BY ZACH COHEN
A new year comes with new games for the Cypress Bay boys varsity basketball team, starting with a 65-52 victory against Somerset Academy on Jan. 5. Four days later, the team defeated the South Plantation Paladins at home 56-36. Head Coach Jason Looky was proud of the team’s consistent effort in those wins, though he said some improvements can be made.
“We still aren’t disciplined in our defense, but the effort has been really good.” Looky said, “The guys are sharing the ball really well.”
A day after the win against South Plantation, the Lightning faced the Hollywood HillsSpartans in the team’s first back-to-back games of the new year. Hollywood Hills was 4-5 and considered a “down” team by Looky, thus paving the way for additional players to see more playing time.
“It was a great game for us because we got to play a lot of guys,” Looky said. “We were able to bring guys in and out of the game and stay fresh.”
Cypress Bay won 65-37 and had six more days to rest until they faced the Everglades Gators. Unlike the previous two games, the Lightning fell behind early in the first half. The team also committed twelve turnovers in that time span, which more than doubles their average of nine turnovers a game.
“We already eclipsed our full amount of turnovers in the first half,” Looky said. “We weren’t playing very sharp.”
The second half was a different story for the Lightning as they took the lead behind improved shooting en route to a 65-54 victory. Sophomore guard Brandon Garcia saw his shots fall more in the final two quarters and ended the game with 17 points. However, Looky credited the comeback victory to the team’s changed mindset following halftime.
“They decided they wanted to be more engaged in the game and they didwhat they were supposed to do,” Looky said.
On Jan. 18, just two days after beating Everglades, Cypress Bay evened the season series with its rivals, the Western Wildcats, with a 64-47 win. While he admitted the defense was not perfect, Looky was still impressed with the team’s improvements.
“We were much more aggressive in this game, both offensively and defensively,” Looky said. “We did take some chances that we probably weren’t supposed to, but a lot of time and effort overcomes mistakes and I thought we were more disciplined in our efforts.”
Junior Isiah Kirby finished the game with 23 points, but the highlight of the night came late in the second quarter when Kirby threw down a dunk over Western forward Jakai Linwood.
“I was just angry; I was just mad,” Kirby said after the game.
It was not Kirby’s first “poster” dunk of the season, and it would notbe his last, as he slammed down another dunk the following night in the Lightning’s 59-57 victory against Pembroke Pines Charter. Freshman Tristan Goldstein cited the team’s chemistry and mindset as the key reason for the team’s sixth-straight victory.
“The key was literally us all playing together,” Goldstein said. “Everyone did their job on both sides of the court and as long as we work together, we’re going to win every single time.”
Cypress Bay traveled to Piper High on Jan. 23 for the team’s final district game. It was a close game, but in the end, the Lightning came out victorious 51-44. In addition, the Bay clinched first place in the districts, and returning player and senior John Truske was happy at the chance to win another district title.
“It feels great,” Truske said. “Now, all we have to do is beat [South Plantation] to make regionals.”
The victory over Piper also extended Cypress Bay’s win streak to eight games, although it ended when the team lost to Miramar High on Jan. 25 by a score of 66-48. After the game, Coach Looky spoke to the team about being accountable for their actions.
“Don’t help others if they won’t help themselves,” Looky said. Looky also added that the remaining two games on the schedule should be used as preparation for the playoffs.
The second-to-last game of the regular season was a 66-57 victory for the Lightning against the South Broward Bulldogs on Jan. 29. It was also senior night, so Looky made sure to give the seniors some more playing time.
“We tried to make sure they got to play in the first quarter where there’s meaningful minutes,” Looky said. “I thought some guys did well. They all played to their potential.”
Five days later, the Lightning closed out its regular season with a 52-47 win over the Coconut Creek Cougars. The Bay finished the regular season with 16 wins and 7 losses, while also earning an invitation to the Big Eight Tournament, a tournament featuring the top eight teams in Broward County.
“It was one of the things we set on our list of things that we wanted to do,” Looky said. “It’s great to get back there with this team.”
The Lightning fell to the Blanche Ely Tigers 68-63 in the opening round of the Big Eight Tournament, and while some spectators complained about controversial calls from the referees. Looky told the team after the game that they played hard and if they continued to play like that, they could go far in the district playoffs.