Most high school prep sports coaches believe that building a successful program is a process that includes a series of steps and a multitude of variables.
Warrensville Heights High School varsity boys basketball coach Brian Swift is one of them. After seeing his team’s record improve from 3-18 during his first season at the helm to 17-10 during the 2012-13 season, the Tigers’ third-year coach and his players began this season believing the next step in the program’s rise to prominence is to contend for a state championship.
Putting that belief into words, the Tigers adopted “All or Nothing” as their mantra this winter.
“We finished last year losing in the regional final game, so this year, we want to end our season holding up the state championship trophy,” Swift said during an interview in December. “If we don’t, we’ve all agreed that our season won’t be a success.”
After trailing 34-23 at halftime of Monday’s Division III Garfield Heights district tournament game against Beachwood, the Tigers roared back and outscored the Bison 29-10 in the third quarter en route to a 70-56 victory to keep the team’s goal attainable.
Warrensville Heights has now won 10 consecutive contests and boasts an 18-7 overall record. The Tigers won the Lake Erie League with an 11-3 conference mark.
Swift has stressed the importance of discipline and consistency to the team’s success.
“We have all the pieces needed to accomplish our goals,” Swift said. “The teams that have a lot of success on a regular basis exude those characteristics.
The Tigers, at times, have struggled to remain consistent, but few teams would like to play a team riding a 10-game winning streak and with as much talent as Warrensville Heights in an elimination game.
Senior Charles Franklin is the team’s captain. The 6-foot-5 multidimensional player is averaging 13.2 points per game.
“All of our players follow him and he has a major influence on our team,” Swift said of Franklin. “I expect him to make sure our players are doing what they need to do in the classroom as well as on the court.”
Sophomore Yavari Hall (13 points per game) and senior Jalen Jackson (12.8 points per game) are also key cogs in the team’s offense. Warrensville Heights is averaging more than 68 points per contest.
Swift said his team can win in a variety of ways.
“You would expect our team to be solely a run-and-gun type of team, but we are pretty sound defensively and we do a pretty good job executing in the halfcourt.
Warrensville Heights will play Villa Angela-St. Joseph in the district final at Garfield Heights tonight.
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