The LHS Panthers can now call themselves District Champions after the boys’ basketball team won the district finals against West Port High School [WPHS].
On Friday, Feb. 11, the Panthers defeated West Port with a close score of 73-66. Previously in the season, the Panthers were defeated twice by WPHS, which made the boys want to prove themselves.
“The [atmosphere of districts] was intense,” junior and small forward Richie Rizzolo said. “[Our thoughts were] win or go home, and there was a lot of tension. All we were thinking about was winning, or it’s all over.”
Coach Eddie Buckley felt that the importance of the game had to do with more than just winning.
“Winning the district championship was important to get for Coach Nichols. The last two years have been really trying for the [boys’ basketball] program, [so Friday night was special],” said Buckley.
During last season, former boys’ basketball coach, Chris Nichols suffered from health complications and took a leave of absence. The absence of Nichols was stressful on the team.
The players wanted to make their former coach proud.
“We just wanted to win the trophy for Coach Nichols,” said Rizzolo.
“It was a special night because I got to win it with my family,” junior and power forward Robert Vega said. “This was the best year to win the [district championship] because of the group we had.”
At the beginning of the game, the Panthers were down by a few points, but instead of letting it discourage them, the Panthers fought back and played even harder. Just like the rest of his team, Vega gave it his all. He scored a total of 22 points, nine of them in the last two minutes of the game.
“The West Port game was a great team effort and an outstanding individual performance by Vega,” commented Buckley.
For Rizzolo, the end of the game and the realization that the Panthers had just won the District championship was the most exciting aspect.
“It was exciting when the game ended and everyone was rushing the court. I got tackled, and it hurt, but it was totally worth it and awesome,” said Rizzolo.
Tonight the Panthers will be playing Gainesville High School at home at 7 p.m.
Buckley is looking forward to the challenge.
“Gainesville is fourth in the state and a tough team,” said Buckley. “We’ve been working on what the competition is good at. We’re playing at home, so I like our chances.”