COVID gives assistant coach an opportunity

At the recent Florida Get Down Holiday Showcase at St. Francis Catholic Academy in Gainesville, the host team was without head coach Isaac Selva.

Selva had to quarantine due to COVID-19 contact tracing. That opened the door for assistant coach Manny Torres, who took the helm for both of the Wolves’ games during the tournament.

Torres found out on New Year’s Eve that he would be coaching the game on Jan. 1.

“I thought ‘let me go watch some film again,’” he said.

As expected, Torres had some early anxiety heading into his first game as head coach.

“I had some excitement and butterflies,” he said. “But then it was business as usual.”

On New Year’s Day, Class 2A St. Francis Catholic lost 75-72 to 6A Strawberry Crest (Dover), but they overcame a 22-point deficit and nearly rallied to win.

“The team had every opportunity not to play hard,” said Torres, who was serving as head coach at the varsity level for the first time in his career. “They played hard for me. I want to give them a shoutout.”

Junior Ashton Lovette, who scored 10 points against the Chargers, said that nothing really changed since they are around Coach Torres daily.

“We have practices day in and out with him,” he said. “We’ve known what’s expected of us. We just go out and do our best.”

However, junior guard Omarion Littles did notice one difference.

“I’m used to having Manny on the bench just being the loudest, and now he was standing up a lot,” he said.

Senior Aidan Newman, who scored 31 points in the loss, said he is confident in his coaches.

“They know everyone’s strengths and how to use everybody,” noted Newman.

Meanwhile, Torres praised his head coach.

“[Isaac] trusted me fully going into that [game],” Torres said. “We talk every day—we’re on the same page. It was a great opportunity.”

Torres also coached on Saturday, Jan. 2, in a 53-50 loss to P.K. Yonge. The Wolves missed a 3-point shot that could have sent the game into overtime.

“Manny did a great job with coaching the team,” said Selva, who was back on the sidelines for their next game last Tuesday at Buchholz.

If nothing else, there’s one thing that Torres learned about being the head coach.

“You can’t always control makes or misses,” he said. “But you can control your energy and focus.”

Torres noted it’s a very coachable team.

“I don’t have to break my back to make sure they’re on top of stuff,” he said. “We are very proud of them. We’re pushing them to win, to get better. I want more wins.”

St. Francis Catholic (5-10), which defeated Trinity Catholic (Ocala) 59-49 this past Saturday, will host SLAM (Tampa) this Friday, Jan. 15.

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