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Eagles show spirit despite their season-ending loss

They had 12 straight wins before losing to Lakewood.

By Brandon Wright, Times Correspondent
Published March 7, 2008


BRANDON 

Brandon High basketball coach Mark Hermann gathered his team for one final meeting Monday, five days after the Eagles' season ended in the state semifinals. Hermann didn't exactly know what to expect.

Would there be long faces?

Heads hung low?

Perhaps a tear?

"Honestly," Hermann said. "They were laughing and joking around. They all seemed to be in good spirits."

That's because, Hermann said, the Eagles (24-5) had come to grips with their loss to a talented Lakewood squad on Feb. 27 in the state final four.

"There's no point on dwelling on the negative because there were so many positives this year," senior guard Blake Allen said. "We had a heckuva season."

Sure, they would have liked to have a possession back here or a turnover back there, but the Eagles also grasped the scope of their achievement.

"I think they really realized what a truly great accomplishment this season was," Hermann said. "And because of that, I think they were okay with it."

Hermann should know. In 1999-2000, the Eagles posted the best record in Hillsborough County history (31-4), only to fall in the state finals. That team, which finished with a No. 28 national ranking, featured Joey Graham, who eventually was taken 16th overall in the 2005 NBA draft.

"I mean that team we had was something special, but even they didn't win it all," said Hermann, who is in his 13th year as coach.

Brandon was certainly no lock to reach the final four in Lakeland, especially considering the way the season began. The Eagles ripped off five straight wins to start the season but were beaten at home by King - a first during Hermann's tenure.

"That was embarrassing," Hermann said a week after the loss.

Brandon lost a pair of games during the holiday tournaments to teams from out of the area before the turning point of the season - a 26-point shellacking at home to Wharton.

"That (loss) was the best thing to happen to this team," Hermann said.

Allen agreed.

"We just realized we couldn't just show up and take nights off," he said. "When you play teams as good or better than you, you can't play half-heartedly."

And from that point, Brandon didn't. The Eagles strung together 12 consecutive wins leading up to the loss against Lakewood.

"We learned to trust each other," Allen said of the streak. "Not that we didn't before that, but we learned from the Wharton loss on that if one of us has an off game, someone would be there to pick him up."

Hermann and the Eagles will have to carry that attitude into next season because all but three players are graduating, including four of the five starters. Evan Ravenel (Boston College) and Marcus Morrison (University of Tampa) have booked their college futures while Tarron Stewart and Allen will settle on a school shortly.

But with all that talent and leadership graduating, where will that leave the Eagles next season?

"Brandon basketball will keep it going, just like we've done in the past," Hermann said. "We won 31 games in 2000, lost everyone off that team and people thought they'd kick our butts the next year. We finished 19-10."

Fast facts

Brandon's season at a glance

Leading scorer: Blake Allen, 19.3 points per game

Leading rebounder: Evan Ravenel, 10.8 rebounds per game

Leading shot blocker: Marcus Morrison, 1.9 blocks per game

Assists leader: Allen, 3.8 assists per game

Most points in a game: Allen, 41 vs. King in the rematch

Road to the final four: d. Armwood 69-50, d. Wharton 42-38, d. Land O'Lakes 68-44, d. Ridgewood 61-57, d. Lake Howell 78-65

They said it

Who was the unsung hero on this team?

"Definitely A.J. Sicignano. He did all kinds of things that didn't show up in the score sheet. He played tough defense and always made a key play, whether it was a basket or a steal. He completely understood his role and did it well." - coach Mark Hermann

Toughest player faced?

"I think Callem Townsend from Bloomingdale is so darned talented. He's got a ton of potential ... I really like his game." - Hermann

What's one thing you would do differently?

Put more time in on getting through the press. Lakewood was so athletic and really got after us all night. They pressed us the entire game and seemed to keep coming in waves. - Hermann

Sum up the season in one word ...

Together. That's what we were as a team. - Blake Allen