Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck greets the returning champions at the Victory Bell.

The Western Reserve Academy Varsity Boys Basketball team has done what no WRA team has done—they are National Champions! On Tuesday, March 5, the boys traveled to Worcester, MA, to compete in the National Prep Championship Tournament, held at Clark University. 

On the road to the championship, they rolled through the Newman School (MA) in round one (84-76), Mt. Zion Prep (MD) in round two (78-58) and New Hampton School (NH) in the semifinal, (96-92). 

In the first three rounds, the tournament crowd was treated to a dominant 34-point performance vs. Newman, and two double-doubles from tournament MVP and Marquette commit Royce Parham ’24 (22p, 11r vs. Mt. Zion & 19p, 11r vs. New Hampton). WRA’s other Marquette commit and 247 Sports’s #1-ranked player in Ohio’s high school class of 2024, Damarius Owens ‘24 energized the stands with thunderous dunks, athletic baskets and an assertive 28-point, 8-rebound performance against New Hampton. 

During the semifinal game, watching from the Murdough Athletic Center, Director of Athletics and seasoned basketball coach Pete Hutchins could be overheard saying “just get the ball to Collin,” as the tight game was reaching its final minutes. The trust in Collin O’Connor ’24 is echoed through the coaching staff, as all year he has been a stalwart floor general for the Pioneers. His defensive effort and leadership, both on and off the court, may not show up on the scoresheet, but are a huge part of first-year Head Coach Matt Garvey’s winning recipe. 

In the final game, the Pioneers matched up against three-time defending champion Putnam Science Academy from Putnam, CT. The first possessions saw PSA take the lead. It would be the only time that they led the Pioneers the rest of the game. Once WRA took over, 31 seconds into the game, they didn’t look back, holding the lead for the rest of the game. It was a tight one, and PSA did not relent, forcing WRA to make good decisions and key buckets down the stretch. 

Late in the second half, with the game within reach for PSA, WRA lost Parham to his fifth and final foul. The Pioneers rallied, played strong defense and pulled away to secure victory. 

The championship game saw Niko Bundalo ’25, who had started the tournament quietly, light up the floor with a 31-point (5-9 3pt), 10-rebound double-double performance, which also included four blocks. 

This team adds to their growing list of accolades – one that no WRA team has done to date. Under the tutelage of Coach Garvey, they are National Champions. This morning, they were greeted at the Victory Bell by Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck P ’24 and her husband, Johnny Buck. Next on their plate, they look forward to a steak dinner hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Buck at their home on campus. Joining the celebration will be Coach Hutchins, whose leadership in building the program has been the difference maker for the school.

In the words of Torr Sorensen ’26, overheard at the Victory Bell today, “It’s a great day to be a Pio.” We’re so proud of the boys and are cheering on the girls as they continue in the tournament today after a rousing win yesterday.