Prior to the game at Morris, Captain James Richardson and Co-Captain Bridson Rivera alongside teammates, Jawan Robinson and Aaron Broxton took some time to reflect upon the regular season as to how it propelled them to post season. “A light switch just clicked, especially for the sophomores. We also have a band of brothers constantly reminding us either we go all out and do what we have to do or just have one of those basic, regular seasons. We want to be remembered. It’s a chance to make history,” Richardson said.
According to Robinson, due to their progression throughout the season the coaches trusted them, in terms of challenge, as well as a chance at achieving the long alluded championship title. New plays were introduced, free hours dedicated to shooting rounds, and ensuring their offense was lock and key. Their big win over Del Tech and heavy loss against Manor is what Coach Kevin Ryan referred to as a turning point wherein, “The freshman have started to mature and not make the same mistakes they did in the past, the sophomores have stepped up their leadership. We have gotten better as the season progressed…” On the day of the semifinal, the Golden Lion hopefuls were given a farewell parting luncheon with President Michael J. McDonough present. President McDonough made a cool, calm, and collected speech empowering the athletes to go out and give their all. Whatever the outcome; win or lose they are still winners.
Upon their arrival at Morris, the Lions face off the Blue Jays (Manor) once again. The game immediately started off neck to neck, however it was a ping pong exchange between loss and recovery partly from the Golden Lion men’s squad. Despite that they relinquished control in RV’s athletes gradually improved, especially when the Golden Lion Baseball team showed out with a bang in their support. Star player, as well as the team’s slasher, Richardson left no one disappointed with his total 31 points. Forward big, Broxton grabbed 10 rebounds while Rivera’s agile talent led the team with 6 assists. Freshman guard, Logan Santiago the rising star of the freshman batch beautifully made 15 points. During the last 3 minutes of the game Santiago made his signature precise 3 pointer followed by another shortly thereafter his steal.
All three coaches Kevin Ryan, Lou Mercer, and Phil Herro (also Head Coach of Lady Lions) remained confident as their athletes did what they could to solidify the court with their size. In spite their attempts to cohesively dominate both front and back court Manor’s offensive and defensive stronghold proved to be an obstacle.
Manor’s point guard, Calil Moultrie was smart in his play and always found a hole in the Lions’ defense. He thrived under pressure to which enabled him to contribute three, 3 pointers. Number 11, Thomas Farrior Jr. was golden from the 3 point line as well. William Davis made 12 unstoppable rebounds. Lion fans were greatly disappointed and felt the men came short on teamwork. Dajon O’Donnell who has closely watched the team said, “Ever since the start of the season they struggled with teamwork. By that, I mean, there was no consistency. They have all the components to make it to the championships. They have raw talent. What gave Manor the upper hand at the semis is that they worked as a unit, which could not be said the same about RV.”
For the Lions, to make history was the desired end which unfortunately came down to 87 – 73 loss against Manor. “Honestly, RV wasn’t there mentally. Aside from the fact that the referees called too many unnecessary fouls and it didn’t help with them trying to outshine each other and do well individually instead of collectively,” Deanna Barbour, former Lady Lions said.
Co-captain Rivera confirmed that everyone on the team was trying to be a hero. He and the team sees it as a learning experience and to grow from the loss instead of dwelling on it. Most importantly, cliché as it may sound no sport is a one man sport, but a team sport.
The Golden Lions finished the season with an overall record of 18-9, and the playoff appearance marks the third season in a row where they qualified for the Region 19 tournament.
Photos by Monica Alvarado