Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

First state title extra special for Oldsmar Christian basketball coach

Oldsmar Christian’s boys basketball team brought the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association championship trophy home and even let Eddie Preston, the school’s pastor, hold it for a photo.

Sunshine Independent Athletic Association

Oldsmar Christian’s boys basketball team brought the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association championship trophy home and even let Eddie Preston, the school’s pastor, hold it for a photo.

Oldsmar Christian's John Bianchi figured he would have a lengthy apprenticeship as an assistant with the boys basketball program before getting promoted. That timetable was accelerated in April when Jordan Fair left as coach to become a graduate assistant at Louisville.

Bianchi was thrust into a new role, taking over the basketball team at his alma mater. There was pressure. Tons of it. The Eagles had become a nationally-ranked independent program that landed some of the best prospects in the country.

It was up to Bianchi to keep Oldsmar Christian in title contention.

He did more than that.

Last week, Bianchi finished his first season as coach by guiding the Eagles to their first state title with a 48-47 victory over Sarasota Victory Rock Prep in the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association championship game.

"That feeling of winning it all is unexplainable," Bianchi said. "We had a lot of players coming back and we were blessed to have other great players who wanted to come here. We had been so close before that I knew one day we could do it."

Bianchi, 25, has been a part of those close calls. He was a senior in 2011 when Oldsmar Christian lost by two points to Jacksonville Arlington Country Day in the title game, and was an assistant last year when the Eagles lost to two-time champion Orlando West Oaks in the final.

"I was prepared going into the season because I knew what the expectations were having played and coached in championship games before," Bianchi said. "There still were some nerves taking over because you always wonder how successful you can be and whether you can keep the program at the same level.

"But at the same time I knew we were right there contending again because of the players we have."

One of the players Bianchi inherited was Elijah Weaver, a junior who is ranked fifth in the state and 42nd nationally among 2018 recruits, according to ESPN. The 6-foot-5 guard has offers from schools such as Florida, Louisville, UCLA and Villanova.

Weaver provided the leadership the Eagles needed to navigate a brutal regular-season schedule that included some of the best teams in the country.

Facing such strong competition prepared Oldsmar Christian to make a run in the state tournament.

There were plenty of close games. The Eagles beat Gainesville The Rock 57-52 in the semifinals.

Oldsmar Christian got a boost when DJ Mitchell, who missed a few games with a heart murmur, was cleared by doctors to resume playing hours before the championship game. Mitchell went on to become the MVP.

"Everything came together for us at the right time," Weaver said. "I won titles in AAU basketball and in middle school. But this was different. This was a state title, the first one at the school.

"This was big."

First state title extra special for Oldsmar Christian basketball coach 03/08/17 [Last modified: Friday, March 10, 2017 11:38am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102
  5. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.