OCOEE So far as being a varsity basketball player is concerned, Ocoee's James Hogan had to grow up fast Wednesday night.
After playing for the junior varsity team at Ocoee last season, the senior guard for the Knights found himself in a make-or-break situation as he stepped to the free throw line with 9.8 seconds remaining and Ocoee holding a three-point lead over the visiting Evans Trojans.
Fueled partly by wanting to score a big win for his teammates — and partly by not wanting to run in practice — Hogan made both free throws and helped the Knights (2-0) to a 74-72 victory Nov. 18.
"I told them at halftime, 'you got punched in the mouth and you didn't respond ... they were tougher than you. (In the second half) we were tough and we challenged."
John "Sarge" Siers
Coach, Ocoee Knights
"In practice, we have to make free throws to not run anymore — and in my head, I'm thinking, 'we need this as a team — I want to deliver for my teammates,'" Hogan said.
Senior Damerit Brown led the way for Ocoee scoring 16 points.
The contest was the home opener for the Knights and the debut of new coach John "Sarge" Siers on his new home floor.
Ocoee trailed by 10 points at halftime after being outscored in the second quarter, 27-16. The Knights responded, though, by outscoring the Trojans in the third quarter 25-16 — cutting Evans' lead to just one point to begin the fourth quarter.
"I told them at halftime, 'you got punched in the mouth and you didn't respond ... they were tougher than you,'" Siers said. "(In the second half) we were tough and we challenged."
Ocoee took the lead for the first time since the first quarter with around six minutes to play on a basket by Hogan. Later, big baskets by Brown, Elie Cadet and Azim Hutson helped to set the stage for Hogan's big free throws.
The victory spoiled the return of the Knights' coach from a season ago, Rob Gordon, who took the Evans job during the offseason. Gordon, who led Ocoee to new heights in four years at the helm, is an alum of the school and played for the Trojans during his own varsity career.
In the end, it was a big win for an Ocoee team with many new faces playing big roles and Siers hopes his squad can build upon it.
"The biggest thing that I'm trying to get them to understand is that if they do what they're asked, they're pretty good," Siers said.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].