Entering the 2002-03 season the expectations were not as high as in the past few years. Lost to graduation was perhaps the most talented class in recent memory and all that remained was one rugged player in senior, Matt Maier.
Coach Roger Craft had to reload with young, unproven players who had potential, but had to learn under fire. Three freshman were in the starting lineup to start the season due to injuries left over from football. Despite the adversities, the Buccs managed to win 2 out of their first three games with wins over Bradford and Arcanum.
Unfortunately, the Buccs' youth and inexperience showed over the next two months as they dropped 11 games in a row.
After ending the losing streak with a 47-36 win over Bethel, the Buccs couldn't keep the momentum and dropped their final five games to finish 3-17.
Despite the record, coach Craft saw positive signs heading into the sectional tournament at Piqua High School. Many of the players who came into the season banged up were finally healthy and the younger players were improving. Also, despite struggling offensively, the Buccs had a solid defense, which historically pays dividends come tournament time.
"The kids do exactly what I ask of them defensively," said coach Craft after the Buccs' season finalie loss to Ansonia. "It's obvious that we need to shoot the ball better in order to win."
The Buccs found their offense at the right time as they opened the sectional tournament with a 66-58 win over Anna. They then shocked Jackson Center 35-32 in a low scoring affair to set up a rematch with Russia who destroyed the Buccs 62-40 earlier in the season.
In a back and forth game, the Buccs put a scare into Russia before the Raiders pulled away in the last two minutes for a 55-47 win. Despite the loss and a 5-18 record, the Buccs left the floor looking forward to the future.
"I'm very proud of my kids," commented coach Craft after the game. "These kids have given everything they've had all year. We went through some tough times, but the kids stuck with the program and improved dramatically throughout the season. We have a bright future."
With virtually everyone back, that may be an understatement.