The Commerce boys' basketball team looked poise to snap a six-game losing streak when it visited Athens Academy Friday (Jan. 24).
The Tigers led 62-61 in the closing seconds as the Spartans missed a shot, but a rebound and putback by Deion Colzie sunk the hopes of a Commerce win.
Colzie's shot put Athens Academy ahead 63-62 with 1.8 seconds left. Commerce's last second throw-in was stolen and ended the game.
"I thought we played extremely hard," head coach Russ Gregg said after the loss. "We played with a lot of effort. They had the best athlete, basketball player on the court tonight in Colzie ... We did a fantastic job on that last stop, defensively, and we just gave up the rebound.
"Some of that's not boxing out and some of that's just a better athlete going up and getting the ball and putting it in. You've got to give them a lot of credit for that."
Commerce had three players finish in double figures: Ian McConnell and Shawn Cunningham finished with 15 points each and Jackson Morris had 14 points. Commerce was 23-of-48 from the field.
At the free-throw line, though, the Tigers were 11-of-23, which is an area Gregg wants to see growth in as postseason play nears.
"That's the game right there," he said. "We're learning. It's a process. I've said all along that this is a process and we're getting there. It's fun to watch but frustrating as heck, too.
"Like I've said, we've got to do a better job of understanding the game a little bit, who do we need to get the ball to, how do we need to stop someone, that kind of stuff. Once we get that, we'll be well on our way. These kids continue to battle and we've just lost a lot of close game, but we have a lot of young kids."
Before the region tournament begins, Gregg wants to see his team clean up the "little things" that can make or break a game.
"Whether it's free-throw shooting, turnovers, making the smart play, that kind of stuff," Gregg explained, "because little things come back and they bite you, and they bit us tonight. Just proud of our effort. Just have to continue to keep working.
"Our league, regardless of where you are, is equal. It's very equal, and that's exciting. At some point, it's going to turn around."
The Tigers led 31-28 at halftime after falling behind early in the first quarter. The Spartans, though, battled back in the third quarter.
Athens Academy scored 19 third-quarter points, a game-high total. By the time the buzzer sounded to end the quarter, the Spartans led 47-46 entering the final frame.
In the fourth, Commerce grabbed the lead back when Morris hit a 3-pointer (51-50) and followed it with another bucket (53-50). The Spartans came back and took the lead 55-53, then 57-55 but a Cunningham layup with 2:35 left tied the game 57-57.
Down 59-57, the Tigers missed two free throws with 2:09 left. Athens Academy went up by four with 2:06 when it connected with a pair of free throws. Commerce trailed 61-57.
With 1:48 left, Morris drained another 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 61-60. After Tyelon Brock stole the ensuing inbounds pass, Cunningham made a bucket to put the Tigers ahead 62-61.
Commerce missed two free throws with 31.6 seconds left, which would've made it a 3-point margin in favor of the Tigers. But the miss gave the Spartans a chance for the win, which led to the putback and 1-point loss for the Tigers.
Commerce fell to Athens Christian on Jan. 21, 86-81. The Tigers had four players finish the game in double figures led by Cunningham's 22 points. Matthew Simpson finished with 19 points. McConnell and Collin Veal finished with 12 points each.
The Lady Tigers fell 47-42 to the Lady Spartans. Bryanna Sanders scored 16 points in the loss. Carson Hobbs also reached double figures, scoring 10 points.
Commerce trailed 18-13 after the first quarter, but the second quarter belonged to the Lady Tigers.
After the Lady Spartans built a 24-13 lead, Commerce reeled off six-straight points en route to outscoring 15-3 the rest of the second quarter. Commerce led 28-27 at the break.
Athens Academy, however, woke up in the third quarter, scoring 15 points and limiting the Tigers' scoring chances. Commerce trailed 42-35 entering the fourth quarter.
Down 46-41 with 1:01 left in the game, Commerce missed two free throws. And after cutting the deficit to 46-42, Commerce missed a 3-pointer to pull within one and a 2-pointer to pull within two before the game ended.
The Lady Tigers defeated Athens Christian on Jan. 21, 56-10. Sanders scored 25 points and Hobbs scored 10 points.