Boys Basketball: Living up to the legacy

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Boys Basketball: Living up to the legacy

2015 Boys Basketball celebrate their third consecutive regional title in a home win over Century.

2015 Boys Basketball celebrate their third consecutive regional title in a home win over Century.

2015 Boys Basketball celebrate their third consecutive regional title in a home win over Century.

2015 Boys Basketball celebrate their third consecutive regional title in a home win over Century.

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by Noah Holman

The boys basketball team’s 2014-2015 season is preceded by two regional championship winning seasons, led by Clay Conner and current Bucknell player Zach Thomas.The entire Oakdale community had anticipated a very successful season comparable to that of the previous two. The doubts of the team being capable of this without stars Thomas and Conner started before last season even came to a close.

Veteran Coach Terry Connolly drew the up-and-coming squad tightly together, not letting anyone believe their team would be any less intimidating than it had been with Thomas and Conner.  The Oakdale community showed that they would remain supportive of the team that is now led by seniors Jared Ruiz and Trevor Lecuona.

With the regular season coming to a close, the team looks back on their regular season play in preparation for play-offs.  Bears fans have been thrilled with the success the team has had this season, finishing the regular season with an overall record of 17-5, going 11-3 in regional play.

Some injuries along the way are cause for some of the losses, but the Bears are coming into the play-offs stronger than ever with a fully healthy team.  Along with their fans, the players are also pleased with the way their regular season went.

Ruiz says they have reached the team goal of earning the #1 seed in their region, but emphasizes they’re not done yet in saying “We still have a lot more work to do.”

He admits the team could work on “reacting to adversity better” going into the postseason.

Ruiz keeps in mind “in the playoffs, once you lose… it’s all over,” and uses that to motivate him to lead his team in “not getting down on ourselves when we trail in a game.”

One of the factors that worried the Oakdale community was how strong the team chemistry would be, as the team makeup this season differs from last season due to so many lost seniors.  Junior Jackson Grove, arguably the most consistent beyond-the-arc shooter coming off the bears’ bench, says that “In the beginning of the season, we were trying to learn how to gel and figure out what our roles were and the offense helped us figure that out.”

Going into play-offs, no one doubts the team’s chemistry, appearing as if they have played with the exact same group for four years.

Junior Tyler Horning, the soft-spoken defensive specialist, looks back on the regular season and concludes that “When we beat Linganore at their place, that was a big start to our streak,” referring to their remarkable late season 15 win run.

The boys find themselves content with their regular season, but are only looking forward with the hunger for another regional championship, if not a state championship as well.

As the top seed in the region, Oakdale earned a bye the first round of play-offs to match up against an improved Middletown team on Tuesday, March 3.  Winning narrowly over Middletown, with only a three point deficit, the team went on to play the Williamsport Wolves on Saturday.  A mostly back and forth game resulted in a 64 to 56 Oakdale victory.

This win advanced the Bears to the regional championship game, which will be held at home against the Century Knights on Monday, March 9th.  This is the same match up as the regional championship game that was played at Century last year, which was won by the bears.  Despite Century boasting a better record than Oakdale, the bears fan fully expect to bring home the third regional title in a row with a win over the knights.  The bears are anticipated to go toe-to-toe with anyone they would face in the state finals.  This would mean their season attained success comparable to that of the two before, despite the outspoken doubts for how the team would fare with the loss of Thomas and Conner.

 

UPDATE: Oakdale wins third regional title in a row with a 78-64 victory over Century.

The Knights student section was outshined by the neoned out bears fans.  The Knights were closely beating the Bears for most of the first half, with the deficit reaching double digits at some points.  Like Ruiz voiced in an interview, the team proved they were not going to get down on themselves for trailing in the beginning of the game.  They continued to play hard, tightening the Knights’ lead to only 4 at halftime.

Control of the very intense, back and forth game gradually shifted into the Bears’ paws with the start of the second half.  Spectators took notice of Century’s strong point just minutes into their warm-up routine: three-point shooting.  Throughout the game, this, paired with aggressive rebounding, is what gave the Knights their power.

Far from an amatuer to postseason play, Coach Connolly implemented a defense that limited outside shots, successfully undermining the Knights’ advantage.  Reciprocally, the Bears demonstrated on the offensive end of the court that they could attack the hoop from any position on the court, with the mid to long range jumpers of Ruiz and Lecuona being nicely complemented by the powerful in the paint play of Jodrie, Gillespie, and Schlee.

Pulling off in the fourth quarter, Oakdale had an 11-point deficit with only 1:40 left in the game.  Players and fans alike roared about the three-peat they had felt they had already secured within the last 4 or so minutes of the game.  As the final seconds clicked off, the court was inundated a neon swarm around star Ruiz, who finished the game just one point shy of dropping 30 on the night.

The traditional cutting of the net ceremony, which was preceded by a mob of students tossing Ruiz in the air, celebrated the accomplishment of winning three regional championships in a row.

The boys will head down to the famous Xfinity Center of the University of Maryland Terps’ on Friday to take on Oakland Mills at 7:00.