In spite of the perfect storm for a setback in his first year leading the program, Knights coach John "Sarge" Siers led the program to the state playoffs for the first time since 2007.
OCOEE However you spin it, John “Sarge” Siers took on a tall task when he took over the Ocoee Knights boys basketball program.
For starters, the Knights had just had their best season in years in 2014-15 — one that saw the program set a record for wins in a season (21) — and the two leading scorers from that campaign (Grant Riller and Vaughn McCall), along with the coach who took the program from five wins to more than 20 in four years, had departed.
Even after a promising win early in the season over former coach Rob Gordon and his Evans Trojans (74-72, Nov. 18), the Knights devolved into a bit of a free fall to end 2015 and lost 10 of 12 games between Nov. 20 and Dec. 30.
It would have been plenty understandable for Siers and his staff to begin thinking about next season, focusing on playing time for younger players to develop.
Instead, he doubled down on his belief that — when his player played “hard and together” — his boys could be pretty darn good.
Ocoee won eight of its final 11 games to close the season and did something last year’s team — for all its strengths — could not, advancing to the state playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Even in a season-ending defeat Feb. 11 to Melbourne in the playoffs, the No. 3 team in the state in Class 7A, a reinvigorated Knights team took the host Bulldogs down to the wire in a 44-41 thriller.
By finishing the season on such a promising note, and with several key players such as Eisley Porter and Elie Cadet returning, Siers effectively did something rather unlikely — he managed to build upon the success of the 2014-15 campaign.
Though the 2015-16 campaign did involve a midseason step backward, and the win-total was a little lower than a year ago, those things were offset by Ocoee’s entrance into the playoffs.
The Knights’ loss ended basketball season for the coverage area of the West Orange Times & Observer, a bit of a bummer, but the silver-lining might be in the foundation Ocoee laid this winter.