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Windermere Observer Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 2 years ago

SIDELINE SCENE: Panthers’ remarkable run of 20-win seasons finally comes to end

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Dr. Phillips boys basketball's streak of 20-win seasons, which spanned 22 years and two different head coaches, came to an end Feb. 11.
by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

Something really special came to an end Feb. 11 in Sarasota.

That the Dr. Phillips boys basketball team fell in the regional quarterfinals 69-44 to Sarasota’s Riverview Rams, the No. 1 team in the state in Class 8A, wasn’t entirely surprising. 

Steven Ryzewski

The loss, though, left Dr. Phillips with a final record of 19-9 on the year — just one win short of prolonging the program’s incredible streak of seasons with at least 20 victories. That streak, which began with a 27-7 record in the 1993-94 campaign, spanned 22 seasons.

Here’s some perspective on that. Before this season, the last time the Panthers had won fewer than 20 games in a season, President Bill Clinton was still in his first term in office. None of the players on this year’s team was born yet. Anthony Long wasn’t even the coach yet — the first nine seasons of the run were coached by Theo McWhite.

Also in that period, Dr. Phillips made the Final Four six times. The Panthers have finished as state runner-up three times. Also, don’t forget the 11 district championships and 12 Metro titles.

This is a streak that included players such as Chris Warren, RaShawn “Pookie” Powell and Shane Larkin — among several other standout players.

I don’t find it to be a sad occasion as much as just an opportunity to reflect on just how good — and how consistent — this program has been. It’s a level of consistency that has to be traced back to a dedicated coaching staff and an administration that supports it.

This season marked the end of the streak, but it doesn’t feel like much of an end, otherwise. During the 2015-16 season, the Panthers overcame preseason transfers of high-profile players and two senior departures mid-season to make the state playoffs for an eighth consecutive season.

I’d bet on them winning 20 games next season — and perhaps the one after.

The silver lining is that underclassmen such as Daniel Love, Jaquan Burton and Nick Smith, under the tutelage of lone senior Justin Tucker, got tons of valuable playing experience and — suddenly — Dr. Phillips should be a contender for at least the next two seasons.

I’d bet on them winning 20 games next season — and perhaps the one after.

And, the way I see it, if over the course of 24 or 25 seasons you post one 19-win campaign, that’s no reason to hang your head low.

Most programs would kill for that sort of success.

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