Lion’s Basketball team rebounds after slow start

By Jason Yoffe
Published: February 2010

Many people wrote off the Boys’ Varsity Basketball team after losing the first five consecutive games of the season. The Lions, however, have proved everyone wrong as of late, winning eight of their last 11 games.

This late-season rally has put the team back in playoff contention.

The road ahead looks rough for the Lions, who will face off against some of the top teams in the Dual County League (DCL). “We have hard games ahead of us, senior Ethan Landzberg said. “There are no locks in these last games.

The team has been successful in games against tough opponents this season, even topping dominant Westford last month.

According to Landzberg, the team did not play to its full potential against Lincoln-Sudbury and Boston Latin on February 2 and 5 respectively. The Lions could not stop Lincoln-Sudbury’s frontcourt throughout most of the game, but lost by only three points.

The outcome of the Boston Latin game was more favorable for the basketball team, as they were able to add to the win column.

South was slated to win by a significantly large margin against a weaker Boston Latin squad, but ended up scrapping together a victory in a close game.

“We’re a good team, Landzberg said. “We just aren’t consistent enough.

If the team wins two out of the last four games, the Lions will clinch a playoff berth.

Lately, the team has drained some pivotal shots and played tight defense late in close games. “We are starting to pull together more as a team, senior Jason Green said. “I think that if we play our game, then we can beat anyone in the league.

Junior DJ Reid’s outstanding play has carried the team through throughout the run, according to Boys’ Head Basketball Coach Joe Killilea. Reid’s good shooting and rebounding has provided the Lions with the spark they desperately needed early in the season. “DJ’s shooting ability has been helping us [win games], Landzberg said.

Amidst the victories, Killilea earned his 400th career win in Tyngsboro on January 22. Killilea’s mark is respectable for a coach in any sport, especially when his team plays roughly 20 games each season.

“The 400 wins are more a tribute to the players that have played for me, the assistant coaches, and my wife and kids, he said of the record.

Although humbled by the accomplishment, Killilea will set his sights on the playoffs, not on the record books. “I was thinking about the win because we needed a win, he said.

Killilea says he never told the team about nearing the mark. “There’s enough pressure in basketball without adding another one, he said.

Despite Killilea’s concern, senior Alex O’Hagen, whose father informed him of the upcoming milestone, said he was actually more motivated to win the game against Tyngsboro.

During his 33-year tenure, Killilea has won seven DCL Championships, along with being a Division-I South semifinalist.

To the dismay of some of his players, Killilea has been known as a coach who is hard on his team. In recent years, athletes in the basketball program have not seen eye-to-eye with their coach.

“On what team does everybody see eye-to-eye with everybody? Killilea said of these discrepancies. “If I did, I wouldn’t be doing my job.

This hard-nosed coaching style, however, has proven its worth over the last three decades. “He pushes us to be better and play harder than we normally would, O’Hagan said.

Killilea stresses to his players that staying focused and taking the season one game at a time is imperative.

“It’s a day-by-day thing, he said. “The players know [how many games] they have to win to get into the tournament, but you have to win the next game before you can win two in a row.

Killilea’s defensive-mindedness has been a valuable asset to the squad, especially with an inconsistent offense. “I’m a defensive coach, he said. “You win with defense.

According to Killilea, the keys to the team’s future success include limiting turnovers, playing strong defense, and playing together as a team.

The team has to continue their winning ways if they want to play past the regular season, but having a coach who has been in this situation many times before may make the chances significantly higher.

“There’s something here, Killilea said of his basketball team’s astounding turnaround. “I don’t know what, but there is something happening here.

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