South Basketball racks up wins as a record season comes to an end

Eva Stuart, Staff Writer

Who would have thought that this year’s basketball team would make the run that they did? Without Connor Hickman due to a shoulder injury, expectations were low from fans, coaches, and even players. But they knew that they would fight, and fight they did.

The South Panthers ended the season strong this weekend after a tough loss against North Lawrence, securing a .83% win ratio and placing 12th overall in the state. 

Though they lost the Semi-state game on Saturday, South Boys Basketball racked up many impressive wins over the course of the past few months, and it’s clear that Coach JR and his loyal players didn’t let the pandemic slow them down. 

On March 13th, South boys basketball secured their seventh straight sectional win against North, winning 76 to 53. This win helped maintain a winning streak South has held since 2011. On Saturday, they beat Jeffersonville in a tight regional game, leading 51-50. Saturday afternoon they fought for their lives against North Lawrence, and narrowly lost a tough game 52-54. 

Overall, this season has been one for the books, in many ways even more impressive than last year’s perfect season. 

Optimist Newspaper sat down with three varsity players this season, Joey Bomba, Sammy Kestranek, and Maddix Blackwell, and interviewed them during one of their final practices before the Martinsville regional game.

This year looked a lot different than what the Panthers were originally expecting. “It’s definitely been crazy,” said Blackwell when asked about playing his senior year season during a pandemic. “Last year we kind of expected to win every game, but this year we were the underdogs. It’s definitely a different energy level being the underdogs every game.” 

Blackwell has had a remarkable season as a point guard.  “I’ve worked most on bonding everyone else together on and off the court,” said Blackwell. Being a senior on the team has also changed things for him. “Everyone starts to look up to you [as a senior] — it’s like you’re not fresh meat anymore,” joked Blackwell. 

All around player Joey Bomba has been playing basketball since childhood, and has been known as one of the best wings on the team. “My main goal this season was winning the state championship”, said Bomba, who came into his own this season as a varsity senior and team leader. His proudest moment this season was when he scored 38 points in a single game. He also secured the most shots of any player this season. He attributes his success in part to his height. “I’m a little taller than everyone else, which makes it easier to shoot,” joked Bomba. Passing a basketball to his shorter teammate Sammy Kestranek he quipped, “Unlike Sammy.”

Though the Panthers didn’t win every game they hoped to, it’s clear that the sense of comradery, loyalty, and respect these players have for each other is what made the team go so far. When asked about what brought him back for his senior year after a brief break from the sport, Kestranek said he “wanted to get back with the guys one last time” and added with a laugh,  “and to get some buckets.” Sammy has had a fairly good season as well, known for his guard skills, he scored the team blah blah statistics. 

South panthers have yet again proven their talent, dedication, and sportsmanship during this unusual year. Though the season has come to an end falling short of a state championship, the team says they can’t wait to get back on the court and play even harder next year. 

Kestranek shared one more message he wanted south students to know. He was met with laughter and cheers from Blackwell and Bomba as he shouted “Go Panthers!”