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Hamilton took team to new heights

By KEITH NIEBUHR

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001


LECANTO -- Seven Rivers Christian coach Greg Hamilton never worried about the record.

He was more concerned with improvement.

So when other teams got fat on cupcakes, the Class A Warriors took some lumps againsta schedule that included nine teams from higher classifications and nine more that were ranked in the Class A state poll at one point during the regular season.

Playing the big boys paid big dividends for the fourth-year program. By reaching the Class A, Region 1 semifinals, the Warriors advanced further into the playoffs than any team in Citrus or Hernando counties.

"It was just a delightful season," Hamilton said.

"At the end of the year, the unity and the development of those young guys was exciting to see. When they bonded together the last half of the season, they became a great team."

Along the way there were several memorable moments.

Senior guard Frankie Squire topped the 1,000-point mark and finished his career with 1,299 points.

The Warriors, after losing to Ocala School of the Kingdom three times during the regular season, defeated Kingdom 71-67 in the semifinals of the District 4 tournament to secure a spot in the state playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Seven Rivers earned its first playoff win by beating 10th-ranked The Rock on the Lions' home court in Gainesville. The Warriors won 55-49 in overtime after having let a 15-point second-half lead slip away.

Seven Rivers traveled 340 miles to play top-ranked Laurel Hill in the regional semifinals. The Warriors lost 69-47, but were well within striking distance until the Hoboes pulled away with a 10-0 run midway through the fourth quarter.

"As a coach I learned from an older coach years ago that when you win games, it's a credit to the kids," Hamilton said.

"And when you lose, you need to examine yourself closely as a coach and try to learn. I learn more when we lose than when we win."

Hamilton is the father of Seven Rivers basketball. He started the program four seasons and nurtured it along the way.

This season's team featured three seniors -- Squire, forward Bob Adams and center Chris Toms. Each was a starter and each played a prominent role in the Warriors' success.

"These seniors had been through so many battles," Hamilton said. "I always felt very confident they would rise to the challenge.

"They understood what we as a coaching staff wanted and they understood that to beat other teams, they had to play as a team. They showed character even in the midst of adversity."

Next season, Seven Rivers will have a new starting lineup and a new look.

"The team will be different next year, but I see some real potential in the young guys coming up," Hamilton said.

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