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Cotey: Glimmer of hope for Osceola as it ends 53-game skid

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Wed. January 6, 2010 | John C. Cotey | Email

ST. PETERSBURG — The opponent was Dunedin.
The score was 57-33.
The Streak was over.
After 53 consecutive losses spanning more than two seasons, the Osceola boys basketball team won a game.
But naturally, for a program that fell off the map years ago, it ended this long funk of futility in a consolation round of a first-year tournament during winter break.
By the time the Warriors returned to school Monday, their little slice of history had fluttered into oblivion.
“Didn’t even make the morning announcements at school,” junior Lucio Lopez said.
I only noticed because I’ve watched from afar and often wondered: why so bad, for so long?
New schools win faster. Smaller schools win faster. Even bad schools, those with a tradition of losing, don’t do it 53 times in a row, which might be a state record. Last year, Umatilla snapped a 45-game losing streak, but the Warriors eat streaks like that for breakfast.
And before the streak, it was a sad string of seasons with two and three wins, maybe four and in a good year five.
I’ve asked coaches dozens of times over the years, why? High school sports are filled with peaks and valleys, but where was Osceola’s peak, even if that was just one lousy .500 season?
They had answers, but none of them conclusive.
Bad area for athletes? Bad coaching? Bad administration? Bad luck?
Good grief.
“It’s a difficult challenge,” said first-year coach Jeremy Crane, a former Dixie Hollins point guard who by day is working his way through St. Pete College at Publix. “I think maybe having a consistent coach here every year might help.”
Crane, 22, is the fifth coach in five seasons at Osceola, and he wasn’t even hired until October. Until then, it was junior varsity coach Freeman Hinson running the team during the summer and conditioning.
Hinson, whose team has a winning record, kept the Warriors from falling apart, Crane says.
Crane also says this is his dream job. The chance to build something from nothing. Everyone who takes this job says that, though, and Crane knows it.
“I’m trying to convince the parents,” he says. “I’m slowly starting to build their trust.”
Jeremy Schiller, now at Eckerd, had Osceola turned in the right direction and playing competitively in 2005-06, but left after one season. No one has come close to matching that.
So I watched, and waited, and stopped watching, and quit wondering.
Then, it happened.
Osceola 57, Dunedin 33.
“I thought it was like 30 losses …maybe 40,” Lopez said.
It was 53.
“Wow.”
Junior Marquise Moore says I wasn’t the only one who forgot all about the Osceola boys team.
Everyone has.
“I try to get people out here,” he said. “But they come out and stop playing. It’s a struggle. It’s tough.”
Players who could help decide not to or they transfer to better basketball schools. It’s been happening forever.
Crane thinks things are changing. Freeman Hinson Jr. is one reason. The freshman leads the JV team in scoring and has recently been tearing it up after getting promoted to varsity.
Last year, he wanted to enroll at Largo or St. Petersburg, but his dad being the JV coach and all, he ended up a reluctant Warrior.
His friends razzed him.
Now? He has helped the JV to wins over Pinellas Park, Boca Ciega, Gibbs and Countryside.
“I’m really liking that I came here,” he said. “This is where I want to be.”
It’s a start. Osceola isn’t going to win a district title anytime soon. Heck, they could go on another long losing streak. Since winning Dec. 29, they have been beaten twice, including a disappointing Tuesday night loss to previously winless Dixie Hollins.
But there is some talent on the Warriors roster, young guys with potential like Hinson and Austin Floyd and Jake Ward.
There’s not enough of them to win every night, but maybe there’s just enough so they don’t have to lose every night either.
Maybe, one of these days, they’ll even make the morning announcements.

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