Boys basketball falls short of state playoffs


Ellie Palaian

Senior Bryant Graham guards a player during the Midtown vs. Mays game. The Knights fell short, losing 55-35.

Ellie Palaian

Going 9-19 for the season and 4-12 in region 5-AAAAA, the boys basketball team finished 7th in the region and came up short of  the state playoffs. 

“It was tough,” Head Coach Isaac Taylor said. “This year, even though it’s not the way we really wanted to go, I think for the younger guys, I think they now understand what it takes to be successful in our region.”

The Knights overcame many challenges this season, including losing their three-time head coach Patrick Johnson, replaced by Taylor, encountering new teams due to region changes, and losing players to Georgia High School Association (GHSA) rules, and injuries. 

“We built the roster in a certain way, and it backfired immediately,” Taylor said. “Zuri was ineligible, Darion got injured, and Austin Wooley transferred back to his old school, so we had to adjust and rearrange some things, which led to a lot of things happening.”

Johnson has been the athletic director at Midtown since 2019, but due to a new ruling he was not allowed to coach the Knights this season.

“Losing coach Johnson was big,” senior co-captain Will Hunter said. “He was a great coach for our team, but the new coaches have picked up right where he left off and have been amazing for us. They have come in and committed so much of their time for us to get better.”

Taylor had been the assistant coach under Johnson for the past three seasons, and jumped on the opportunity to become the head coach. 

“It was really fun, getting to lead our team this way, and getting to put my own touch on little things, and just trying to be successful for this group,” Taylor said. 

Region 5-AAAAA changes resulted in teams like New Manchester and North Springs to leave the region, adding teams like Banneker, Creekside, Tri-Cities, and Mays to create new competition. 

“We are playing against really good teams in the state,” Taylor said. “You have Maynard Jackson and you have Creekside. We had four teams ranked in the top rankings for 5-AAAAA all year long. So when you look at our region compared to the other regions in 5-AAAAA, ours is obviously the better and more difficult one.”

Hunter agrees that the region’s changes made the season more difficult. 

“This year is a lot different than last year for sure,” Hunter said. “This year our region has gotten a lot harder, and we are winning and losing games that are really tight all the way to the end.”

Along with region changes, for the first time in history, GHSA implemented a 35 second shot clock for high school basketball this season. Shot clocks are commonly used in collegiate and professional games, but never before in GHSA, and it came with new challenges and new opportunities for teams.  

“It made the game fun to coach,” Taylor said. “Having a shot clock made games closer to what they could have been, and it gave us a chance to fight. Without a shot clock they could hold the ball and the game would be over with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. That’s no longer, with the new rules in place it makes the game very fast and fun to watch.”

The Knights ended their season in the third round of the region tournament, losing 54-72 to Tri-Cities. Despite a disappointing end to the season, Hunter believed the team worked well together. 

“The team chemistry, I feel, has been really good,” Hunter said. “Last year we had some chemistry issues that affected our play. This year we rarely bicker with each other, and stay focused on the goal.”

Leadership has been evident on the court, and Hunter has stepped into the captain’s role.

“Will Hunter really stepped up as captain and made sure that we were all doing what we were supposed to be doing and keeping us in shape,” senior Brian Edwards said. 

New talent on the team has helped the team grow and develop, and it leaves the Knights with high hopes for the future.

“I expect the team in the next couple years to be very good,” Hunter said. “We have a lot of young guys that are hungry to play. We had two freshmen on varsity this year, which is unheard of. I think the team is in good hands.”

Taylor also thinks that the team will quickly develop within the next few seasons.

“This season was a season of growth,” Taylor said. “The young guys that are here, they’re going to be big pieces for us next year. We just have to make sure that the young guys coming in are really ready for next season, and that preparation starts now.”

Taylor is optimistic for the team’s future, counting on the young players to really step up in the program. 

“I plan on building with the remaining players going into next year and really getting to our eighth graders,” Taylor said. “They just won a championship, so they’re hungry for success, and hungry for another championship. They want to win. And I think that the young crew that’s coming in mixed with who we have, I think that’s something they both have in common. If everything goes as planned, the guys that we have on board will be headed in the right direction.”