Orangefield Bobcats basketball contributors reflect on successful season

Published 4:08 am Tuesday, March 7, 2023

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ORANGEFIELD — Head Coach Jake McDonald of the Orangefield Bobcats are optimistic despite their loss to Hitchcock High School in last week’s playoff game.

The Bobcats faced a challenging schedule this season, competing against multiple ranked teams, but they persevered.

“We started off hot,” McDonald said. “We began the season ranked 24th or 25th in the state and, at one point, we were ranked as high as No. 10 or 11.”

However, the team faced a setback in late January, losing two consecutive games.

“We only had one lull,” McDonald explained. “We lost a tough one to East Chambers here, which, you know, they have a great program. They won the district. Then, when we went on the road, the loss gave us a bit of a hangover effect, and we got upset by Anahuac.”

Despite the rough patch, Orangefield came back with a renewed focus on improving. McDonald praised the emotional maturity of his players, saying, “You really couldn’t tell from their demeanor outwardly if we had won by 30 the night before, won a close one or lost a close one. I think that’s what makes them so successful.”

Orangefield coach Jake McDonald and senior Pete Ragusa pose with some of the hardware earned this season by the Bobcats. (Clayton Eaves/Special to The Leader)

The players agreed.

“The next day at practice, it was a good practice,” said District offensive MVP and starting point guard Pete Ragusa. “The attitude of practice changed. People realized we need to step up, we’ve gotta take on our roles. Everyone’s mindset all clicked together. We just took off from there.”

From there, it was an upward trajectory for the rest of the season.

Behind the leadership of their MVP point guard and McDonald, the Bobcats overcame the two-game losing streak and finished the season 11-3 in district (28-9 overall). This was enough for a second place finish and a spot in the state 3-A playoffs.

Orangefield earned its first playoff victory in a game against Hemphill by 21 points and then went on to defeat Crockett High School, 62-52.

In the third round, the Bobcats faced their strongest opponent of the season in Hitchcock High School, and McDonald knew what kind of talent the team was up against.

“This team has been ranked in the top three all year, but I never thought we couldn’t beat them,” he said.

Despite being heavy underdogs, Ragusa and the Bobcats stayed poised in their preparation and gameplay.

“They never batted an eye,” said McDonald. “We were up by one going into the 4th, and probably couldn’t ask for a better three quarters for how we played and executed, but in the 4th quarter, we just couldn’t make shots.”

With that, Orangefield’s run came to an end. They played the foul game in the final minutes to try and claw back, but the final score dictated a 45-35 loss for the Bobcats.

Despite the loss, the Bobcats had a successful season and a bright future ahead of them.

“We bring back two of our three leading scorers next season, who both averaged double figures out of the gate,” McDonald said.

They will also bring back some size, with two players in particular measuring in at 6 feet, 4 inches. With all said, the Orangefield Bobcats basketball program has the tools to carry this momentum into the next season.

— Written by Clayton Eaves