You can’t assume it’s going to happen. You can’t expect it’s going to happen. You can’t hope it’s going to happen.
Those were the words PSA Boys Elite coach John Cavaliere colorfully spoke to his team at halftime of the Power 5 AA Conference Tournament final on March 5. He had just watched his Mustangs play with less than the necessary urgency for 15 minutes and fall behind by double digits before cutting the deficit to six at the break thanks to five minutes of focused intensity.
“Don’t assume the trophy is coming,” Cavaliere told his assembled team. “Go get it. You have to make it happen. You have to do it.”
And do it they did.
The Mustangs rallied from their first-half deficit to take the lead about three minutes into the second half and never trailed again on their way to a 75-71 win over Redemption Christian Academy for the tournament championship.
“This feels great,” said Thierry Lokrou, who scored a team-leading 26 points. “It’s been a very, very, very long season. We put in a lot of work, a lot of trust into each other. We came together throughout the season, became closer. I feel like that’s the reason we won today.”
Yhali Steinhauer and Travis Upchurch both scored 13 points, while Jalen Claude – whose game-winner in the final seconds of Saturday’s semis sent PSA into the final – added 11 points. Pop Wadang chipped in with 10 points.
“This feels great,” said Claude, whose return to the team in January led to PSA winning 19 of its last 22 games. “We lost last year, never got a chance to play n the final. So to do that this year and win it, yeah, it’s a great feeling.”
“I don’t even know what I’m feeling,” Anthony O’Brien said. “It’s like a dream feeling. We put in a lot of work for this…I love these guys. It’s just a great feeling.”
Steinhauer hit a big 3-pointer followed by a steal and layup by Lokrou to put PSA in front, 48-45, with about three minutes gone by in the second half. The lead never got big enough where it felt comfortable, but PSA had enough to keep a very game RCA at bay.
“Our mentality changed in the second half,” O’Brien said. “I think we came in lackadaisical, like we didn’t think it would be that difficult. But we changed our mindset in the second half, and defensively we just picked it up.”
Said Cavaliere: “I’m so, so proud of them. They realized it what it was going to take, even if it took a little yelling at them. But when they locked in, they just proved they were the best team. When we were locked in, we were tough. I’m proud of them. They deserve it. It’s all for them, that’s why we work so hard.”