Basketball heads into playoffs united

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Basketball heads into playoffs united

Boys basketball team huddles during game.

Boys basketball team huddles during game.

Hailey James

Boys basketball team huddles during game.

Hailey James

Hailey James

Boys basketball team huddles during game.

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Transitioning a program under a new head coach is no easy feat. Losing nine seniors during that transition is even harder, especially when those spots are being filled by fairly young players.

The team attributes their success to Coach Sam Duane, the championship-winning coach from Corona del Sol.

“We’re a young team so it’s a learning process for both of us — us adapting to a new coaching staff, him adapting to new players,” said senior Rajhan Billingsley.

The Pumas clawed their way through the regular season, with six wins by ten points or more, and four losses by five points or less.

“I know we had our struggles early on in the season, but I think we’re finally starting to buy into what he’s trying to sell, and I think we’ll start rolling once playoffs come around,” said Billingsley.

With a decisive game against rival Basha on Feb. 7, the Pumas, who have held a strong middle ranking throughout the season, begin play-in games on Feb. 10.

With eleven out of the top twenty teams coming in with opponent ratings lower than Perry’s, the Pumas’ current seed is not wholly indicative of their abilities.

Following a win on Feb. 10, Perry — and the other five teams who win during the play-ins — would be re-ranked in a bracket of 16 teams that start games on Feb. 15.

“I think that we’re a big enough school that in every sport we should compete for state championships,” said Principal Dan Serrano. “It’s going to take him [Duane] time to get the program where he wants it.”

Though the first season under new coaching is never any easy one, the Pumas have found a way to come together through it all, a result of seeing the age divide as an asset rather than a liability.

“Even though it’s his first time and he doesn’t know any of us, he did a really good job of getting the team to work well together,” said senior Adam Wold.

With nearly half of the varsity roster graduating in May, the true test will be the unity of the young players as they take on new roles. However, underclassmen talent like Evan Skeoch and D’shayne James combined with Duane’s coaching leave no doubt the future of Puma basketball is bright.

“I just hope that our program just continues to grow, that our players continue to buy into what he’s trying to sell, and hopefully more success comes,” said Billingsley.