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East Bay boys basketball team ensures first winning season since 1973

GIBSONTON — The Watergate scandal played out on television, newly signed Tampa Bay Ray Johnny Damon was born and the average cost of gas settled at 40 cents per gallon.

The year was 1973, and it's also the last time the East Bay boy's basketball team finished a season above .500.

Until this season.

East Bay has accomplished something that hasn't occurred at the school in nearly four decades. The Indians, regardless of what happens the rest of the year, have secured a winning season.

"It's exciting to be a part of history," senior Velson Sinord said. "We were tired of losing. You don't get any recognition when you lose."

East Bay, which opened in 1959, enters tonight's regular-season finale against Freedom with a 13-8 (as of press time) record. The Indians will recognize the accomplishment tonight at home against the Patriots. Second-year coach Billy Teeden said he started to see glimpses of the current team's potential last season.

"We were pretty competitive, and there were a lot of close games," he said. "In the off-season, these guys were in the gym and the weight room."

The history of mediocrity hasn't been lost on the players.

"(A winning season) was something we came together and talked about as a team," Sinord said. "Around school people have been talking about East Bay basketball and want to come out now."

Sinord is one of eight seniors on the roster, and the Indians have gotten a boost from leading-scorer Dario Duque (12.7 points per game), a junior transfer from Kansas. "Dario is a long, very athletic kid who has a high basketball IQ," Teeden said. "But the key to our team is how balanced we are."

Justin Green (10.6) and Sinord (10.6) also are averaging double digits in points while Mike Oggero (5.7) leads the team in rebounds, and Dillion Hunter paces the Indians with 2.7 assists per game.

Despite their success, it is a tough road for the Indians to reach the playoffs. Durant and Newsome are the class of 5A-8, and Plant City and Riverview are no slouches.

"It's a tough district," Teeden said. "I don't think anybody wants to see anybody come tournament time."

Class 6A-District 8 (at Wharton)

Outlook: It will be difficult for any East County teams to reach the postseason in this district with Wharton and Plant clearly the front-runners to advance. Bloomingdale's Ryan Bethoney has quietly put together a nice season, averaging a team-high 16 points per game and adding 5.1 rebounds per game.

5A-8 (at Plant City)

Outlook: This shapes up as a very difficult district with No. 1 seed Durant and No. 2 Newsome the front-runners. Pick almost any category on the Cougars, and the name Andre Nation tops the list. Nation, a 6-foot-4 senior, paces Durant in points (21.6), rebounds (7.1), steals (2.3) and blocks (2.8). Durant finished one game better than the Wolves in the final district standings, but the teams split a pair of games during the season. Newsome counters with a 6-foot-4 senior of its own in Trent Mackey, who's averaging 20.8 points per game. But East Bay and Plant City each have a legitimate chance to reach the finals as well, making this one of the deepest districts in the County.

4A-9 (at Blake)

Outlook: Blake, Jesuit and Robinson are the top three seeds in this district with Lennard and Strawberry Crest at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. The Longhorns' Caelen Watts (11.4), Brian Phillips (13.6) and Fred Porter (13.1) average in double digits.

1A-8 (at Bradenton Christian)

Outlook: Bradenton Christian, Citrus Park Christian and the Crusaders will battle for the top spot in the district. Garrett Saunders is having a fantastic year for Seffner Christian, leading the Crusaders in points (18.7) and rebounds (6.3).

— Brandon Wright

East Bay boys basketball team ensures first winning season since 1973 02/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 3, 2011 3:30am]
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