Delone Catholic head basketball coach Jim Dooley had an idea that his team could be successful this season.
He returned all-everything Brett Smith and looked forward to the services of sophomore Devon Moore who missed all the 2011-12 season recovering from an injury. On top of that, Dooley scheduled tough non-league games against three Maryland schools, Calvert Hall, St. Maria Goretti and Frederick, to help prepare his team for a long playoff run.
The pieces of the puzzle fell together in what became one of the most successful seasons in Delone Catholic history. In back-to-back games, Dooley picked up his 700th career win, then led the Squires to their second straight District 3 Class AA title.
Dooley attributes much of the Squires' success to the leadership of three seniors: Smith, Tanner Orndorff and Devin Altland.
"Those three are immeasurable and you cant see their value in a box score," Dooley said. "Without those three young men giving us that type of leadership, we never would have accomplished back-to-back district championships. It is very rare. We try to build senior leadership every year, but it does not guarantee that it is going to happen. I am going to miss those three terribly."
Dooley captured his 700th victory in memorable fashion. The Squires faced Camp Hill in the district semifinals and saw Moore and Altland go down with injuries in the first quarter. Moore would not return.
Without missing a beat, sixth man Jake Wiles, stepped in to drain six 3-pointers and finish with a team-high 20 points in a 69-59 Delone win. The icing on the cake is that Wiles is Dooley's grandson.
After the game, the Squires honored Dooley by wearing t-shirts commemorating his milestone.
"I got a little oblivious wondering what the kids were doing with those shirts on," Dooley said. "I was thinking, 'What the heck is that about?' Then of course I realized what it was. It was a very, very nice gesture from the parents and the people involved."
Dooley identified three keys to his long success.
"One is you have to coach a long time," he said. "Two is that you need good players, and third, you need good assistant coaches. I have been blessed with all three."
Dooley's fondest memory of the season came one game later when the Squires went up against Trinity as heavy underdogs.
With 3.4 seconds left in a tie game, Brett Smith drove the lane and put up a jumper that hit off the rim. Andrew Austin got the rebound, spun around, and nailed the jumper as time expired to give the Squires back-to-back district titles.
"That was awesome," Dooley said. "I wasn't sure if it was going in. I turned to the bench to see if it was good and the bench was already (empty). That was the highlight for me."
To top the moment, four former players from Dooley's coaching days at Cumberland Valley found their way to the court to congratulate their old coach.
"I ran down the hall and brought them into the locker-room," Dooley said. "Our kids had the trophies in there and they were starting to lace up their shoes. I told them not to, that I had four guys who would play them for the trophy. The kids just looked up. I introduced the guys to our players and told them how much I talk about them. Those four guys, who were 50, turned into 17-year olds. They were giving high-fives to our guys and jumping up and down in the locker room. It was just one of those moments."
It was a season of memories for Dooley who says good bye to three seniors who meant more to the Delone program than arguably any senior class before, but Dooley will always remember this year's team for its toughness.
"I think they were tough kids," he said. "They were competitive people. That is the thing you try to coach. The best complement a coach can give a player is to tell him what type of a competitor he is. I am really going to miss this group."
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