The game was not pretty. In fact, the game was hideous. But that’s how head coach Tim Drake and the Madison County boys’ basketball team likes it.
For them, an ugly game produces beautiful results. And no result could be more beautiful than the Red Raider’s 41-38 upset victory over Oconee County. “We want it to be ugly, I don’t care if it’s ugly,” Drake said. “I told them I didn’t care if it was 25-22, as long as we had 25. We’re a young and inexperienced team, we were without our best post player tonight and that got through to the. It was a good job for these guys to come out and get the win. But we said we wanted this to be an ugly game, we didn’t want this to be a pretty game. Ugly favors us.”
Much of the ugly for Madison County though, came from senior leader Jackson Bailey missing the game because of the flu. He’s the third Red Raider to miss a game this season because of the flu. Madison County is now 3-0 in those games. In his place, Silas McCrery got his first start of the season.
“Oh man, Silas did a great job on the boards,” he said. “He gave us a lot of energy and he’s been better in practice, performed better in games. And I thought against St. Pius he had a really good game and that got him off to a better start now going down the stretch.”
The ugliest part of the game was the scoring. 41-38 looks bad, but the score was much worst at halftime. Madison County (9-14, 2-7) only scored 17 points in the first half, but they held the Warriors to a measly nine points. Oconee County only scored three points in the second quarter.
“We installed a new matchup defense a couple of weeks ago that we’ve been working on,” Drake said. “We tried it against St. Pius to see how it would look on film. Then we ran it against Stephens, but it was set up for Oconee because we didn’t think they could shoot it well from the perimeter.”
But the Warriors came out swinging in the opening moments of the second half. Oconee County started with a 9-2 run to cut the score to 19-18. The Madison County made some changes and they clamped down on defense in the final few minutes of the third quarter. Their offensive production also increased and they led 30-22 after three quarters. A free throw and a short layup by Dylan Carey boosted the lead to 33-22 immediately into the fourth quarter.
However, the Raiders couldn’t do anything with that big lead. Instead, Oconee County went on an 11-0 run to tie the game and they appeared to be in control until they were called for a charge. That ended the run and the Raiders drew another foul on the other end. Silas McCrery knocked down both free throws to retake a 35-33 lead. Oconee County went back down the floor and tied the game again only for Logan Brown to hit a close shot. The Raiders then led 37-35.
On the other end, an Oconee County player missed a dunk and continued to hang on the rim while his teammate made a shot. The shot was waived off, but instead of calling a technical foul for hanging on the rim, refs called a foul on Madison County. That gave the Warriors the ball on the baseline with the score still 37-35 and less than a minute on the clock. Adam Metts became one of the heroes of the game by grabbing the inbound pass and drawing a jump ball. The possession arrow favored Madison County. The Raiders went down court and Tay Cooper stepped up and drew a foul to get to the line. He made both shots look easy to stretch the lead to 39-35.
Oconee County hit a three pointer with less than 30 seconds left to cut the lead once again. The score was 39-38, but the freshman Cooper stepped up one more time with another pair of three throws. He improved the lead to 41-38.
“That’s clutch. The kid’s going to be a good player,” he said. “He reminds me a lot of Trayvon Daniel who played for us last year, he may be better than Trayvon and that’s saying a lot because Trayvon is one of my favorites. But Tay is a basketball player, he’s not just a football player playing basketball. He’s got a mind for the game and he’s a very humble kid.”
Oconee County had one more chance to tie the game and they banged a three-pointer off the backboard with just a few ticks on the clock. Traveon Lattimore, as he had done all game, brought down the rebound and advanced the ball enough to run out the clock. The Raiders defeated Oconee County 41-38.
“Traveon has been playing with some more energy and I challenged him,” Drake said. “I told him ‘if you don’t get rebounds, I’m putting you on the bench.’ He’s hitting the boards much harder now. And he’s playing smarter, he used to play a little bit out of control.”
Lattimore led the team on the boards as well as with points. He scored 13, including eight points in a low scoring first half. Cooper was second on the team with 10 points. The biggest points coming from those four three throws at the end. Metts added eight points.
“I’m pretty strong in the paint” Lattimore said. “It was very clutch. They had good shooters, but when they would miss, they were following, so we had to get the rebounds and take off. [On offense] my teammates were giving me good looks and I had confidence in my shots.”
Madison County ends their regular season this Friday night at home against North Oconee, a team they defeated 57-43 in Bogart on January 16. Because it’s senior night and Madison County wants the gym packed, all students, kindergarten-to-senior, get in the game for free.