Conquerors reach area finals

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By Shannon Fagan/Cherokee County Herald

At pre-game shoot around, Coosa Christian boys basketball coach Richard Hollingsworth puts his team through what he calls “the scramble drill.” He explained that extra people are on the floor trying to trap the guy who has the ball, with the exit strategy being a pass toward the basket.

On Thursday (Feb. 5) in the Class 1A, Area 13 basketball tournament at the Gadsden State-Cherokee Arena, the Conquerors executed that play to perfection when they needed it the most.

Coosa Christian was up by a point and time ticking was down in overtime. Sophomore guard Caden Davidson was trapped by a pair of Spring Garden defenders near mid-court, but Davidson had the presence of mind to keep his eyes down the floor. He found a wide-open Johnny Grizzard for an easy layup with 14.6 seconds remaining.

Grizzard added a pair of free throws with 0.7 seconds left to clinch the Conquerors 53-48 victory over the Panthers.

“It was a fantastic ball game,” Hollingsworth said. “I hated to see them (Spring Garden) lose, but obviously we wanted to be the victors. I think this is the first time any Coosa team has advanced in any type of playoff, so it was just a good feeling to let these guys know hard work can pay off, and they have worked hard this year.”

Davidson was the catalyst for the Conquerors (16-5), who advance to meet Cedar Bluff in Saturday’s championship game at 7 p.m. in Cedar Bluff. He finished with a game-high 25 points.

“We didn’t have an answer for him,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “We were in our one press, and our safety didn’t drop back. That was a big play, and you’ve got to give the Davidson kid credit. He was in a tough situation, but he found a guy nearly half the distance of the court wide open under the basket. It was a play where we overplayed a little too much.”

Thursday’s game was a far cry from the two previous meetings between the two area rivals. The Conquerors claimed a 60-44 victory back on Dec. 12, but Spring Garden (8-19) earned a 47-38 victory on Jan. 20.

In Thursday’s battle, the largest lead held by either team was seven points (15-8 Coosa with 4:42 to go in the second quarter). The rest of the way, it was nip and tuck.

The Panthers held an 8-4 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Coosa rallied to tie things up at halftime at 22. Spring Garden held a four-point lead at 34-30 after three quarters, and had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but Riley Austin’s 3-pointer near the top of the key missed the mark, forcing the extra period with the score tied at 42.

In overtime, Spring Garden got a bucket Joe Rogers and the back end of two free throws by Ben Ivey to put the Panthers in front 45-42 with 3:19 remaining.

But the Conquerors came back to tie the game at 46 on a pair of buckets by Davidson. Coosa went ahead 48-46 on a bucket by Alex Holman with 1:25 to go. The two teams then traded a free throw apiece, giving the Conquerors a 49-47 edge with 49.8 seconds remaining.

Spring Garden’s Dakota Lambert was fouled on the Panthers’ next possession, sending him to the line with 35.7 seconds left. He missed the first shot, but canned the second to bring Spring Garden back within one at 49-48.

That set the stage for Davidson and Grizzard’s heads-up play.

“Everybody wanted this,” Hollingsworth said. “They wanted to know what it would be like to get to that next round. Saturday night is just icing on the cake. We want to go battle Cedar Bluff and give them everything we’ve got, but we know we’ve advanced and we know that’s a heck of a feeling for us.”

Holman added 10 points for Coosa. Johnny Grizzard had six points and Jace Mills finished with five points.

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