J.L. Mann boys basketball coach Jeff Craft knew this season would be difficult because he had a young group of players with little experience.
The challenges for the veteran coach were compounded by injuries.
“I have had two starters out since Christmas,” Craft said before the Patriots’ most recent difficult defeat, a 62-59 home loss to Woodmont on Jan. 31.
“We may get one back next week and one (the) next week. Injuries are a part of the game. We are not very deep, but like I told them, you have to keep playing.”
Craft said the Patriots — 6-12, including 1-8 in Region 1-AAAA — have been in most of their games and could have won many of them.
“With a few exceptions, we have been in every game,” Craft said. “We have lost five or six games this year by one or two points. A lot of games that could have gone either way just haven’t gone our way.”
One game that did go Mann’s way was its 61-58 win at Hillcrest on Jan. 24, a victory achieved when sophomore guard Jack Zemp made a 3-point basket at the buzzer.
“They are the best team in our league, and to go down there and beat them hopefully will boost our confidence,” Craft said. “Hopefully, things will start going our way.”
Craft said his team has not given up and is still working to make the playoffs.
“It would be easy for them to say it wasn’t meant to be and quit,” Craft said. “They come to practice every day. Hopefully that win (at Hillcrest) will give them confidence.”
Senior point guard Marcus Alexander is the team leader, Craft said.
“Marcus has been with me for four years,” Craft said. “He is as good a leader as we have had around here.”
Junior Jonathan Kinard has stepped up in scoring and led the Patriots with 23 points in the win at Hillcrest.