By: Wells Dusenbury
As they sat quietly on the bus, making the two-and-a-half hour return trip from Fort Myers to Boca Raton, the St. Andrew's juniors made a promise.
The Scots' basketball team had just seen their once promising season come to an abrupt close, in the form of a humbling 22-point defeat at the hands of Bishop Verot in last year's 4A Regional Semifinals.
Despite entering the game on a 17-game win streak and playing their best basketball of the season, anything and everything that could possibly go wrong did for SA.
The Scots immediately surrendered the first 10 points of the contest. They shot just 1-15 from the field to start the game. By the time the first quarter mercifully came to an end, they were already down 22-2. When the final buzzer sounded, they had suffered a crushing 68-46 loss.
So what did the juniors say after they boarded the bus for the long ride home.
"We talked about how we can't let this happen again next year," said Jovan Lawson.
As fate would have it, the Scots have a chance to exact revenge on the team that ended their season a year ago.
On Tuesday, St. Andrew's will play host to Bishop Verot in the 4A Regional Semifinals.
"These guys all year long have been been kind of gearing toward this game," said head coach John O'Connell. "We didn't know if it was going to happen or not. Our guys have handled this season very well."
Like last year, Bishop Verot enters the game with another talented squad. Led by 6-9 junior center Ricky Doyle, who holds verbal offers from top programs such as Miami, Notre Dame and Ohio State, the Vikings enter the game with a 17-11 record and are coming off a 36-point beatdown over Cardinal Newman in the Regional Quarterfinals.
St. Andrew's, which dispatched Dunbar 63-56 last week in their playoff opener, have put together another stellar year under O'Connell, who captured his 500th career victory earlier this season, rolling out to a 21-3 mark.
This year's team has been one of the more unique squads O'Connell has seen during his tenure. While the Scots returned only one starter from last year, the St. Andrew's head coach says this team's group of seniors, 8 in total, play as well together as any unit he's coached.
"Their chemistry is what has gotten us to this point," said O'Connell of 8-man senior class, 6 of whom have played together since middle school. "They don't fear anybody. There's no egos on this team."
Despite the the numerous successes this senior group has seen, the one goal that's evaded them has been a trip to Lakeland. St. Andrew's, which is still looking for its first basketball state title, hasn't reached the State Finals since 2006 and has endured countless heartbreak along the way.
So what better opportunity for St. Andrew's to kill two birds with one stone, then to have the chance to continue their quest to Lakeland against the team that denied them a year ago.
"We were hoping for it," said Asil Kalkavan of getting to play Bishop Verot again. "We just want to make to states and hopefully do big things for the school."
"The seniors from last year, we disappointed them with this loss. So we're trying to win this year to make it up for them."
Return to: High School Hysteria Blog