Episcopal coach reflects on successful hoops season

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Junior Xavier Johnson shoots in a game against Woodberry Forest. The relatively young team earned an 18-9 record this season. (Courtesy photo)
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By Missy Schrott | mschrott@alextimes.com

The Episcopal boys’ basketball team completed a successful season at the VISAA quarterfinals on Feb. 28, missing out on a spot in the semi-finals with a tough 57-56 loss to Bishop O’Connell.

Episcopal Coach Jim Fitzpatrick said he was happy with how the season played out, especially considering the team’s young talent. He said his top six players consisted of one senior, two juniors, one sophomore and two freshmen. 

Looking back on the season, which began in late November, Fitzpatrick said the team started out strong, going into winter break with a record of 12-1 before losing some of its momentum in January.

“We had a tremendous early season run but sort of the middle of January to the middle of February, we just became very inconsistent,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’d win a few, lose a few, at times look really great on the court and at times look very average to be honest with you, but the kids have worked very hard, and we’ve worked through that.”

Despite the brief bout of losses, Fitzpatrick said he considered it a successful season, finishing with an overall record of 18-9. In addition to making the VISAA state tournament quarterfinals, the team won the Sleepy Thompson Championship in December against their rival, St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School.

“If I had to look back on how our season has gone, I would say that we’d expected better results in terms of wins and losses,”Fitzpatrick said. “However, the process we’ve gone through as a team has been really positive. We’ve gotten a lot of young kids a lot of really great experience, a lot of good minutes on the floor, which hopefully bodes well for the future.”

Senior captain Zach Pfaffenberger said he enjoyed mentoring the younger players on the team.

“In the past, we’ve had teams where we’ve had nine seniors,” Pfaffenberger said. “This year, we were really young, but the guys were great and played hard, and as a captain, that’s all I wanted – for them to play hard and have fun.”

One of the team’s four graduating seniors, Pfaffenberger will go on to play college basketball at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Fitzpatrick said that while he would have a lot of returning players next year, the team would face different challenges. 

“When you have young players with talent, you can’t sneak up on anybody,” Fitzpatrick said. “As the season wears on, teams scout you. …  So next year it’ll be a little bit different for this group, because they’ll start the season with people saying, ‘Oh, there’s [some] real talent over at Episcopal,’ and from day one next year, you will get everybody’s best game.”

Pfaffenberger said his advice to the younger players was to play every game like it was their last.

“Make sure you have fun because the time flies by quick,” he said. “When I was a freshman in high school, a sophomore in high school, you don’t ever realize one day it’s going to be the last game of your senior year. Just have fun and make the best of everything.”

Correction: In the print version of this article in the Times’ March 8, 2018 issue, the Alexandria Times misstated Coach Jim Fitzpatrick’s last name, identifying him as “Jim Fitzgerald” in fifth and sixth paragraphs. The Times regrets the error.

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