Tag Archives: playoffs

A New Chapter in the NBA

By Ryan McKinney

On Nov. 3, the National Basketball Association (NBA) introduced a new era of excitement with a highly anticipated in-season tournament, offering a fresh twist to the traditional basketball calendar. This groundbreaking addition aims to enhance fan engagement, bring new dynamics to the regular season, and add a unique sense to the sport that has captured the hearts of millions.

Tournament Format

The NBA in-season tournament will feature all 30 teams competing for glory in an exciting “World Cup” style format. All 67 games of the “In-Season Tournament” (yes, that’s its actual name) will count toward the regular-season standings except the tournament championship. The tournament will take place between the beginning of November and the middle of December, providing a mid-season spectacle for fans to savor. All teams have been randomly drawn into groups of five within their conference based on won-loss records from the 2022-23 regular season. Games taking place from Nov. 3 continuing until Tuesday, Nov. 28 will be listed as “Group Play” games on specific tournament nights. Eight teams will advance to the “Knockout Rounds”, meaning the team with the best record in group play games in each of the six groups with an addition of two “wild cards”. The knockout rounds will be single-elimination games in the quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship taking place in early December. The qualifying teams will compete for a prize pool and the new In-Season Tournament trophy, the NBA Cup.


For the 2023-24 season, the new tournament brings a prize pool that is allocated to the players and teams that participate in the knockout rounds and accolade for those that make a potential deep run. At the conclusion, the NBA will name the most valuable player of the competition and the All-Tournament Team. Selection will be based on the players’ performance in both group play and the knockout rounds.

The introduction of the in-season tournament promises to inject an extra layer of competition into the regular season. Teams will not only compete for the usual division and conference standings but also for the glory and rewards associated with the tournament. This added incentive will lead to intense competition and memorable moments throughout the season, making every game count. Along with the tournament the league is also designing new courts for all teams correlating to its yearly city-edition jerseys.

Playoff Predictions

As the regular season progresses and the tournament’s structure takes shape, experts and fans are making their predictions for the upcoming playoffs. Here’s a glimpse of my early forecasts for the NBA playoff top seeding:

Eastern Conference

  1. Boston Celtics: The Boston Celtics is my favorite to win the east due to their dual threat in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Their scoring ability always gives them a chance to take them far.
  2. Milwaukee Bucks: The Milwaukee Bucks are expected to continue their strong performances into this upcoming season. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s unmatched skills, along with the new addition of Damian Lillard, will keep them in the title contention for the next few years.
  3. Miami Heat: The Miami Heat have struggled early on this season, but always pick up momentum after the All- Star break. With Jimmy Butler leading the way, they are poised to have yet another playoff run and might just be the dark horse of the tournament like previous years.
  4. Atlanta Hawks: The Atlanta Hawks contain a lot of firepower behind a Top 3 backcourt in guards Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. Young’s playmaking abilities and the team’s young talent make them a potential contender for this year finals.  

Western Conference

  1. Los Angeles Lakers: The Los Angeles Lakers, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are perennial contenders. They are predicted to secure the top seed in the Western Conference and will be a force to be reckoned with in the tournament and the playoffs.
  2. Denver Nuggets: The Denver Nuggets, led by the two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, can always be seen as a threat as they are the reigning champions. Their success does depend on Jokic’s brilliance and the support of their role players.
  3. Golden State Warriors: The Warriors, led by veteran Stephen Curry, are always seen as a force in the postseason due to their clutch attributes as a team. They have the potential to surprise everyone and make a deep playoff run.
  4. Los Angeles Clippers: The Los Angeles Clippers seek to have a successful season with the addition of guard James Harden. This forms a starting roster filled with pure talent including scorers like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

This sums up my predictions for the top playoff seeds in the East and West. With the inaugural NBA in-season tournament fans can’t wait to see how this new format adds excitement to an already thrilling sport.  

Eagles Begin Play for Postseason Glory

By Tori Kitchens

Swimming and Diving
Oak Hall’s swimming and diving team took to the pool yesterday for its district meet. Seven boys and 14-16 girls participated at the district competition. The athletes competed against Community Christian, Florida High, Maclay, North Bay Haven, St. Francis, PK Yonge, Rocky Bayou Christian, and Pensacola Catholic. Last season, the girls achieved a third-place finish in the district, while the boys placed fifth.

Having several goals this season, head coach Quinn Bohan’s main goal is not to win a title, but for each athlete to grow and have fun. “The mission of our team is to help our athletes fulfill their athletic goals while here at Oak Hall,” he emphasized. 

Oak Hall’s volleyball team began its postseason run on Tuesday at Countryside Christian. As the district’s No. 1 seed, Oak Hall received a bye Monday night and defeated No. 4 seed Countryside Christian. Having beaten Countryside Christian in three sets at their gym, Coach Perry McDonald is confident in his team’s success. “Our hope is that we can win our District Championship because, if we do, we’re going to be able to come through and bring our fans at Oak Hall some really fun playoff volleyball,” he said. 

The volleyball team has not been able to bring home a district title since 2010. The Lady Eagles have a tough task at hand, as most members don’t have much experience in postseason play. “This team is poised to do what no other team in the past probably eight to 10 years has done,” McDonald shared. 

McDonald has high hopes for his team. Besides bringing Oak Hall another district championship, his main goal is to give the girls of the team experience in the post season to grow from in the upcoming years. “We’re very lucky to have three phenomenal seniors – Cate Cannon, Sophia Aulisio, and Emi Scorpio – that are really doing a sensational job on the court guiding this team and helping them be successful,” McDonald noted. 

