A long basketball season draws to a close for IR hoops
This past week, the Indian River boys’ varsity basketball team closed out what could be described as a forgettable season, but it doesn’t mean that it was all for naught. All things considered, head coach Marvin Phillips has kept his head and the team’s morale up, despite finishing the year with a winless record.
“We’ve definitely had better days,” said Phillips following the team’s 34-68 loss to Seaford last Thursday, Feb. 16, “but the guys on this team still played hard. There was still something that came out of this year. This shows me who truly wants to be part of the program.”
The Indians finished up their regular-season schedule earlier this week with a loss on the road at Mt. Pleasant, 25-79, but as Phillips explained, they still showed heart all season long, despite games not falling in their favor.
“It would have been easy for these guys to just give up,” Phillips said, “but they were still coming to practice and working hard. I’m trying to get them to understand they can shoot the ball. I have no problem with that. If you’ve got a shot, take it. I hope – even though it was a long season – that these guys continue to learn and play the game.”
Earlier this year, the team came within four points of catching Arcadia (Va.) High School and fell short of Stephen Decatur High School by only a basket.
The Indians have battled conflicting egos in years past but finally saw some reprieve from that concern this year. It seemed that a young, up-and-coming roster may not have had time to gel at the varsity level as needed, as several freshmen and sophomores nabbed their first varsity minutes in the schedule’s second half. Already working with an abbreviated lineup to begin with, some injuries and absences left Phillips piecing together an ever-changing squad on the hardwood.
Indian River has had a few struggling seasons, having only accumulated seven wins over the past three years. In the 2008-2009 season, the team went 10-12, falling just shy of .500. That is, nonetheless, their best record as of late.
The team has some ground to cover if they want to return to the success that the early 1980s saw. The Indians made their way to the state finals in 1978, but fell short to Wilmington High School by a six-point margin. They returned to the final game in the state tournament two years later and won the championship in 1980 and 1981.
“I only hope that the things they learned this year sink in for them,” Phillips said. “They’re doing alright, and they’re having fun at practices and games, and that’s what’s important. We’ve got some young guys stepping up within the next few years. I want these kids to hustle and want it. A lot of teams weren’t beating us this year because they were that much greater, but they were definitely out-hustling us. Once we’re able to get that hustling down, everything will fall into place.”
An Indian River grad himself, Phillips proclaims his passion for the school.
“I bleed green-and-gold,” he said with a smile. “I want the guys on this team to have that pride that I had. It’s tough when you come so close but can’t get those wins. The team still has some learning to do. I’d like them to see the game the way a coach sees it, too.”