The University School Preppers had big plans entering the new year. Despite suffering a defeat against Richmond Heights in the final game of 2020 the Preppers were ready to turn things up and start gaining momentum. Disaster struck when the team had to go into quarantine after suffering a positive COVID-19 test within the program.
The Preppers missed a slew of games but thankfully got back on the court once winter break officially ended. They had about two weeks of practice before starting up game action again. It looked like things were trending upwards after University School defeated Fairview on Jan 27.
The team was slated to host Lakeside for its next game but got word that the Lakeside program had to shut down. The team frantically tried to find a new opponent to replace the Lakeside game and luckily the Copley Indians were available. Unfortunately the Preppers didn’t have as much luck on Jan. 29 as they struggled on both ends of the floor and suffered a 69-56 defeat against Copley last Friday evening in Hunting Valley.
University School did not look sharp early on. The Indians had a plan and it was to put the ball in sophomore wing Khoi Thurman’s hands. Thurman quickly figured out that the Preppers couldn’t stop him from driving into the paint and took full advantage by staking the Indians to an 18-10 lead after the first quarter.
Despite being a very good three-point shooting team University School’s shooting was off all night. The Indians were giving the Preppers all sorts of open space to shoot the ball but they could not knock down a bucket. Copley went ahead by ten points midway through the second quarter but the Preppers showed some fight by cutting it to just an eight-point game at halftime.
Things fell off the rails in the third quarter. University School held Thurman in check in the second period but the 6-foot-0 sophomore caught fire as he went right back into the heart of the paint to score eight points. Senior guard Nick Dente and junior big man Caleb Laurich helped form a three-pronged offense that University School simply had no answer for as the trio combined for 21 points to launch the Indians out to a 53-33 lead at the end of the quarter.
“We didn’t have much resistance and they were just getting to the basket at will,” University School senior guard Faris Dahman said. “We knew they were the best shooting team but we let them dictate what we were going to do on the offensive end and defensive end.”
It was just one of those games where really nothing was going right for University School. The Preppers knew they were facing a very talented opponent in the Indians and had to take advantage of every opportunity. University School forced 21 Copley turnovers but couldn’t convert.
“We have really good players. We have really high expectations for our team and today was just a day where it didn’t seem we were playing well on offense. It didn’t seem like we were playing well on defense. We weren’t playing our best. We’re better than we played tonight,” said head coach Sean McDonnell.
The Preppers will try to put this game behind them but it wasn’t the type of the game that they expected to play. University School looked more like itself with a win on Jan. 30 on the road against Lakewood. Despite all the challenges this season University School has set some lofty goals as they are returning the same starting line-up they had last season. The team believes it is capable of making a postseason run after falling to Mentor in the district semifinals last year.
“We just need to get back to having fun,” said Preppers’ senior center Ricky Radtke, “I feel like there are a lot of high expectations this year and everyone’s taking it a little more seriously. Having a little more fun will really help the morale of the whole team.”
Dahman and sophomore Nelson Johnson, Jr. each scored 13 points to lead the Preppers and senior Cam Smith and Radtke tied for second with eight points. Thurman was Copley’s leading scorer with 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Dente chipped in 15 points and three rebounds. University School will try to keep things moving in the right direction as they face off against Uniontown Lake down in Canton this Friday night then go against neighborhood rival Hawken on the road on Saturday afternoon.