Boys Varsity Basketball to Face Winter Park in District Championship

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The gym will be packed Friday, Feb. 7 with ORHS basketball faithful as the Pioneers seek to continue their district championship reign. The Pioneers (18-8) take on Winter Park (23-3) at 7 p.m. for the district championship. The team will also recognize the 1989 state runner up team during the game. Admission is $6 for adults. The first 100 students get into the game for free. After that, students can get into the game for $3 with a valid student ID.

The Pioneers advanced to the district finals after narrowly avoiding an upset in double overtime against Timber Creek, edging past them 70-68. Win or lose, both teams will advance to the regional tournament, though the winner can look forward to hosting the first game of that round.

“I’m expecting for them to go out there and play well and play to their full capability,” Jackson said. “Even though it’s a big game and there’s a lot of implications behind it, we treat the game like it’s another regular season game.”

Senior Marquel Willis, who has been with the teams for three seasons, expects big things from his teammates tonight.

“As long as we play hard and play together, we should come out with a W no matter what,” senior Marquel Willis said. “We just gotta make sure we are playing together as a team.”

Senior Dillon Victor said the team has tried to shut out Central Florida naysayers who predicted the Pioneers would not have the same success from previous years due to altering the team chemistry with new, high-profile players.

“We didn’t really listen to that,” Victor said. “We came together as a team. We’ve just been focused on getting the wins and victories.”

Those new players added in the off-season, juniors Antonio Blakeney and Alex Owens, are ranked No. 16 and No. 43 respectively in the ESPN national recruiting database of the top 60 basketball players in the Class of 2015. Both have been instrumental in key, pivotal moments during the season. It was a basket by Owens, with an assist from Blakeney, that sealed the Pioneers win against Timber Creek Wednesday.

Previously, the 2011-2012 varsity team made it all the way to the state finals before losing to Blanche Ely 78-46. In the 2012-2013 season, many thought the Pioneers would make another run all the way to the state championship game, but fans and players were disappointed when the team lost in the regional tournament to Bartow 75-58.

Regional playoffs begin Thursday, Feb. 13 at a location to be determined pending the outcome of the game.