Darnell Barbour posed a simple question. With his squad sitting at 0-15, the Osbourn Park coach was searching for some answers.
After a 68-54 loss to Hylton on Jan. 28 — a relapse of sorts for the Yellow Jackets after hanging tough with Battlefield, Freedom, Stonewall Jackson during a three-game stretch — Barbour asked the 12 players on his roster why they should bother showing up for practice the next day.
Responses ran the gamut, with a few players citing the need to be good role models for the Manassas school’s junior varsity and freshman teams. Leading scorer Cameron Calder was one of the first to speak up.
“When we signed up to play, our goal was to win, but we signed up to get better and improve as a unit,” the junior guard said. “And in order to get better and do that, we have to practice. It wasn’t necessarily about winning, but as we got better, the wins would occur.”
For a bunch of high school kids, the losing streak couldn’t end quickly enough.
“Going back to school the next day, you have both your friends and kids you don’t know asking if you won,” team captain Josh Simmons said. “Some say, ‘Oh we [stink],’ because we hadn’t won a game yet, so it definitely got harder with each loss.”
But just three days after the team’s roundtable, the Yellow Jackets broke through, beating Conference 8 rival Patriot, 65-53. Turnovers had killed the Yellow Jackets in defeats, but on Friday they limited themselves to just 11. Neal Davidson had 16 points and Calder nearly recorded a double-double with 8 points and nine rebounds.
They picked an opportune game to win. With only four teams qualifying for the Conference 8 tournament, Osbourn Park now has a leg up on Patriot for the final slot. The teams meet again on Feb. 10.
Making the conference tournament “was an extreme motivator for us,” Davidson said. “We knew we were definitely good enough and improving enough to be in it.”
With a victory in the books, the Yellow Jackets added a bit of levity to Saturday’s practice, playing a sort “backwards basketball” where the lineup was flipped — with center playing 1-guard spot, and shooters posting up in the paint. The team still ran the same offensive concepts, but they weren’t executed quite as gracefully.
“It was actually kinda funny to watch, because centers don’t really know what to do at the guard spot,” Simmons said.
But the Yellow Jackets quickly broke into individual drills, focused on constructing an altogether different type of streak.
“Now that we got our first win, it shows that our hard work has paid off,” Calder said. “And we’re trying to keep it going.”