Kendrick coach Collins Jones knew it could be done, a 4 seed knocking off a top seed in the first round of the state playoffs. He knew because his Cherokees pulled the feat off a year ago.
So, when he spoke after the game about his team’s 73-67 overtime loss to Coosa on Saturday at home, they were not words of disappointment.
“That’s the way life is sometimes,” he said. “You just have to hold your head up. Athletics is a lot like life. There are ups and downs. Today was just a down.”
The loss ended Kendrick’s season short of its ultimate goal, while Coosa advances to the second round where it will face the winner of Greene County and Hapeville.
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His team, which won its region tournament with impressive offensive play, didn’t play poorly against Coosa. It simply ran up against a team that was a lot better than its postseason seed would otherwise indicate.
Coosa showed that from the opening tip. After falling behind briefly 6-5, it scored the game’s next nine points to go ahead 14-6 less than four minutes into the game. And when Kendrick jumped in front by nine points, 36-27, with a minute to go in the second quarter — a moment when many lower seeds will lose control of the game — Coosa recovered to score six straight going into the half.
Again in the fourth, Kendrick jumped in front by five points after a three-pointer from Jordan Hall and another quick basket from Marquis Bonner. Coming out of a timeout, though, Coosa went on a 9-0 run to go ahead 60-56 with a minute left in the game.
It was a common theme for the entire game. When Kendrick appeared to take control of the game, Coosa responded at every turn.
“We’re used to playing these close games,” Coosa coach John McFather said after the game. “The resolve these guys showed tonight. We’ve played games where we had to come up big for three quarters or four quarters, but they came out and played four and a half tonight. They showed a lot of maturity.”
It wasn’t at the expense of Kendrick’s maturity, though. The Cherokees looked every bit like the top seed they had earned.
Jontavis Miles, in particular, came up with big shot after big shot in the second half, holding Coosa at bay and then brining the Cherokees back from the brink at the end of the fourth.
Trailing 60-56 inside of a minute to go, Miles knocked down a three-pointer to cut Coosa’s lead to 60-59. Hall knocked down a shot with 30 seconds left to tie the game late and send it to overtime.
The extra frame was just too much for the home team, as Coosa’s Billy Bell scored the game’s final seven points to secure the victory.
Miles led Kendrick with 19 points in the game, followed by Hall with 17 and Kyle Scott-Williams with 15. Tavaris Wilson led Coosa with 19, followed by Bell with 14 and Isaac Bradley with 12.
Jones said Kendrick will return a good portion of its core next season and expects to contend once again.
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Saturday at Kendrick
Coosa 18 17 12 14 12—73
Kendrick 18 18 13 13 6—67
Tavaris Wilson 19, Billy Bell 14, Isaac Bradley 12, Korley Grier 10, Lamboy 8, Carter 8, Bailey 2.
Jontavis Miles 19, Jordan Hall 17, Kyle Scott-Williams 15, Marquis Bonner 10, Griffin 6, Brown 1.
Records: Coosa, 19-9, Kendrick, 13-12.