The Pirates are still learning how to play together at the midway point of the 2018-19 season.
For the first seven games of the season, Matanzas’ boys basketball team was missing a familiar face — a face that fans had grown accustomed to seeing speed up and down the court for the past three seasons.
Matanzas’ Branden Gilyard, who also starred for the Pirates football team, chose not to play basketball at the start of the 2018-19.
He eventually had a change of heart.
He had a talk with head coach Donald Lockhart and the players to see if he could balance basketball in addition with his other duties: school and his part-time job at Moe’s Southwest Grill.
He made his season debut against Clay on Dec. 18.
“I think we’re just young. We haven’t clicked yet. Once we get that, we’ll do better as a whole unit.”
Matanzas' Damon Warrell
“I’ve played my entire high school career,” Gilyard said. “It’s my final year, and I’ve got nothing to lose.”
The Pirates have struggled for much of this season. The addition of Gilyard has helped, but the Pirates are still searching, still growing in Year 2 under Lockhart.
“This is when we’re supposed to be getting better,” Lockhart said, “and I think we are.”
The Pirates fought hard in their latest game against Clay on Jan. 10 at Matanzas High School. They kept it close and had a chance to take the lead in the contest’s final 3 minutes, but Clayed pulled away with a few key baskets down the stretch.
“We’ve just got to learn how to pull these games out,” Lockhart said.
This season, the mental breakdowns have been the difference between victory and defeat.
How are they going to improve?
“Oh, we’re going to practice,” Lockhart said. “We’ve just got to get mentally strong and stop beating ourselves.”