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The Walter Times

The Walter Times

The Walter Times

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A Fight to the End

The 2023-24 Sunshine State League Tournament
Aiden Greaver
After a hard-fought season, the OS Lions finished 2nd place overall in the State Tournament, bringing a trophy with them back to One School.

The OS Lions Varsity Basketball Team moved on from their successful regular season and waded into the murky waters of the Sunshine Christian League State Tournament. They entered the tournament without any prior knowledge of their opponents, aside from Holy Cross, whom they had recently lost to in a crucial regular season game.

Placing second in the Eastern division of the Sunshine Christian League, the OS Lions were one of just eight teams (two from each division, North, South, East, and West) that earned a spot in the state tournament. 

“I’m so proud of all of the guys on the team,” said Center Roman Miller, senior. “Making it to the tournament in our first year of being able to do it is such an impressive thing. I never doubted us though, even through the tough times during the season, like injuries, sicknesses, and things like that.”

They had the opportunity to start the competition off strong, with the Lions playing Cavalry in the tournament’s opening game.

“Playing in the first game of the tournament was an honor,” said Guard Ethan Prendergast, freshman. “It gave us the opportunity to prove that we belonged in the tournament from the opening tip-off.”

The Lions took full advantage of a Cavalry team that started the game slow by driving hard and often to the basket, shooting the ball well from three-point range, playing strong defense, and fighting for every rebound. Their efforts resulted in a commanding fourteen point victory, defeating Cavalry 45-31, knocking Cavalry into the Losers Bracket, and advancing themselves into the next round of the tournament.

Jeremiah Schilling, sophomore, puts up a hook shot to gain two points for the Lions in their dominant win over Cavalry. (Aiden Greaver)

“Beating Cavalry in our first game really set a precedent for the rest of the tournament,” said Guard Dominic Ardolina, sophomore. “It allowed us to show the other teams what we were made of right from the opening tip off and that they should take us seriously.”

For their second game of the tournament, the Lions were going up against the second seed in the South, Praise Temple, who had just defeated the first seed in the West, Tabernacle. The Lions were still riding high off of their victory earlier in the day, but Praise Temple proved to be a much harder opponent. The game was close throughout its entirety, with both teams exchanging leads, but ultimately the Lions prevailed, winning the game 38-35 behind All-Conference First Team award recipient Forward Preston Richmond’s (freshman) efforts.

Ethan Prendergast, freshman, drives the ball into the paint against Praise Temple, looking for the extra pass that would lead to easy points for the Lions. (Aiden Greaver)

“Although Coach J.R asked me to do a lot that game, it was definitely a team effort. You don’t win games on your own. There’s four other guys on the court on your team for a reason. If it wasn’t for each individual effort, we wouldn’t have won the game as a team,” Preston Richmond stated.

To finish off the first day of the tournament, the Lions watched the Souls Harbor Eagles face off against Holy Cross. The Eagles had supported the Lions throughout the first day, cheering them on from the sidelines and congratulating them after each win. To show their appreciation, the Lions created a human tunnel for the Eagles to run out from after the halftime break. Even though the Eagles lost to Holy Cross 37-33, the Lions stayed back to commend the Eagles for their efforts against such a tough opponent. 

“While watching the other teams play, we saw one team that showed a lot of drive and focus on the court. That would be Souls Harbor,” said Center Jayden Kepple, freshman. “Our first interaction was cheering them on while they were playing, and they started to notice. For me, I felt like it gave them the motivation to play their best and ultimately place third in the tournament. While it was halftime during one of their games, we lined up to make a tunnel for them to come out of halftime through. They returned the favor during halftime of our game versus Holy Cross. In the end, we made great friendships with the Souls Harbor players, and hopefully they’ll last for years to come.”

The second and final day of the State Tournament started off with the long anticipated matchup: the OS Lions versus Holy Cross. Whoever won this matchup would advance to the Finals, while the loser would be sent to the Losers Bracket to fight for their spot in the tournament. From the opening tip-off, the energy from both teams was almost palpable.

“I could feel the intensity from both teams,” said Forward Jaylen Camillo, junior. “Both teams wanted the win just as bad as the other did, which just goes to show the competitive nature of our two teams.”

Preston Richmond, freshman, jumps to shoot the ball, while Jeremiah Schilling, sophomore, fights for positioning in the paint as they face off with Holy Cross for the first time. (Aiden Greaver)

Both teams were giving it their all, fighting through tough defense, drawing fouls, and getting to the free throw line. 

With six seconds remaining in the game, Holy Cross, up by two points, had possession of the ball. After an inbounds pass and a quick foul by the Lions, Holy Cross was shooting two free throws with five seconds remaining. The first one went in, putting Holy Cross up by three points. The second one: a miss off the back of the rim. Quickly rebounding the ball, the Lions kicked the ball out to halfcourt, quickly followed by a timeout by Coach J.R. 

Two seconds remained on the clock.

“You could sense the nervous energy in the huddle. The whole game had come down to this moment. No matter what we had done or not done in that game, we had to focus on getting one last bucket,” said Center Jeremiah Schilling, sophomore.

