With solid support from the JV and freshman teams, the already-loaded varsity team’s future bodes well for the Lely basketball program.
Combined, the teams surpassed coach Ryan Bowen’s goal of winning 50 games. Their total, 51 wins, 21 losses. It also marked the first year in Bowen’s three years that the team mounted a winning season at 17-12.
Bowen calls the success a process that began when he and staff started and was elevated at the end of his second year.
“We all knew that it (success) wouldn’t happen over night,” he said. “Individually, they had to realize that the guy next to you is more important than you are and that we were demanding because we cared about them.”
Bowen said at the end of the 2010-2011 season the kids at all team levels bought in. They carried it through summer workouts and competition, then through the fall before the season started.
A major emphasis was defense.
“We established that defense was a must to win, along with a solid motion offense,” Bowen said. Although there were some rough spots in the season, Bowen said he never doubted the process, or the team.
He said the turning point came in the Christmas break when the Trojans really focused and came together. Lely marched to seven straight victories after the break.
Bowen said in beating Immokalee in the district playoffs showed “resiliency and team chemistry. They were unselfish, they knew their role and they executed. We only led for 10 seconds in the game.” The last 10 seconds.
In giving out top team awards, Bowen started with the Defensive Player of the Year, saying, “This is what Lely basketball is all about.”
For the second straight year the award went to junior Nick Ronquette. Over the season he led the team with 70 steals, and second in deflections with 46, while usually playing the opposition’s best guard.
Offensive Player of the Year went to sophomore Wes Lancaster. He led the team in 3-point baskets with 40, led in two-point shooting percentage and was second in assists.
Player of the Year was no surprise. At times sophomore Nick Talko carried the team. He was the second best rebounder, led in free throw shooting percentage, led the team in overall scoring at 16.3 points a game and Bowen said he was one of the team’s better defenders.
The Trojan Award went to senior Nesly Olbrice. Bowen said the award is given to a player of high character, who works hard and is a role model of what the program is about.
Olbrice didn’t make the team a year ago. This year he accounted for two game-winning shots.
“He came out this year and proved how good a basketball player and person he was,” Bowen said.
Game balls went to seniors Brodie McDonald, Jean Jean-Charles, Zac Smith and Olbrice.
Earning varsity letters were freshman Zach Gober, sophomores Jared Jackson, Will Bott, Guerby Williamceau and Cleafford Milien. Talko, Lancaster and Karbiel Dirogene earned letters for a second time.
Juniors Omar Gonzalez and Toby McGrath earned letters while Ronquette received a letter for the third time. Seniors Smith, Jean-Charles and McDonald earned letters for a second time. Olbrice earned his first letter.
The JV team was recognized for its 20-2 season. Bowen called Fritz Jacques the best JV coach in Collier County.
Following the same philosophy, Jacques spoke of defense and family.
“That’s the Lely culture,” he said. “They learned to believe in each other and the coaches in them.”
Roger Kindinger, who has been the freshman coach for longer than he could remember, said he was proud of the team and Lely basketball.
He spoke of how his team started with a 2-4 mark, with losses of more than 20 points in some games.
“They could have quit, but they kept working,” he said. “If you keep working hard and give an honest effort you reap the rewards. From that point the team went 12-3.”
The team became the second freshman team in a row to beat Barron Collier and swept Naples and Golden Gate, all three good programs.
About the only thing not spoken of was the second-place regional trophy that sat on the awards table. It may be what hangs around in future practices, workouts and games.
Defense, family and winning might just make next year’s trophy a first-place award.