Basketball eyes return to states


photo by Trent Daniel

Forward Zen Goodridge goes up to contest a shot in the game against Oviedo. The team lost 74-49, despite forward Will Faulk’s 18 points. The team is currently 2-3.

Justin Baronoff, Staff Reporter

After losing 57-56 to Wellington on a last second free throw in the 8A state championship game last season, the boys varsity basketball team tipped off the 2015-2016 regular season on Saturday, Nov. 21, hoping to return with a different outcome. While the team has faced obstacles, they remain positive.

“Last season, it was fun to watch the team get that far, and I know this year, they want to have another run at it for sure,” head coach Josh Kohn said.

This season, the team is currently 2-3, beating both Timber Creek (67-63) and district opponent Viera (58-54), but losing to Apopka (70-64) to open the regular season in the Kalyn High Tournament, Harmony (67-63) and Oviedo (74-49).

Last season, the team finished 22-9. They did not beat Oviedo either time, but every game was close. The team plays Oviedo again on Jan. 15. The team will host the annual Hoops for Heart game on Dec. 12, and their first home game against Windermere Prep on Dec. 17. The team will also play Lake Brantley on Jan. 26, who has the ninth best player in the state, John Mooney, committed to Notre Dame.

Contributing to the teams’ early struggles was the change from class 8A to 7A after dropping a division due to a population decrease. This includes Viera, Harmony, St. Cloud, Lake Nona and Melbourne, which lost in the regional semifinals last season.

Over the five games played, forward Will Faulk has led the team in points, averaging 18 points per game. However, for Faulk, it does not mean much.
“It means nothing to me if we don’t win, it’s as simple as that,” Faulk said. “Putting up points and not winning is like having a car with no gas.”

Forward Denzel Mahoney led the team in points last season, averaging 23 points per game, but is out this season after suffering a torn ACL injury this past summer with his annual summer team in Las Vegas.

Despite the five games played without him so far, Mahoney is still confident the team can get back on track, as he will be on the sidelines for moral support and helping Kohn.

“I’ve seen what this team can do without me,” Mahoney said. “I know they’ve had some tough losses so far, but I think the team is still going to be really good regardless of me not playing.”

The team has five active returning players from last season: guard Alex Keel, Faulk, center Zen Goodridge, forward Rocco Corvo, and guard Grant Greene. However, the team added depth from the junior varsity team last season, including small forward Jordan Cox, guard Vecarie Pettis and center Joe Conley, who all start for the team.

“I wasn’t surprised at all to already be named into the starting lineup,” Cox said. “I have felt prepared since the end of the JV season last year, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

After not playing basketball since his freshman year, guard Matt Whipple joined the team, pairing with Keel as one of two active seniors.

“Basketball has always been my sport and nothing feels better than scoring a basket,” Whipple said. “I know that we haven’t been as great as we were expected to be, but we are what we make the season to be.”

In the offseason, the team’s main focus was improving team chemistry, as it was an issue for most of last season, such as lack of communication on the court. Over the summer, the team would play three on three, go to the gym together, and even sleep over at each other’s houses to sharpen their skills on and off the court.

“We have to think of ourselves as a brotherhood rather than just a team,” Goodridge said. “All of us now understand what we have to do to follow in the footsteps bring another ring to this school.”

Before the season started, on Tuesday, Oct. 13, Keel and Mahoney both committed to play college basketball. Despite not playing this season, Mahoney committed to Southeast Missouri State University and Keel committed to Union University. However, Keel is still committed to returning this year’s team to the state championship.

“I committed early so I could focus on the season instead of committing in the late signing period,” Keel said. “Everyone, including myself, knows what we have to do to win games.”

The team’s next game will be against Celebration on Thursday, Dec. 10,

“With some inexperience this year, it will take some time to grow,” Kohn said. “We all want to have another run at the [state championship], but we still have a lot to improve on.”