The Skyline boys’ basketball team couldn’t escape the past of last year’s incredible success. With banners hanging on the wall of the gym of Brandon Wade and Jack Ammerman, last year’s team was always within a glance.
And there is nothing wrong with honoring those two four-year players and the team that went 23-1 last year and reached a Division 1 Regional final. In fact, the Eagles returned several key players of that great team so it made for any easy transition into this year.
But nothing was easy for the Eagles this year who not only returned some strong players but also had the bullseye on their uniforms – teams wanted to beat the SEC Red Division champs and District champs. It was a game all teams circled on their schedule.
“Through some ups and downs, player injuries and sickness, it was overall a successful season after not starting as strong as we wanted,” said Skyline Coach Mike Lovelace. “We had a very difficult schedule again.”
Lovelace and the Eagles don’t shy away from tough competition which is why they seem to always be playing their best when it matters the most – the end of the season. Despite playing against some of the top teams in the state, Skyline finished 15-8 with a District Championship and tied for second in the tough SEC Red Division.
Ryan Wade stepped out of the shadows of his brother, Brandon, and looked quite natural and comfortable in the spotlight. Ryan, who heading to Holy Cross in the fall, was one of the top players in the state. The senior averaged 24 points per game and went over 1,000 career points (1,021).
Wade, like his teammates, saved his best for the end of the season. He had a fantastic District championship game against Brighton igniting the Eagles to a huge 30-point lead through three quarters.
DeSean Munson had a great start to the season and then made an excellent comeback after losing 15 pounds in January due to a very tough illness. Kabir Bergin had an unfortunate injury that has put him out for a projected 5-6 months after having to surgically repair a dislocated kneecap from the team’s first Huron game in January.
Robert Malcolm, Davion Pipkins, Jaylin Cooper and Spencer Morgan all improved a ton throughout the second half of the season to make the Eagles into a great team at the end of the year when it mattered most.
Throughout the season Skyline also got solid contributions from sophomores Chris Cayton and Jack Williams.
“Jack made large improvements and became a solid player for us down the stretch to hit three point shots and play solid defense,” Lovelace said. “Chris has always given our team great energy and great defensive effort. He is a very talented offensive player that will be highly counted on next year to step up into a much bigger leadership role.”
Lovelace was proud of his seniors, for not only their playing ability but also their leadership.
“The large senior class really came through the last three to four weeks of the season to finish strong and have our locker room believing we had a Breslin Center bound team the way we were playing defensively and offensively,” he said.
Unfortunately, the Eagles faced Lincoln in a Regional semifinal game and lost 58-55 to the eventual state champion.
In that game, Skyline led 25-24 at halftime. Lincoln, the host team, came out in the third quarter and was able to start strong making shots and feeling the energy of the gym to build a seven point lead. Skyline responded though with stingy defense and good shot selection and rebounding to take a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
With a minute left, Lincoln cut the deficit to two points. Skyline was unable to convert on two separate trips to the free-throw line in the last minute and Lincoln found itself with the ball and about 13 seconds left in a tie game.
After a timeout, Lincoln inbounded the ball to Emoni Bates from midcourt into the backcourt and he brought the ball up and came off a high screen going left and made a shot from about 5 feet behind the line to give the Railsplitters the lead.
Skyline’s half-court shot at the buzzer missed.
“The gym was an amazing atmosphere,” Lovelace said. “This high school basketball event was absolutely amazing. Such a great experience for everyone involved.”
While the Eagles will lose many key seniors, Skyline has always had the ability to reload and compete for league and District titles. Next year should be no different.
The 2019-2020 season will feature five returning varsity players: Kabir Bergin (F), Chris Cayton (G), Jack Williams (F), Ashay Arora (G) and Dinalli DeLoach (C). These players will be joined by some of the JV players who finished 14-5 and potentially players from Skyline’s 19-0 freshmen team.
“These players are ready to be counted on and are very excited to be leading the next season of Skyline basketball,” Lovelace said. “We will have a ton of competition for our top 8-9 varsity spots in the rotation with the number of quality current ninth and tenth graders we have. The returning players know they have a lot of work to do to compete for their minutes for next season. It will be a very fun and exciting off season to get ready for next year.”