By Shailey Klein
With one week left in the regular season, the varsity boys basketball team is taking advantage of every opportunity in each game to prepare for postseason competition. The Eagles have two regular season games remaining, both non-district contests at home in the Oxborough Gymnasium against Redeemer Christian School and Bronson High School at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 2 and Feb. 4 respectively. Senior guards Matthew McKinney and Andrew Pickens will be honored prior to the game on Tuesday for Senior Night.
McKinney and Pickens believe that the close games this season have prepared the team well for postseason. The Eagles fell short by two points against Trenton High School in mid-December and pulled out a five-point victory over the St. John Lutheran Saints last week, showing the team’s improvement in close games over the course of the season. In the game against St. John Lutheran, the Eagles found themselves in a 20-point hole in the second half and were able to fight their way back into the game thanks to a stellar 27-point performance from McKinney. 15 of McKinney’s 27 points came in the fourth quarter, propelling the Eagles to victory. Both Pickens and McKinney agreed that the win over the Saints was the most memorable part of the season so far. “That was just a great team win and helped build momentum for us as a team,” McKinney commented.
McKinney’s showing in Ocala sparked interest from Florida Prep Hoops which named him to the North Central Florida Breakdown of Best Shooters and Guards. “He was reliable from outside and is officially the most underrated kid I’ve watched this year,” Florida Prep Hoops scout Jordan Davidsen wrote. Davidsen also warned opposing coaches of McKinney when playing Oak Hall.
Pickens sees the Eagles’ tough schedule and the team’s ability to keep every game close as great preparation for postseason. “That gives us a good bit of confidence that we can play with and possibly beat every team we play,” Pickens stated. The Eagles face tough district competition in St. Joseph’s Academy, Interlachen High School, Father Lopez Catholic, P.K. Yonge, and Trinity Catholic. The 3A District 3 tournament is being hosted by the top seed in the district determined by district records at the end of the regular season. The dates of the boys basketball district tournament are Feb. 9, 10, and 12.
Team camaraderie has worked to the Eagles advantage this season under the leadership of Pickens and McKinney. The most rewarding part of being a leader on the team for Pickens is seeing his teammates develop together. “It’s very rewarding leading the younger guys on our team and helping all my teammates improve their game,” McKinney stated. “I’ve been in those young guys shoes before and I had senior leaders that paved the way for me and I hope to do the same with the younger guys on our team now,” McKinney added.