Flying High: O'Neal Gets Homecoming Win
The O’Neal School boys’ basketball team gave its packed gym plenty to cheer about on Homecoming Night Friday.
The school’s Student Activities Center was filled to the rafters as the Falcons topped Fayetteville Academy 51-41. Sophomore Jacob Talbert and senior Charlie Johnson, who have been providing the bulk of the O’Neal offense for most of the season, again provided the firepower. Talbert led all scorers with 22 points, while Johnson had 15.
The Falcons (5-7) dug themselves out of an early deficit to take the lead — which it never relinquished — on a Talbert three-pointer late in the first quarter, sparking a 16-0 run. The visiting Eagles slowly whittled the O’Neal advantage down to three in the third quarter, but the home team responded with another run to put the game out of reach.
Head coach David Graves thought his team’s defense was the key factor in securing the victory.
“We played really solidly on the defensive end,” he said. “We talked, we communicated. We helped each other out. Our rotations were good. It really disrupted what they wanted to do, and it got us going on the offensive end as well.”
Fayetteville Academy established an early 11-6 lead after a three from Jordan Brock and a drive by Douglas Cameron. But O’Neal quickly erased the deficit with long balls from Logan Butler and Talbert which gave it an 12-11 edge after the first period.
Johnson followed his own miss to start things off in the next quarter. Talbert found his stroke, scoring six more points in the frame. Conversely, the Eagles went on a nearly eight-minute scoring drought before Brock hit a three with 3:05 to go in the half. O’Neal then had a cold spell of its own and was unable to blow the game open. It took a seven point lead into the half.
Talbert dropped nine more points in the third quarter, showing his versatility by banging inside and hitting another trey. He admitted after the game that he was pumped up by the huge crowd. The school’s rowdy blue-clad “superfans” once again turned out in droves to give its team a true homecourt advantage. Even some alums could be spotted amongst the current students.
“It was pretty exciting,” Talbert said. “I haven’t seen the gym this packed in a while, and my nerves were just going all over the place, and once the ball got tipped it was on.
“I was just feeling good tonight. My shots were going down. I was passing good, my defense was there. My team stepped up and they helped me.”
Despite Talbert’s strong play, the Eagles refused to lay down and kept chipping away at the O’Neal lead. A three-pointer from John Cunningham brought his team to within three at 35-32 with about two minutes to go in the period. But with 12 seconds left in the quarter, Talbert stepped up and hit another bomb to give the Falcons a six-point cushion going into the final stanza.
Johnson took over from there. He hit a baseline jumper to start the quarter and then scored on a pass from point guard John Roger Moore to put the lead back in double digits. He had a team-high eight points in the closing period.
It was an especially gratifying for the senior to get a ‘W’ at homecoming.
“It’s amazing,” he said, “because this is the first time I’ve ever played varsity, so coming out with all of these people and knowing they’re supporting us and being able to give them what they want, it feels great.”
The Falcon lead ballooned to as much as 13 before Fayetteville Academy free throws produced the final score.
Like his players, Graves was appreciative of the support of the O’Neal fans at the game.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “Obviously, this is an important event for the O’Neal community. I was really happy that we could get a win for them. The team really worked hard. They knew the importance of this game, and I think it showed in their effort tonight.”
Earlier in the night, the O’Neal girls were bested by the Lady Eagles 64-35, dropping them to 1-11 on the season. Maggie Jackson had a big night, scoring 21 points. Megan McGugan led Fayetteville Academy with 21.
Because O’Neal doesn’t have a football team, its homecoming is traditionally staged during basketball season. After the boys’ game, senior Amelia Schirmer was crowned the 2011 homecoming queen. The daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Charles Schirmer, she was escorted by senior Dylan Gehle.
During halftime of the boys’ game, headmaster Alan Barr announced that the atrium of the Student Activities Center will be named for the Gutschmit family, one of the school’s founding families.
Contact John Krahnert III at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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