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Tornado Warning: Vikings Drench Wellington

The theme Friday night was “Make it Rain.” And as soon as the floodgates opened, the shots kept raining down. In the second half, the Vikings broke open a tight game and turned it into a rout, defeating Wellington 57-38 in their season opener. Seniors Zach Ratcliff (9 pts. in the third) and Jacob Mikalov (8 pts. in the fourth) led the second half surge, as the Vikings really clamped down and made it hard for Wellington to score. Academy dove all over the court for loose balls and outmuscled its opponents to a 52-36 rebounding edge. In the presence of a loud and proud student section, the Vikings delivered. It was a scrappy, dominating performance on opening night for the 2011-2012 edition of the Academy varsity basketball team.

This is just the beginning of what could be a very memorable season. Last year, Academy finished 17-6 overall and placed third in its league at 10-4. Academy made a strong postseason run, losing in district finals–in double overtime no less–to Heath 62-57. This year’s team returns with nine players who saw significant minutes last year in varsity action: Daniel Aronowitz’13, Ben Bechtel’12, Stephen Casey’12, Tim Eldridge’12, Jared Harris’13, Jacob Mikalov’12, Aakaash Paladugu’13, and Kyle Turner’13. The experience is there, but so is the leadership. Eldridge, Mikalov, and Ratcliff are the co-captains this year, with both Eldrige and Ratcliff having served as captains last year.

“We’ve never returned with this much experience. And by finishing as we did last year and learning several valuable and important lessons along the way, we feel confident coming into this season. We want to enjoy greater successes than last year,” states head coach Chris Jones (P’23, P’18). “Among our 9 returning players are four of our starters from last year, and three of those players (Aronowitz, Eldridge, and Ratcliff) were recognized as state, district, and/or league-level performers. We’re hoping to make noise in the league and the district, and if we can accomplish that, we’ll let the bigger dreams take care of themselves.”

This is a team mature and experienced enough to make a very deep postseason run, perhaps even as far or farther than the 07-08 team, which reached the regional final.

Coach Jones adds, “We’ve got good size at each position and one of the biggest front lines in the district with Ratcliff and Mikalov. We shoot the ball well from the perimeter. We have good speed and penetrate well with Eldridge and Harris at the point guard positions.” If you were wondering, Ratcliff stands at 6’4”, and Mikalov towers at 6’8.” That is truly a scary front line to deal with. The players’ abilities showed when they really picked up the scoring in the second half.

“I’m just excited to keep pressing forward with this team. It’s a great group of young men. They love being around one another and love to see one another succeed,” said Jones after the game. “ It wasn’t the prettiest of games for us. But we’ll learn to harness our emotions better as the season goes on. And as we continue to grow and function as one, we’ll be fine. We’ve got a smart, talented, motivated group. They want to succeed and know how to get it done.”

The season is still young, but this team is in good position to achieve its goals. The pieces are in place for something special to happen. If the shots keep raining down, perhaps they’ll get the chance to have streamers rain down on them as they cut down the nets.

Written by Andy Li’13. Photos by Elliot Nick’14.


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