On March 3rd, 2019 the St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes basketball team cut down the nets in Petersburg, Virginia after winning the VISAA State Championship. This was the end of a long successful season for the Saints that included many championships. The team completed all of their goals, winning the Sleepy Thompson tournament, the IAC Championship and the VISAA State Championship, and finished with a record of 27-3 in what was almost a perfect season. This included five wins over cross-town rival Episcopal to top off the championship-filled season for the Saints.
Fast forward eight months, and the team is back in the gym preparing for another season. The team will look a little different this year after losing six seniors, but the expectations do not change.
Head Coach Mike Jones said “We had a special group of seniors last year. However, this year's team will be able to establish its own identity. They have been working extremely hard to accomplish the goals set before them.”
Junior point guard Eric Gordan, who was the youngest player on the team last year, said “we have a lot of different leaders this year” and talked about how the seniors have been stepping into that leadership role that was left from last year.
The current seniors on the team have been working for this moment for a long time. Senior point guard Xavier Lipscomb says “we’re really just stepping up” and mentions how the team has eight returning players and the leadership piece should translate over to them. After having a season like last year, people’s expectations may be higher but Lipscomb says “The expectations are still the same, we have to go in and work hard every day and improve so we can win championships.” Lipscomb used the word “championships” plural because the Saints will have numerous opportunities to win a wide variety of tournaments as well as the conference and state championships.
But winning championships is not the only goal for Coach Jones and his team. “One of our team goals is to be the hardest playing and best-conditioned team every time we step on the court. The other stuff will take care of itself.” This mindset carries over to the players as well. Eric says they are “just keeping it one day at a time” when regards to practicing and preparing for the upcoming season.
First up was the Sleepy Thompson Tournament. The Saints repeated their perfect tournament, winning all of their games by a combined sixty-two points. The Saints defeated St. Anne's-Belfield, Catholic High School and Hargrave Military Academy on their way to winning their second straight tournament title. Senior Jared Cross was also named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
But winning Sleepy Thompson is just the beginning of a long season ahead for the Saints in what should be a special one. Coach Jones and the team like to use the phrase "The Separation is in the Preparation" and though the team may look a little different and the expectations might be higher, this does not change how the team will prepare. They will continue to work hard and compete everyday to achieve all of the goals they have set in front of them.