(Atlanta, GA) — The Brave men’s varsity basketball season ended at the hands of one of the state’s top teams in Atlanta Friday night.
The Therrell Panthers (19-7), the No. 1 seed from Region 6-AA, handed the Braves a 73-41 defeat in a game that was closer early on.
The Braves (7-20, 6-5) only trailed 16-12 after a quarter and had opportunities to take a lead, but the long and deep Panther squad took over in the second period and lead 40-22 at the half.
Senior starting guard Darius Matthews will be sorely missed by Coach Simmons and the Braves (Photo: Penny Hood)
Despite the stiff competition, junior guard Alijah Huzzie again proved he can compete at the highest level dropping 24 points in the loss including four 3-pointers from long range.
Junior Tray Dunson added nine and upstart freshman Ayden Cannon added six.
There were many bright spots in a rebuilding season for the Braves including the upset of Region 5-AA Champion Spencer and six overall region wins.
Head coach Keith Simmons thinks his squad made a lot of progress during the season after rebounding from an 0-9 start hampered even further by being forced to play without several starters due to the extended final four run by the Braves football team.
“With different groups you have different measures of success and of course ultimately you want to win as much as possible but we had a unique situation this year with a lot of older guys that had not seen much playing time and several players who had not played together before,” says Simmons.
“Other than Huzzie, Darius, and Tray we didn’t have a lot of guys with varsity experience. I think we did a lot of the hard part this year as far as rebuilding — we had some painful moments but I think we progressed farther than many thought we could. These guys have grown up so much over the year. Sometimes we get caught up looking at what grade they’re in — but that’s not grade they’re in on the court, that’s their grade in the classroom.”
The Braves will only lose two seniors in Darius Matthews and Chris Goode heading into 2019 and high expectations will return in 2019 especially with the return of junior standout Alijah Huzzie who was named all state as a sophomore and could see that honor once again after averaging well over 20 points per game and leading the Braves in almost every statistical category in 2018.
Other starters that will return include Cannon, Dunson, and Will Hammett.
Komari Clark, Jacorian Allen, Ethan Lawson, and Khalil Cofield also gained valuable playing minutes this season and will return and the Braves will also add some talented incoming freshman from the back-to-back champion middle school team.
Therrell moves on to play Elbert County in round two of state.
In other results from Region 5-AA versus Region 6-AA, Jordan beat KIPP 60-55, Spencer survived Hapeville 67-65, and South Atlanta drubbed Temple 90-44.