset. We all realized we had left our footprint on Pennsbury basketball. It was bittersweet. We didn’t accomplish our season goals and were upset at that. We were more upset that we didn’t get there for each other. Me, Mark, Addison, Joey (Monaghan), and Billy (Warren) have known each other forever. We were all hugging each other and crying. Knowing we’ll never put on a Falcon jersey again and we’ll never play together in a serious game like that was definitely emotional.”
Long after the disappointment fades, Tyler knows the real rewards will remain. “Just being part of a family and the culture Pennsbury has, being there for each other, and the coaches being there for me was really the highlight of my career. I can’t thank my teammates and coaches enough for giving me the opportunity. It’s the kind of thing a lot of people don’t get to experience.
“It’s the little things I will remember, like joking around at practice and being brothers. It’s the relationships you build and the friends you make.”
This is one talented athlete who knows the real value of scholastic sports.
TOP PHOTO: Pennsbury senior Tyler Sessa-Reeves (21), right, is guarded by Lower Merion defender Noah Fennell in District 1 consolation game between the schools Feb. 28 at the Falcons’ Nest.