Kevin Morris has experienced both the highs and lows associated with high school coaching.
The Apalachee High School boys basketball coach has seen his teams advance to the Final Four (twice) and also battled through a season where there was only one victory to show for it.
Through it all, Morris has provided a steady hand of leadership for the program. Longevity is not unheard of in the high school coaching ranks in terms of being at one school, but it is also not the norm. It’s clear, however, AHS leadership realizes what they have in Morris and that is certainly a positive.
Prior to Friday night’s game against Salem, Morris said this year’s team, which entered the week on a program best 10-game winning streak, is simply “fun to coach.”
“They work well as a team,” Morris said. “We play a lot of people and everyone knows they have to contribute in various ways. We have those who will lead us in scoring, but we also have players who work hard to get rebounds and who look to pass the basketball to an open teammate. It takes that attitude to make a team successful.”
The 2013-2014 season has certainly been successful. The only blemish to this point was an 83-70 loss to Clarke Central back on Nov. 30. Entering the week, the Gladiators were undefeated.
While there remains a couple of games between now and Jan. 14, that date is probably circled by a lot of basketball fans at both schools. For on that date, AHS and Clarke Central will meet, this time at The Chee.
“That has the makings of quite a night,” Morris said. “The gym should be packed.”
The Wildcats have surpassed the 100-point mark in one game this season and scored 94 in another and 92 in a contest. The team has reached the 80-point mark on two other occasions.
One key for AHS, among other things, has been a balanced attack with Morris using a deep bench to wear opponents down. In Friday’s 87-67 win, eight players scored and five of them had at least one three-pointer.
Several more players were used during the region game which saw the Wildcats trail until the second half.
Despite not holding its first lead until the third quarter, AHS eventually led by as many as 30 points before easing off the accelerator.
Even before the upcoming matchup with Clarke Central, the Wildcats will be tested Friday against Cedar Shoals.
In the first meeting between the teams, AHS managed a 68-65 win, but it was tough.
Through the ups and downs which are a natural part of coaching, Morris has remained the same.
Even with his team trailing the entire first half Friday against Salem, the long-time mentor simply kept encouraging his players until the momentum changed.
Once it changed, Salem didn’t have a chance. It was another strong performance in 2013-2014 for the AHS Wildcats.
Steady leadership has been a key for AHS basketball for several years. It continues to be so during what is shaping up to be a memorable season for both the coach and his players.
Chris Bridges is sports editor of the Barrow Journal. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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