Storybook season comes to abrupt close as team suffers three-game skid.

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Storybook season comes to abrupt close as team suffers three-game skid.

The Southerner

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The scoreboard reads, “Woodward 50, Grady 49.” Seconds remain for the Grady boys basketball team to clinch a spot in the state playoffs. As the clock ticks down, senior Greg Sessions dishes the ball to junior Chad Winfrey. Winfrey goes up for a 3-pointer that swishes through the hoop as the buzzer goes off. Grady wins 52-50—putting them one step closer to a state title.

The win against Woodward Academy was the team’s 22nd win of the season and 11th in a row.
Head coach Douglas Slade remembers that game as the most exciting of the season.

“I mean that is why you play the game,” Slade said. “We were dead in the water. It really said something about the team. They literally never quit.”

The team’s winning streak came to an end the next day when the Knights lost to Towers High School in the semifinals of the region tournament. With this loss the boys’ hopes of playing for a region championship and the chance to secure home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs were gone.

The team now had to play a consolation game for third or fourth place against Washington High School.

“Since the game was right after the Towers loss we really didn’t have time to regroup,” junior forward Kivan Taylor said. “We didn’t get hyped up because playing for third wasn’t what we wanted.”

Despite beating Washington twice in the regular season, Grady lost 82-75.

Both Slade and Taylor were frustrated with the outcome.

Taylor was especially discouraged because he felt like some of the players gave up on the game early in the fourth quarter.

Despite being a No. 1 seed in the tournament after winning division A with a 21-2 regular-season record, the team came out of the region tournament ranked fourth.

“Even though we were the fourth seed, I still wasn’t worried,” Taylor said. “We knew we were the No. 1 team in the region, and we shouldn’t have been ranked fourth.”

The team headed to Carrollton County for the first round of the playoffs to play the region 6-AAA champion Carrollton Trojans.

Slade knew Carrollton was going to be an outstanding team but believed that if his team played to their potential, they would win the ball game.

After building a first-quarter lead and trailing by only four at halftime, the team faltered late and fell 70-57.

“We just didn’t leave it all on the court,” Taylor said. “First half we played like we wanted to win, but second half it seemed like we thought they were just going to give us the game. They didn’t. They were the No. 1 team, and they played like the No. 1 team. We didn’t.”

That game ended one of Grady’s most successful boys basketball seasons.

The team started the season with high hopes of competing for a state title. With the core of the team returning and having only lost three seniors from the year before, Slade and the players believed they could win a state championship.

The team started off the season with nine wins in a row.

“I knew we were going to be good when the season started because we had a pretty good season last year, but I definitely saw improvement through the year,” junior center Cory Caswell said.

Slade and the team credit their successful season to team chemistry.

“One of the things different from last year is we tried to change the mindset,” Slade said. “We tried to approach them from the mental perspective for practices and the game.”

Caswell said the team had a better attitude than last year. He thinks Slade is the reason they got better and closer this season.

“My thing is I try to tell them every day, ‘Try to be better than you were yesterday,’” Slade said. “I try to use that same approach in making us better than we were last year.”

Despite this season’s disappointing finish, the team has high hopes for next year.

“Next season we have four starters returning,” Taylor said. “I know we say this every year, but next year is our chance to win state.”

ANTICIPATION: Senior Gregory Sessions prepares to take a free throw during the Grady vs. North Atlanta basketball game.

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