No nastier word than runnerup

Seven Rivers Christian is tired of finishing second, be it in the district or tournaments.

Published January 9, 2007

LECANTO - Sophomore Derek Labahn wiped his face with his hand and shook his head.

He didn't want to look at the second-place trophy that was sitting in Seven Rivers Christian coach Jim Ervin's office. And he certainly didn't want to talk about that game.

"There was no momentum or anything in it for us," said Labahn, a guard-forward who is averaging nine points and 10 rebounds for Seven Rivers. "It was kind of a slow-paced game."

The sluggish performance translated into a second-place finish in the first annual SFCA Christmas Invitational.

Second place has become all-too familiar territory for Seven Rivers 11-4, 7-0 Class A, District 6.

Senior guard Justin Richardson can't forget his freshman and sophomore seasons when the team finished second in the district tournament. So taking second in the late December tournament simply brought back memories.

"We didn't want second place," said Richardson, who is averaging 21 points and seven rebounds. "We went there to win first. We learned that we didn't want to settle for second place."

Richardson thinks this year is different. He hopes the team has shaken its runnerup tendencies after the late December finish.

And he has good reason to be optimistic. The Warriors spent this summer lifting weights or practicing with each other. Ervin couldn't be a part of it, so Richardson and the other seniors kept the team focused.

As a result, the Warriors are more focused on their goal of being district champions.

"We sold out to team," Ervin said. "That's important, I think, in any sport is believing in your team and your teammates."

The Warriors defense is giving up an average of 35 points a game, while the offense is scoring 52 points on average. Seven Rivers also defeated Ocala St. John Lutheran on the road for the first time.

Seven Rivers is preparing for the district tournament, and the Warriors aren't interested in second place.

"We see all the banners up, like the volleyball and stuff," Richardson said. "They all have district titles and we don't have anything. We want to put a banner up there."

Kellie Dixon can be reached at kdixon@sptimes.com or (352) 544-9480.