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West Orange Times & Observer Friday, Mar. 2, 2018 6 months ago

Undefeated Ocoee Middle basketball team ready for county tournament

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Ocoee Middle School’s boys basketball team went from a 1-6 record in 2017 to a 7-0 record in 2018. The Cardinals will host Bridgewater in the first round of the OCPS Middle School Basketball Playoffs March 6.
by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

The Ocoee Middle School boys basketball team has put together quite the turnaround story, improving from a 1-6 record last season to an undefeated regular season in 2018.

Entering the Orange County Public Schools Middle School Basketball Playoffs next week, the Cardinals are 7-0.

“The biggest reason is we have a lot of returning players, and the returning players all understand the system,” head coach Wallace Phillips said.

Phillips is in his third season coaching the boys team at Ocoee and said the team has leaned into a philosophy that compensates for its weakness — a lack of size.

“Size is our biggest disadvantage — we’re one of the smallest teams in our division,” Phillips said. “Our calling card is shooting. We try our best to put up as many shots as we can. … We try to give ourselves an advantage mathematically, shooting (3-pointers).”

The Cardinals are undefeated entering Tuesday’s playoff game against Bridgewater Middle, but that does not mean they have been dominant. Phillips said most of the wins have been by a single-digit margin, adding that one win — against Piedmont Lakes — came by one point in quadruple overtime.

“It was early in the season, and they showed a willingness to keep executing, their ability to not give up and also a stick-with-it-ness,” Phillips said, recalling the thrilling — and exhausting — victory.

Looking forward, players for Ocoee know they will have to mind the small details in the postseason and that their margin for victory is not large. Still, the team’s confidence is high, and already the team knows it has accomplished something in an undefeated regular season that will be remembered at the school.

“The biggest thing they’re excited about is to be up on the wall (in the gym) as an undefeated cluster champion,” Phillips said. “They were super excited.”

Steven Ryzewski is the Senior Sports Editor for ObserverPreps.com, as well as all three of Observer Media Group's print publications in Orange County. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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