A paperwork snafu has led to Freedom High School's boys basketball team forfeiting its first eight games this season, including last week's championship victory in the Stonebarger Tournament.
After Monday night's exciting come-from-behind victory over Encinal High, Freedom Coach Drew Torres said his team still considers itself to be 7-3, based on the outcome of its first 10 games. Officially, though, the Falcons are 2-8, due to the ineligibility of one of their star players in the first eight games, Nick Blount, who won the Stonebarger MVP trophy.
The 6-foot-2-inch junior guard and forward transferred to Freedom this year, but the school's athletic department failed to file the necessary paperwork with the league for the transfer. That paperwork has now been filed and Blount has been reinstated, although he missed Monday night's home game due to a knee injury in practice.
For the first half of the game, it looked like the Falcons could have used Blount's deadly shooting accuracy, especially from three-point range, because it was pretty much all Jets in the first two quarters.
Playing a jet-like, run-and-gun street game, Encinal was able to score off of numerous fast breaks for easy layups. Meanwhile, Freedom committed turnovers as it worked the ball around the perimeter looking for an open man. The result was a 31-23 lead at the half for Encinal, which was looking like it was engineering a potential blowout.
But the game quickly turned around in the third quarter after Torres put some of his better players in the game, whom he had sat out in the first half for disciplinary reasons. The difference was most noticeable on defense, as the Falcons shut down Encinal's inside game, limiting the Jets to a mere five points in the third quarter.
But the Falcons were also on fire offensively, scoring 22 points in the quarter, nearly as many as they scored in the entire first half, giving them a nine-point lead at the end of the quarter.
The teams played evenly in a fourth quarter marred by overzealous referees handing down several technicals to both teams, arousing the wrath of many in the crowd. Freedom won by 11 points, 65-54.
The high scorer for Freedom was 5-foot-6-inch guard Daniel Pereira, who scored nine of his 20 points from the line with a one-handed free-throw shot, which one would think would make the shot doubly difficult. The other standout was Andrew Garner, who scored 19 and hauled down nine rebounds.
It was pretty ugly, said Coach Torres. They came out with way more energy than us. We talked about that at halftime. I felt like in the third quarter we did have more energy. So far this year, third quarters have been our best quarters.
Regarding the game forfeitures, Torres said, In our locker room we are 7-3 because we won those games it was just a paper error.
Blount could have played Monday night but Torres decided to err on the side of caution, ensuring his star would be ready for league action beginning with Pittsburg on Jan. 2. Despite the initial setback, the Falcons look primed to make a strong run for the league playoffs.
As far as NCS goes, we have to have a winning record against Division 1 teams, said Torres. Preseason is what it is. Our main focus is league.
Freedom Athletic Director Steve Amaro said he would be returning the Stonebarger trophy to Liberty High School, which is now the winner of the school's tournament, having lost to Freedom in the championship game. No decision has been made yet on whether the MVP trophy will be awarded to another player. Amaro added that precautions have been put in place to prevent future paperwork snafus.