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Kellen Richards: “They really played their hearts out”

Boys basketball team loses against Long Beach Polytechnic High School.

+Lauren+Bowman+and+Harper+Wayne+pose+with+head+cutouts+of+varsity+basketball+players+Riley+Battin+and+Wes+Slajchert.+
 Lauren Bowman and Harper Wayne pose with head cutouts of varsity basketball players Riley Battin and Wes Slajchert.

Lauren Bowman and Harper Wayne pose with head cutouts of varsity basketball players Riley Battin and Wes Slajchert.

Photo courtesy of Kathy Bowman

Photo courtesy of Kathy Bowman

Lauren Bowman and Harper Wayne pose with head cutouts of varsity basketball players Riley Battin and Wes Slajchert.

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Boys’ varsity basketball was seeded No. 1 in Southern California’s Division 1 playoffs. The Eagles won their first varsity playoff game 70-62 against Edison High School Feb. 16. The second playoff game was held against Long Beach Polytechnic High School Feb. 20, where the Eagles lost 76-85.  

“I think our guys battled a lot, that they left everything out on the court. The accomplishments of the season speak for themselves,” Coach Tim Chevalier said.

With only 5.7 seconds left in the boys’ first varsity basketball playoff game Feb. 16, the score read 52 to 54 with Edison High School in the lead. A few seconds later the two teams were tied. After just four minutes of overtime, Oak Park High School won the game with eight points ahead at 70 to 62.

Along with a set of free throws made from seniors Wes Slajchert and Riley Battin that ultimately won the game, sophomore Clark Slajchert threw a set of his own pointers.

“I was just really tired, I was just trying to bend my knees and get the ball in, just trying not to pass out,” Clark Slajchert said.

Battin said that his team could feel the initial pressure from EHS’s team at the start of the game.

“They’re a dirty team that does little things to try to get into your head. That’s just another one of their shenanigans,” Battin said. “We [Oak Park] don’t feel like it’s necessary to do those things.”

Athletic director Dick Billingsley, wrote in an email that it took strategic guidance by Head Coach Aaron Shaw during timeouts to maintain OPHS’s lead in the fourth quarter against EHS.

Chevalier said that OPHS had the head start in the second playoffs game Feb. 20 with three three-pointers in a row, though Long Beach made more shots through multiple turnovers, and eventually pulled into the lead.

“Considering we’re the underdog in these situations, I feel like the Oak Park kids worked really hard like small fish in a big pond, and they really played their hearts out in a Division 1 bracket,” Kellen Richards said, mom to senior Zeke Richards.

Laura Slajchert said that she was proud of her sons’ efforts over this past season.

“I really appreciated the way Wes became a leader on the court for his teammates and his coaches really relied on him, and he rose up to that role, which he will take with him when he goes to Dartmouth,” Laura Slajchert said.

Chevalier commented on the accomplishments of the team’s senior players.

“I love these seniors,” Chevalier said. “They’ve left a very strong imprint on the program and they’re going to be very much missed.”

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