Both the boys and girls golf teams at Oak Hall have its district tournament at Ocala National Golf Club on Oct. 25 at 9 a.m. This tournament is an all-day 18-hole match that will be hosted by Trenton High School. 

Oak Hall’s boys’ golf team is hoping to place in the top three in order to advance to the regional tournament. The competitors include St. Francis, Eastside, and Trenton to name a few. Boys’ captains Lucas Katz (OHS class of 2024) and Tanmay Chandra (OHS class of 2025) both have a similar goal in mind: a back-to-back district win for the first time since 2011. “We have the best win record, I believe, in close to 15 years, so it’s looking good,” Katz shared.

On the girls’ side, the Lady Eagles must place as one of the top two teams to qualify for regionals, which shouldn’t be difficult considering the team is looking to win its third district championship in a row. Although members of the team have been strong at the district level, none of the athletes have advanced to regional competition before. Senior co-captain Amanda Malnik is hoping the team plays its best in the postseason. “We need to work on our short game and putting in particular as a team,” Malnik noted. 

Cross Country
Oak Hall’s cross country programs are hoping to bring home another district win at Alligator Lake in Lake City on Oct. 26. The girls are set to begin competition at 9 a.m. and the boys at 9:40 a.m. All teams are eligible to compete with up to 10 runners at districts. The top eight teams will qualify to the regional competition. “If we do our own jobs, we worry about ourselves, it’ll take care of itself,” Coach Edwin McTureous said. 

McTureous is confident that he will see multiple Oak Hall runners place in the top 10 in both the girls’ and boys’ competitions. Senior Lauren Jones and junior Caden Montini are currently the top runners for Oak Hall, but McTureous expects that many other of the teams’ runners have a shot at an individual district title. “If one [opponent] has an off-day, I think we have several boys that [have] a chance to win,” McTureous noted. 

After a tough season plagued by injuries, Oak Hall’s football program is getting prepared to begin its playoff run on Oct. 29. Out of 24 teams, the Sunshine State Athletic Conference (SSAC) ranks the top eight teams to continue into the playoffs. “We are guaranteed two games, so if for some reason we lost the first round, we would still be able to play in a consolation game the next week, but then that would be it,” Head Coach RJ Fuhr explained. 

Most of the Eagles’ injured players are set to return before the playoffs. Senior quarterback Georgi El-Semarani re-injured his ankle in his first game back during the regular season. Although El-Semarani does not have a set return date, he is hoping to play in the final regular season game against St. Francis. “[I am] aiming to try and be back fully by playoffs,” he said. Junior Eliah Bacchus is the only player that will not return for the playoffs, as he injured his femur. 

The team’s experience at the State Championship game last year at Bryant Stadium in Lakeland gave the Eagles a beneficial experience that is being utilized during the postseason this year.

Accolades for Coach, Players On Football Team

By Shailey Klein

The Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) recently released its all-district team selections, “Coach of the Year” awards, and “Player of the Year” awards. Saying Oak Hall football left its mark in North Central Florida would be an understatement. Head Football Coach R.J. Fuhr received the “Class 2A District 7 Coach of the Year” award, while sophomore Cole Gonzales received the “Class 2A District 7 Player of the Year” award. The sophomore quarterback and captain of the Oak Hall football team was the only underclassman to be recognized as Player of the Year for all classifications. In addition, senior captain Zhai Smith was selected to the All-District team at cornerback. 

When asked about his initial reaction to receiving the “Coach of the Year” award, Fuhr stated that he felt very honored, but was more excited for his players receiving recognition. “Cole being named ‘2A Player of the Year’, the only underclassman named, and then Zhai [being selected after having] worked so hard, I was just glad for those guys,” Fuhr stated. 

Going into the season, Fuhr mentioned that he was not exactly sure how the team would pan out. With a very underclassmen-heavy team, Fuhr stated “[I] didn’t know what to expect with only four seniors.” During the spring game, senior Julian Scott was injured, leaving the team with five offensive linemen. This caused Fuhr to bring up three eighth graders to the varsity team. 

Head football coach RJ Fuhr congratulates one of his players.

The season opener was a tough game against a very talented Hawthorne team who advanced to the state semifinals last season. Although Oak Hall lost, showing they could play with Hawthorne “was a good confidence booster for our team,” Fuhr mentioned.

Fuhr added that one of the biggest games of growth for the team was the Hilliard game. “We went to Hilliard and we were down by three scores and came back in the 4th quarter,” Fuhr stated. The week after, the team was down four starters in a tough loss to Aucilla Christian. “We faced adversity and then came back and won three in a row,” Fuhr stated proudly. 

On Nov. 8, No. 3 seed Oak Hall hosted No. 6 seed St. Francis Catholic in the regional quarterfinal game. This was only the third Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) football game Oak Hall has competed in. Prior to the game, Fuhr told his team “we could literally make history Friday night.” And history, they made. Oak Hall came out firing from all cylinders, overpowering the Wolves in a 47-0 effort. Fuhr stated that his biggest concern was that the team wouldn’t take St. Francis lightly, adding that “it’s hard to beat a team twice in a season.”

With the victory over St. Francis, the team now heads south to Winter Garden, Fla. to take on the No. 2 seed, Foundation Academy Lions, this Friday. Fuhr mentioned that they have already started looking at film of them and their senior standout quarterback. Fuhr added that their goal is to get as deep as they can into the playoffs, and Foundation Academy is simply the next challenge they will face.

Sophomore quarterback Cole Gonzales and Head Coach RJ Fuhr.

Despite all of the ups and downs of the season, Fuhr stated that one of the best parts has been “seeing how we can come together as a team and as a family”. He added that they’ve become a really tight-knit group and he’s really proud of how hard the team has worked.