By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Making its first-ever appearance in the Class 1A Northeast Regional Tournament last week, the Coosa Christian boys basketball team held its own in the first and third quarters, with only a 61-49 point deficit.
It was the other two periods that severely compromised the Conqueror cause, as Coosa (23-5) managed just one field goal in both the third and fourth quarters.
The above lack of offense was ultimately responsible for a 68-39 loss to Decatur Heritage Christian Academy on Feb. 17 at Jacksonville State.
“We didn’t perform like we needed to, and that falls squarely on me,” said Coosa Christian head coach Richard Hollingsworth. “I would have liked to put our best foot forward just to see how we could have competed. Decatur Heritage is a fine team, and I’m just disappointed that I didn’t have us ready to execute like we had previously.”
For the game, the Conquerors shot 25.5 percent (13-for-51) from the field and 17.6 percent (3-for-17) from three-point range. Coosa also was outscored 32-19 in the paint and out-rebounded by a 41-33 margin.
“One of the big differences is that we didn’t find [Walker Jones],” said Hollingsworth. “He was stepping right into his 3’s.”
Jones made 4-of-7 three-point attempts on the way to 15 points. Noah Boler paced the Eagles with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“[DHCA] made good rotations, and like good teams do, they finally got it to the guy that was hot, and we just failed to rotate to find him.”
In a back-and-fourth first quarter, Evan Delp’s buzzer-beating three-pointer provided the Conquerors with a 13-11 lead. But Coosa went cold on offense for the rest of the first half.
Following Delp’s trey, the Conquerors did not score from the field again until Caleb Sanderson’s layup with 12 seconds left. By that point, DHCA (22-8) led 34-21, an advantage the Eagles took into halftime.
“It was not a clean game,” said Hollingsworth. “We’ve always got to execute from behind the arc to eliminate some of their size, and tonight we just didn’t do that.”
Coosa did open the second half with a 15-4 stretch that narrowed the gap to 45-36, but the Eagles scored the final seven points of the third quarter to go up 50-36.
That was as close as the Conquerors would get. The Eagles outscored Coosa 18 to 3 in the final eight minutes, with Delp’s basket at 6:48 and Kyle Cunningham’s field goal with 4:17 remaining representing the extent of the Conqueror offense.
Caden Davidson was the lone Coosa Christian player in double figures with 17 points. He also had seven rebounds and three steals. Delp finished with nine points, while Jace Mills added six points and seven rebounds.
“[Boler] had a presence inside, and we talked all week about not letting him affect how we shot,” said Hollingsworth. “That’s easier said than done. I think that we tried to protect ourselves a little too much with him, and it ended up keeping us out of our rhythm. We rushed some shots and weren’t in balance on others, and I didn’t feel that we did the best job of moving the ball and cutting to allow us to get the shots we normally take. But give [DHCA] credit; they’re well-schooled and did what they wanted to do.”
Several of the Conquerors’ six seniors – Davidson, Sanderson, Mills, Cunningham, Alex Holman and Caleb Garrett – were varsity members from their eighth grade year when Hollingsworth took over the program.
“Nobody likes it tonight, including me, but if you look back at how we were playing early with these young guys and every year the program took another step, we kept getting more advanced and did things the right way,” said Hollingsworth. “That resulted in us getting here, and it’s a pretty big thrill. We don’t went to take anything away from that.”
“As seniors, this has always been our goal, and we finally got here,” said Davidson. “It’s a crazy atmosphere, and we’re hoping to set the foundation for the younger guys. Now that they know what it’s like, hopefully they’ll want to get back here.”
“It was an awesome experience, and I’m planning to come back here next year,” said Delp, an eighth grader. “We have a younger group coming up and we have to play like these seniors did.”