Boys’ basektball wraps up league play on hot streak

By Jack Davis

The boys’ varsity basketball team closes out its regular season tonight at league rival Chaminade after playing Verbum Dei on the road on Monday night. The Wolverines had a record of 10-1 at press time, as they geared up for CIF playoffs, which begin on Feb. 20.

Victories over Chaminade and Verbum Dei would leave the Wolverines tied with their archrival Loyola for first place in the Mission League. The winner of league will be determined after the season wraps up for both Loyola and Harvard-Westlake today. The Wolverines defeated Loyola 86-81 Jan. 12 on the road, but lost to the Cubs 91-88 at home Jan. 30.

“Winning league is really important for us because how we place in league determines who we play in the first round of playoffs,” guard Austin Kelly ’10 said. “But worst case scenario we get second in league, and we are going to be confident against anybody we play,” he said. Kelly leads the team with 14.6 points per game; he is shooting 46 percent from the field, and 38 percent from the three point line.

This years’ squad has been mainly led by underclassmen, with no starting seniors and only two seniors that contribute significant minutes. Kelly and forwards Erik Swoope ’10 and Damiene Cain ’11 have accounted for 42 of the team’s 75 point per game average, with Cain and Swoope also leading the team in rebounds and blocked shots.

“All three of these players have made great progress,” Coach Greg Hilliard said. “This is the result of being in many competitive situations and carrying a big part of the load.”

However, Hilliard credits the success of this year’s team to not just the three underclassmen, but also to the unity and hardworking attitude of this year’s team.

“[The three players] also benefit by being able to share the burden with each other and some great performances by their teammates. They realize that they have done their part but the largest factor in our team’s success has been our belief in our team motto, ‘Ubuntu,’ which means roughly, ‘I am because we are,’” Hilliard said.

“As a coach, I’m now very spoiled because it would be very hard to work with an under-achieving team after sharing a season with these players,” he said.

Many players also credit the team’s success to beginning the year with an unusually difficult road schedule. While the Wolverines play in Division III-AA, they began the year playing in tournaments facing many nationally ranked teams, like national powerhouse Fairfax and its number one ranked recruit Renardo Sidney.

“I think we started the year playing really hard teams in the Pacific Shores and Ocean View tournaments,” guard Nate Bulluck ’10 said. “We played against some of the top rated schools in the nation, and we played well in that tournament. Playing against such high level competition really helped us come together and play well, and it really prepared us for league play. Now we are playing really well and hopefully gearing up for a CIF title run, and maybe, eventually, a state title run.”