While two other area coaches recently celebrated their 700th career wins, Granite City coach Raffi Karibian was excited about his first.
The Granite City Warriors opened the season with 17 straight losses before finally collecting their first win Feb. 6, knocking off Hazelwood West 77-72.
“They were very excited in the locker room and it had been a long time coming,” said Karibian, who replaced former coach Steve Roustio this season. “We were hoping to get that first one quite a bit sooner.”
Freshman guard Freddy Edwards scored 25 points in the win while senior Jalyn Harper contributed 22 points.
There are four seniors on an inexperienced roster, but seven varsity players are either freshmen or sophomores. The Warriors (1-19) also picked one of the strongest seasons in recent Southwestern Conference history to be hit hard by graduation, losing guard Kenny Berry.
“We only had one player coming back with varsity experience and he’s not on the team any more,” Karibian said. “I definitely see improvement. If you watched our team play from week one to now, we’ve made a lot of strides. They’re playing better and they’re practicing hard, but we have four teams in our league that are in the top 20 in the state of Illinois.”
Karibian, also the boys tennis coach, knew he was facing an uphill climb when he took the job. Granite City’s last basketball regional title came in 2002. The Warriors were 14-15 in Roustio’s final season.
Edwards, who burst onto the area football scene as a varsity running back and quarterback last fall, leads Granite City in scoring at 8.3 points per game. He’s followed by Marquis Shaw (7.7 ppg), Harper and Jacob Spears.
Sophomore Zidane Moore has teamed up with Edwards in the backcourt.
“I think that win has had a real positive impact and the energy level has definitely picked up since then,” Karibian said. “I just have to be positive and hope for better days ahead.”