Turning The Page

sja bball previewST. JOHNSBURY- Nobody is perfect. The Hilltoppers of St. Johnsbury Academy's boys basketball team found that out the hard way last season when they came eight points short of reaching perfection when they lost the state championship game to Rice Memorial High School. With a new season right around the corner, redemption is the name of the game at St. Johnsbury Academy.

 23-0 is where the Hilltoppers stood before they took on Rice Memorial last year in the Vermont State Championship game. After a long and hard fought basketball game it was Rice that stood on top with the final score of 48-40 putting one untimely blemish on an almost perfect record for St. Johnsbury.

The past is the past and the HIlltoppers, lead by Coach Tom O'Shea, are now preparing themselves for the upcoming 2013-2014 season. "It's a new season, a new journey. Last season is over with. We had a great season last year but this is a new team. I think they will write their own story this year," O'Shea said.

The team is returning four starters from last years championship run. Despite the fact that the team graduated five seniors from last year's squad O'Shea doesn't think that it will be to big a problem. "I expect us certaintly to be one of the best teams in the state. We have four returning starters that have all gotten better," said O'Shea.

Athletic Director and Assitant Coach David McGinn thinks that the loss of the seniors from a year ago could in fact have an impact on the current team. "Any coach who has been in the business long enough shy of returning an entire team, you replace one player you have changed the chemistry of the team," McGinn said.

There is such a thing in sports that is called "The Championship Hangover" where a team that won the championship the year before does not play as well due to the over confidence. In the Hilltoppers case there is no "Championship Hangover" necessarily because there was no championship won, but there is still the hangover of success and the pressure to repeat. So, do the Hilltoppers feel any pressure to try and repeat such a magical season? "Not at all," said O'Shea. "I didn't think we were going to go undefeated last year. That was a bit of a surprise so that is not even an issue in terms of worrying about that."

"These kids are pretty amazing young men. I don't think it looms or clouds. It is hard to look at a 23-1 season and think there was anything wrong with it other than a little disspointment at the end," McGinn said.

The Hilltoppers have put themselves in a unique situation before the season has even began. Having the success that they did last year only means that, "We're going to have a bit of a target on our back. I think that is a good think in a lot of ways because what will happen is we will get everybody's best shot when they play us because that will be a big game for them," said O'Shea.

No matter the case Coach O'Shea says his expectations for the upcoming season are, "No different than last year. I hope we play our best basketball come playoff time. I think we'll have a very interesting regular season because we will that target on our back. It didn't happen last year right from the start, maybe halfway through the year but this year it will be form right off the bat."

"It would not be unrealistic to think that people assume that we are going to be at the front and every night people are going to want to bring their best game," said McGinn.

The Hilltoppers are looking ahead, and turning the page on last year. They kick off their goal of returning to the state championship when they open the regular season on Wednesday, December, 18th at 6:45pm at home versus Essex High School. For a complete look at the Hilltoppers schedule check out their team page.