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P.O. Boys Basketball Coach of the Year: Ray Staver

Winning a division title is hard enough.

Winning it two years in a row? It's certainly not an easy feat.

But Shippensburg's boys basketball team defied the odds this season. Despite being the preseason favorite, the Greyhounds had some steep competition for the Mid Penn Colonial Division crown, but Ray Staver guided the ship well, securing the division title for the second consecutive year. He is the Public Opinion Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.

It wasn't an easy journey for the Hounds, or for Staver, for that matter.

After starting the season 7-1, Ship hit a slide. It lost five of six games midway through the season, including a deflating upset by then-winless Waynesboro. The Greyhounds then had to turn right around and face Greencastle-Antrim, the other top contender for the Division crown.

"We had our worst practice of the year the night before the Greencastle game," Staver said. "I've never had the guts to walk out of a practice, but the thought really crossed my mind. I give my assistant coach Bill Cressler a lot of credit because he got me in the right frame of mind to coach to win that game."

Whatever Cressler said must've helped Staver and the Hounds, because they went on to defeat the Blue Devils, 62-55, and did not lose again in the regular season.

"We started 7-1 and finished 8-0, but in between, we weren't very good," Staver said. "I know it's cliché, but our emphasis became just taking it one game at a time. Finishing 8-0 is not easy to do, because you know every game matters as far as districts. Had we lost one more game, we still would've been in, but two would've had us outside looking in."

In addition to winning the division title, Shippensburg's fine ending ensured a spot in the District 3 Class AAAA playoffs and a chance to host a playoff game for the first time since 2008.

The playoff game, which Ship won 46-34 over Red Lion, was just one of many memorable moments for Staver.

"Our Northern game right before Christmas - our fans and the student body were behind us," Staver said. "We had five or six dunks, and it was just a fun game to watch. Winning a district playoff game on your own floor - that was a pretty big step toward where we'd like to be. Also, the Mechanicsburg game - we were down seven with two minutes remaining and we won on two free throws with five seconds to go, and that was Senior Night and our last game of the regular season."

Those two free throws came from Staver's son, Teagan, who Ray had the "pleasure" of coaching for four years.

"We always seemed to get along fine through it all; we never really had a moment where we clashed," Staver said. "I gotta give him credit for that, because I would think it's much more difficult to play for his father than for me to coach my son. He's been a real pleasure to coach; I'm going to miss him."