They might have had one less victory than a year ago, but the end result was exactly the same for the Oliver Ames boys’ basketball team.
After going 15-8 in coach Don Byron’s second year in 2010-11, the Tigers finished with a record of 14-9 during the 2011-12 campaign. Those two seasons also saw OA advance to the Division 2 South semifinals in back-to-back years – something they haven’t done since the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.
Much like last year in their loss to Hopkinton in the Div. 2 South semis, the Tigers fell to the eventual Div. 2 South champs in their loss to Stoughton last week in Brockton.
With those two South sectional semifinal appearances under his belt, Byron has the program going in the right direction.
“A year ago when we were at this level [against Hopkinton] and it had been until 1999 that we had gotten to that level,” Byron said about the team’s season. “Now we’ve done it twice in a row.”
Much credit to the team’s success the last few years should be contributed to this year’s seniors, including Jeff Babbitt, Denzel Bennett, Lance Handy, John Moroney and captains Nick Bruha and Alex Tepper.
“The legacy of OA basketball, they’ve become a part of it,” Byron said about the class of 2012. “I think when they look back on it they will realize that they had a heck of a career here.”
Led by Bruha, a three-year starter and the newest member to the 1,000-point club, the senior class compiled a record of 29-17 the last two years.
Bruha was the catalyst of the six-member class of 2012, but each of his other classmates played their role.
Despite missing the majority of the last two seasons due to injury, Tepper provided leadership on and off the court, and when healthy, added a presence underneath to compliment Babbitt, who impressed many in his role as the starting center during his only varsity season.
Bennett and Moroney were important pieces to the Tiger bench the last two seasons and Handy made the most of his limited playing time as a member of the scout team.
“The seniors – we went around the room,” Byron added after the loss to Stoughton. “We had kids who played a lot, kids who played not very much, and kids who played like crazy to get us to the point where we are now.”
The legacy that the seniors have left at OA is something to cherish. And now they have handed the ball over to the underclassmen, which will look to run with it going forward.
Among notable returnees, tri-captain Andrew Reardon and guard St. Claire Ryan return from the starting five for their senior seasons. That duo will be relied upon heavily next year as the team’s primary options on offense.
Sophomore Nick Cidado, who saw increased playing time off the bench as the season progressed, will look to crack the starting five, while centers Ryan Evans and Kyle Gomes should get increased playing time with the departure of Babbitt.
While OA will need to adjust to the departing seniors next year – particularly Bruha – don’t count the Tigers out under Byron.