The buzz created by the Apalachee High School boys basketball team this season was the direct result of a group of talented players who participated in an exciting brand of basketball.
The record-setting season drew to a close Saturday in a six-point loss to M.L. King High School, but not before the Wildcats once again gave their fans plenty to cheer for.
Sophomore Kamar Baldwin did his usual damage with 26 points. Alantae Billings, Wright Patterson and Joey German joined Baldwin in making 3-pointers. The action was fast-paced as both teams put on a display of athleticism that won’t be soon forgotten.
When the final buzzer sounded, the visiting MLK Lions had 70 points to 64 for the home Wildcats. It was disappointing for AHS players, coaches and fans, but it was obvious the season was appreciated. As the home team left the court for the final time in 2013-2014, their fans stood and cheered, letting each player know their efforts were noticed.
When the team emerged from the locker room approximately 20 minutes later, those fans still remaining in the gym gave another ovation. It was a fitting tribute to a group of players who accomplished a great deal on the basketball court.
For Kevin Morris, this year’s team didn’t advance as far as some of his previous ones, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less proud of them.
Even in defeat, the coach was upbeat, even smiling, because he knew just what his team had managed to do. A season of 23 wins is nothing to brush aside. The Wildcats, in every way imaginable, showed they were winners this season. That it ended perhaps a little prematurely doesn’t take away from that.
The success AHS enjoyed this season can be traced back to the summer when the Wildcats were undefeated in offseason play. It led to a record-setting number of victories once the regular season arrived. It led to a Region 8-AAAAA runner-up finish to Clarke Central. It led to another trip to the state tournament.
AHS is also successful because of the support it receives. The home side stands were nearly full Saturday night. Coaches of other sports at AHS, including football, softball, baseball, cross country and soccer, were all in attendance supporting Morris and his players. A former athletic director was also seen at the game.
It’s about competing as one and the pride shown by the entire school in its team was impressive.
AHS will lose four seniors to graduation. Morris told reporters after the game that he was appreciative of what Jody Mathis, Petr Mitrik, Joey German and Kintavious Merritt have meant on and off the court. Each contributed in different ways, but all of their contributions were vital.
While Saturday’s state tournament game did not go the way the home team and home crowd wanted, there is still plenty of reason to be proud. This group of Wildcats are winners. What the final score said Saturday can in no way change that. Talk is already centering on next season with several key players returning. Before we worry too much about next season, however, let’s bask in just what this year’s team accomplished.
Chris Bridges is sports editor of the Barrow Journal. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.