Despite losing four of their first five games, Matanzas' boys basketball team has rebounded in the latter portion of the season.
The Pirates’ Damon Warrell didn’t play much his sophomore year last season, and he didn’t play much to start the 2019-20 season, either. He was resigned mostly to the bench.
Things have since changed for Matanzas boys basketball’s shifty, 6-foot-1 junior guard. He and several other Pirates have elevated their games over the past month, vaulting Matanzas to an 8-7 overall record.
“This year, I’m stepping up. I just need to be more consistent,” Warrell said. “We’re building toward our peak.”
“We’ve come a long way. I don’t think we’ve reached our peak yet, but we’re getting there.”
JEREMY KEGLEY, Matanzas basketball
In addition to Warrell, Pirates coach Donald Lockhart named senior guard Kevin Priccaciente, senior guard and team captain David Harris, and senior forward Jeremy Kegley as players who have stepped up in recent games.
“Jeremy has been playing lights out basketball,” Lockhart said. “Not only on offense, but on defense, as well.”
As the Pirates rise toward their peak, they’re continuing to learn. One obstacle has been dealing with the team’s youth. Only three varsity players from last season’s team returned for this year. Much of the team is composed of junior varsity kids.
As a result, Lockhart said, the team struggles with immaturity: turning the ball over, failing to box out, losing track on defense, succumbing to pressure.
For example, in the Pirates’ game against University the night of Monday, Jan. 13, the Pirates led by as many as 20 points. University came back in the second half, cutting the lead to 2 with less than a minute remaining in regulation. The Pirates held on to win 51-47, however.
The team continues to grow.
“They’re getting better,” Lockhart said. “They’re starting to believe in what we’re trying to teach. Overall, I’m proud of them, and I’m looking forward to the stretch of games we have coming up. They’re beginning to buy into the defensive concepts we’re trying to teach, and I see a lot of positive things.”