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For Leto, winning is a long shot

A loss to Bloomingdale. A loss to Plant City. A loss to Brandon. A loss to King. A loss to . . .

It is not whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game.

. . . Plant. A loss to Hillsborough. A loss to Gaither. A loss to Robinson. A loss to . . .

Winning isn't everything.

. . . Jefferson. A loss to Tampa Bay Vo-Tech. A loss to Chamberlain. A loss to East Bay.

Remember Dunkirk?

"They are learning how to keep working through adversity," said Mike Baker, coach of the Leto High School boys basketball team, which so far this season has lost every game, for an 0-16 record.

"Granted, it would be nice to win a couple here and there to keep the ball rolling in a positive way for us."

As the Leto losing streak has grown, the players have found fewer fans in the stands and more jokes in the halls. It's hard for the players to stay optimistic as they record one loss after another.

But they said they won't stop trying.

"When you get beat pretty bad, by about 20 or 30 points . . . the snowball just seems to get bigger game by game," Baker said. "It is kind of hard to get the players to come around for the next game or practice. But for the most part, for these guys, it has been pretty good."

The Leto varsity squad has five seniors, three juniors and a sophomore.

Although the underclassmen have next season to look forward to, the seniors don't like the fact, as starters Jon Bratton and Sean Crosby put it, that this season has taught them "how to lose."

"You have to take it one day at a time," said Crosby, 17. "We can't let all these games that we lost sit on our shoulders. We have to keep a smile and think about positive things."

Student attendance at home games has decreased throughout the season, and the players have had to deal with jokes about their lack of success.

"There is constant kidding, but I don't let it bother me," said senior Homer Patrick, 17.

Junior Andrew Fellios acknowledged that the jokes hurt but that some of them are funny in a morbid way.

"Other students say "You guys and the Tampa Bay Bucs should get together and play,' " said Fellios, 16. "And we are not asked when our next game is, but rather, when is our next loss."

The Leto players said that no matter how lopsided the losses, they have no intention of giving up.

"This season has taught me not to quit, to keep coming to practice, to keep playing no matter how bad you get beat or how bad things are going," Fellios said.

Also suffering through the winless season are the players' parents, many of whom come to home games and follow the team to away games.

The parents said they try to put the losses in perspective.

"His father explains that a lot of teams win and a lot of teams lose," said Marvene Patrick, Homer Patrick's mother. "We are happy that Homer got a chance to play. He had surgery on his back June 10, and we are happy that the Lord kept him around."

"It has been a very difficult experience to watch my son and the entire team go through this losing streak," said Andrew Fellios Sr. "Both my wife and I found that it is best to leave him alone for a while after a game, at least until the next day. Then we discuss the positives of what he and the team did right."

Baker, in his first year as Leto coach, has dismissed several players from the team for academic and disciplinary reasons. Baker, who teaches social studies, said players must realize that academics and good citizenship will get them further in life than basketball.

"It is not all wins and losses. We are trying to help the kids better themselves," Baker said.

After today's game at Gaither, Leto has two more regular season games. There might not be any wins in store, but the players said they are still a team.

Said sophomore Gerard Gowins, 15, "We stick together."