Coach J.R. calls a time-out down three points with two seconds remaining in regulation against Holy Cross. (Aiden Greaver)

Without enough time to draw up a solid inbound play, the Lions had to freestyle an inbounding strategy to get off a last second three pointer. As Ethan Prendergast prepared to pass the ball to the corner, Forward Justin Lundberg, freshman, streaked up from the top of the three point line after losing his defender in a screen, catching Ethan’s eye. The inbound pass went to Justin, who caught the ball and immediately shot it from near NBA range over the outstretched hands of the defense with no time remaining. The gym went silent as the ball arced through the air.

“I can’t explain it,” said Guard Zadiel Vientos, sophomore. “The whole gym just seemed to go quiet for a few seconds as the ball was shot. Everyone just looked on in anticipation.”

The shot bounced off of the top of the backboard and banked in, tying the game 35-35 to send the game into overtime, causing an eruption of cheers and celebrations from the crowd and players alike. 

“It was as if the collective hopes and dreams of our whole school helped it to go in the hoop,” Justin Lundberg said.

In the three minute overtime that followed, the Lions outscored Holy Cross 3-2, using good time management and high basketball IQ to waste the remaining time after taking the lead, winning the game and advancing to the Finals.

“The Finals. This was everything we had worked and sacrificed so much for,” said Preston Richmond. “All the countless hours of practice all came down to this. As a freshman, I didn’t think I ever would have seen myself in this position to begin with, but there we were, in the most important game of our lives. We just had to go and do what we’d been doing all season and tournament long, trust one another, and the rest was up to God.”

Through the Losers Bracket, Holy Cross defeated the Souls Harbor Eagles again to advance to the finals against the Lions, facing them for the second time that day.

The final game was set to be played in the Colosseum, a different basketball stadium about three minutes away from the court where the rest of the tournament was held. The Colosseum was very different from the previous court. It provided more seating so that an increased number of audience members, as well as the teams that had been eliminated in prior rounds, could attend. It also had close to a four foot drop from the bottom row of seating to the court to provide a more stadium-like feel for the players and spectators.

“It was surreal,” said Center Noah Miller, sophomore. “When we walked out onto the court, with the stands filled, it all became real to me.”

The tensions were high coming into the Finals. The Lions were determined to capitalize on their victory against Holy Cross earlier that day, and Holy Cross had been gameplanning all day on how to slow the Lions down. In a game that represented the culmination of every team’s efforts throughout the season, it seemed as if all bets were off as to who would walk away with the trophy.

Both teams came out of the gates with passion and determination. Each team used their physical advantages in any way possible in an effort to pull ahead. 

The Lions used the size and strength of Center Jeremiah Schilling and Forward Jaylen Camillo to gain great positioning in the paint, the three point shooting of Forward Preston Richmond, and the speed of Guards Ethan Prendergast, Simeon Gordon and Isaac Schilling, seniors, to stay competitive on the defensive front. 

Preston Richmond, freshman, drives down the court on a fastbreak, with Ethan Prendergast, freshman, and Jeremiah Schilling, sophomore, providing help in the backcourt. (Aiden Greaver)

But Holy Cross did not back down. They drove relentlessly into the paint against the Lions defenders, opening up three point shots for their sharpshooters. Players from both teams dove for loose balls. Bodies hit the floor. Many players walked away from the game with courtburn and bruises.

Eventually, Holy Cross wore the OS Lions down, winning the game 55-46.

“Losing is never fun. That’s a given, especially on such a big stage with so much riding on your team’s performance,” said Simeon Gordon. “Knowing that hundreds of people are watching you and expecting greatness… It’s nerve wracking. However, as I head into a post high school environment, I think it’s best that I learned to lose and keep my head high. If not for me, for the brothers I made throughout the year with my teammates. Life isn’t all about winning. You have to learn to lose and roll with the disappointment, to move on from those negative feelings, but retain the good memories, the fun times, and the bonds that you make along the way.”

Seniors Noah Wemple, Isaac Schilling, Simeon Gordon, and Roman Miller pose with Coach J.R. to commemorate their last game, with each senior vowing to come back to support the team in the upcoming seasons. (Aiden Greaver)

Tears were shed amongst the Lions players, especially the seniors. Not all of the emotions were of sadness, however. Pride, respect, and love for their teammates and accomplishments throughout the season were some of the emotions that the players expressly said they felt immediately following the game.

“I’m so proud of the guys I got to play alongside in my first and last year of basketball. I know they’ll use this game as a motivation next year, and for many years to come. The great times we had throughout the season? No one loss can wipe that away. We’re a team, on and off the court,” said Isaac Schilling.

“I shed tears not because of the games but because my first and last basketball season was coming to an end. No more memories to be made with my team in practice and games and all that comes with spending so much time together. The ending was bittersweet but the memories were worth all the hard work,” said Noah Wemple.

The Lions, in their first year of eligibility for the Sunshine State Christian League State Tournament, walked away with a close second place. They are confident that they will return to the tournament in the following years, and will win it all one day.

The second place trophy for the Sunshine Christian League State Tournament. (Aiden Greaver)
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About the Contributors
Simeon Gordon
Simeon Gordon, Senior Staff
Simeon Gordon is a junior at OSOTA. He has attended One School for nine years and has served on the Lion's Pride Journalism Team for two years. He enjoys socializing and playing sports whenever he can and is currently considering applying to a trade school to find his future career.
Aiden Greaver
Aiden Greaver, Photography Manager
Aiden Greaver is a sophomore at One School of the Arts. He has been at the school for about 10 years and has been on the team for 2 years. He hopes to pursue photography as a profession after high school.
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