Knights don’t feel the need for seed; tough loss to Dogs no consolation

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Knights don’t feel the need for seed; tough loss to Dogs no consolation

The Southerner

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A LOAD OF BULL ... DOG: Senior forward Thomas Cox and junior point guard Chad Winfrey watch the Knights fall to the Washington Bulldogs in the battle for third in the region. Winfrey fouled out with three minutes left in the game. Photo by Nile Kendall.

By Nile Kendall

After a one-point loss to Towers in the semifinals of the Region 5-AAA tournament, the Grady boys basketball team made the trip back to Columbia High School the next morning to play the always bitter consolation match against the Washington Bulldogs.

This game would determine the third and fourth seeds from the region in the state tournament, and after a heartbreaking loss the night before, the Knights were determined to end on a winning note.

Grady came into the match-up with the clear edge after defeating Washington just one week earlier for the sub-region title. The Bulldogs started the game as if they had a short memory.

Washington center Darius Smith, had 12 points in the first quarter alone, burying two 3-pointers from the top of the key. Although, the Knights created several good scoring opportunities, their shots didn’t begin to fall until the end of the first quarter. After being down by as many as 10 points, the Knights managed to end the first quarter just three points down at 18-15.

The Knights fared far better in the second quarter, as they began to find the form that led them to a 25-3 regular-season record. Senior forward Gregory Sessions stepped up his game, scoring 11 points in the quarter. The Bulldogs attempted to slow him down by switching to a full-court press, but Sessions dribbled through the Washington defenders with ease.

With a nine-point lead and only two minutes left in the first half, it appeared as if the Knights had finally found their stride and were on their way to victory, but the Bulldogs refused to go away. Pulling together a late 8-2 run, the Bulldogs fought their way back within striking distance ending the quarter with a halftime score of Grady 33, Washington, 30.

Both the Knights and the Bulldogs came out of halftime with a plan to push the ball. Both teams ran the floor with great pace, and both defenses seemed to suffer because of the frenetic pace. Both teams scored more than 20 points in the quarter. With 15 seconds left in the quarter, Bulldog point guard Leshawn Perkins pushed the ball up the floor and hit a 3-pointer with four seconds left to spare, putting the Bulldogs three points ahead. Junior point guard Chad Winfrey, however, responded with a buzzer-beating 3-point shot of his own, which knotted the score at 56.

The final quarter was more of the same. Both teams ran the floor relentlessly, and both defenses tried to keep up. The game seemed to be moving a bit too fast for head coach Douglas Slade, however, as he repeatedly urged his team to slow the ball down. Still, the Knights kept running, matching the Bulldogs shot for shot.

With the Knights down by two and only three minutes left in the game, Winfrey fouled out.  His departure seemed to lead to a mental lapse for his team, as Grady yielded a couple of easy baskets late in the game.

Unfortunately a comeback was not in the cards for the Knights. The team converted several clutch shots, but the team was unable to get the defensive stop they needed to start a resurgence. The game ended in undramatic fashion with a score of 82-75.

Despite the loss, the Knights had already booked a spot in the state tournament by reaching the final four of the region tournament.  The momentum of an 11-game winning streak, however, was reversed by a two-game slide heading into the state tournament.  A No. 4 seed in the region means that the team’s road to state title will be on the road.

“We’re going to have to be road warriors,” junior center Brandon Watkins said.

Tomorrow, the team will travel to Carrollton to begin their state playoff quest against the host Carrollton Trojans. In an attempt to get more students out to the game, the administration has booked two extra buses for students to travel on.

“Ten bucks will get you to the game, in the game and back,” administrative assistant David Propst said.

According to Propst, spots are filling up fast.

“We just booked the buses yesterday and we only have 20 spots left,” Propst said.

After such a promising regular season, hardly anyone expected the Knights to come out of the region tournament only a fourth seed. Slade admits that he was disappointed with the team’s performance in the tournament, but says they must put it behind them.

“We are still in the running to win a state championship and that’s all I care about,” Slade said. “The real season’s just beginning. We have to win or go home. That’s what I tell the team.”

 

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