Woodstock pg 5 3-19-20

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Heading home.
That’s what many of the Woodstock Academy Gold prep basketball players were thinking about last week.
The prep basketball season came to a close after a loss to Scotland Campus March 10 in the second round of the National Prep Championship Tournament.
Many of the players on both the Gold and Blue program headed home last weekend.
“That’s how this cookie crumbles. They are moving into a space where they’re taking their next turns. The ongoing joke in our program is that the door is always open unless it’s closed. If it’s closed, it means we are helping out one of your brothers, not that we don’t want you in. They all know my phone number. They all know they can call me any time,” said Woodstock Academy prep basketball coach Jacque Rivera.
For Rivera, the prep players have been his extended family since the end of August.
In March, they all go their separate ways.
“Where does the time go?” Rivera said with a shake of his head.
Rivera laughs when he admits that winter generally passes him by because he spends it on the basketball court or with a basketball player(s) somewhere.
Now, the relationships that were forged will, hopefully, continue.
Just in a different way.
“Just because someone is not physically in your presence, doesn’t mean that you stop caring for them. We all have distant family. I look forward to staying in touch. I think the important thing for me and the staff is to stay in touch with them. The young people are going to go out and live their lives, as they should. The relationship is only bonded if we, as the adults, continue that relationship.  They will get busy, they will struggle with time management and it’s us, as adults, that have to continue to make sure these relationships are healthy,” Rivera said.
The season, as a whole, was one the Centaurs took pride in.
They finished with a 28-9 record.
More importantly, they all matured both on and off the basketball court.
“I was happy. I think I’ve improved in a lot of ways. I got a lot more knowledge from coach and I think I’m in a good spot heading to college,” said Joe Moon who will head to Bryant University to continue his playing days.
Dyondre Dominguez will head off to UMass.
“The season, as a whole, was great. We worked hard since August 24th I believe. We worked hard every day so it was a long journey for us. However hard you work is how far you will make it in life and I thought we worked hard throughout the year,” Dominguez said.
Rivera termed the season “fair to good.”
“It could have been better, but the moment when the season was over and those young men in the locker room have their faces in their hands is that moment why you coach. They all say, ‘Thank you.’ They got it. They realize this is bigger than basketball,” Rivera said.
On the court last Tuesday, the Centaurs delivered mixed results in the National Prep Championship.
On Tuesday morning, Woodstock Academy held off a team from Florida that had beaten them on a buzzer-beater earlier in the season.
The Centaurs downed DME Academy, 70-65, in a first-round game.
“I felt we had to bounce back because we took a pretty painful loss to (Springfield) Commonwealth in the (Power 5) Conference championship (Sunday),” Moon said. “I just came out with great intensity on defense. I felt like I had to help my team somewhere. I drove and tried to create passing lanes and get them some open shots.”
It was a back-and-forth contest throughout.
“(DME) shot the ball well. I thought we contested them but they just made big shots. It was survive-and-advance,” Rivera said.
The Centaurs scored the first five points of the game but DME found its legs after the long trip north to make their first championship tournament appearance.
It fought back to an 18-11 advantage thanks in part to the shooting of twins, Kris and Keegan Murray (24 points in the game), who combined for 18 of DME’s 21 first-half points including four 3-pointers.
The Centaurs rallied to tie thanks to three free throws and a pair of baskets and went ahead on a Ronnie DeGray (17 points) basket with 3:53 to play.
Woodstock Academy was up, 29-21, at the half.
The Gold team briefly went up by 10 when Moon (12 points) hit the opening, and his only basket, of the second half.
DME rallied and briefly took the lead, 44-43, with 8:43 to play.
But the free throw line came to the Centaurs’ rescue.
DeGray hit a pair from the charity stripe to spark a 10-2 run that put the Gold squad up, 53-46 with 4:26 left.
The Centaurs made 11-of-12 from the free throw line in the remaining minutes.
DeGray was 7-for-7, Moon 6-for-6 from the line in the second half.
“I think every coach has a different philosophy for free throw shooting. We rely on our kids to shoot free throws on their own. People say you shoot free throws in practice, but you can’t really simulate (game) situations,” Rivera said.
Unfortunately for the Centaurs, they didn’t have a lot of time to savor the victory.
They went back to a hotel room for a couple of hours and then had to get ready to play another game that evening.
Scotland Campus was ready for them and scored an 87-74 victory.
The opponent’s strategy was simple: Put the Centaurs in a hole early.
Make it more of a mental than physical struggle.
It accomplished that.
“Scotland Campus preyed on the fact that we had a game earlier. I think it knew that if it could jump out early, get our guys playing from behind, it probably had a better chance of winning,” Rivera said.
Darlinstone Dunbar (15 points), who has committed to play for Iowa State, hit two putbacks and Abou Ousmane had two inside-the-paint buckets early and Scotland Campus scored the first 10 points of the game.
Dominguez (10 points) broke the string with a basket, only to see Scotland Campus score 10 more unanswered points including a pair of 3-pointers from Norance Berry, as it took a 20-2 advantage.
“It was a long break in between games, no excuses. We came out a little short and had to try and fight our way back,” Dominguez said.
It was an uphill struggle.
“We came out sluggish,” Moon said. “It’s hard to come back from a start like that especially at the level we’re playing at.”
Indeed, the 10-point barrier was hard to penetrate.
The Centaurs did so on two occasions.
They got it back to nine points, 35-26, with 4:08 left in the first half, on a Chad Venning field goal.
Scotland Campus scored 11 of the final 14 points in the half to own the 46-29 halftime advantage.
A Dominguez 3-pointer with 4:04 to play also cut the deficit to nine, 74-65.
“We kept fighting. Coach Rivera was telling us not to give up,” Dominguez said.
Scotland Campus again responded by scoring seven of the next nine points.
“I don’t think playing a game earlier was a factor. I thought we showed the fight to be successful but you can’t start any game against any opponent down 20-2. You don’t want to start with a deficit at any point in life, in basketball, doesn’t matter. It was the biggest piece to the whole thing,” Rivera said.
DeGray, who has played two years in a Centaurs uniform, finished as the team-high scorer with 19 points while Cairo McCrory added 15.
For Dominguez, Moon and others, it’s time for a little breather.
Dominguez makes the short trek back to Providence.
“I’m looking forward to start at UMass. I head up there on May 16 for summer session,” Dominguez said. “It will be a good break but I will still be in the gym, working on my game a little bit.”
Moon will be headed home to Detroit before coming back east to start at Bryant University in May.
“I need the break but I will still be working out and working on my craft so I can come into Bryant and help the team as much as I can,” Moon said.
For Rivera, the old just left.
The new has already begun.
“It’s a very strange feeling. It’s the next right turn in their lives and I’m excited for what the next group will bring,” Rivera said.
When that next group will be formulated, may depend on what the immediate future has in store as the coronavirus pandemic impacts every piece of what is known as normal.
“Inquiries are in. Applications are up. We’re sitting tight right now because recruiting is on hold because of this thing. It’s got everyone sitting back,” Rivera said. “Is there going to be spring ball? To get back out on the road is a different aspect of the job and I’m looking forward to that piece. I’m sure I will run into former players out on the road. It’s another piece of the job that is rewarding.”
Marc Allard
Director of Sports Information
The Woodstock Academy