By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Even though this was Alexander’s first trip to the state playoffs in a half-dozen years, and its deepest penetration in the tournament in recent memory, the Cougars still had the attention and respect of longtime South Atlanta head coach Michael Reddick, prior to Wednesday’s second-round playoff game.
And after Alexander turned a four-point deficit late in the second quarter into a 38-34 halftime lead, Reddick knew his concern was well-founded. But neither he nor his team panicked. The result was a 78-68 win for the Hornets, who advance to the Class AAAA semi finals on Saturday against Eagles Landing (26-5).
“We adjusted our defense at the end of the second quarter and it backfired on us,” Reddick said. “At halftime we told them that we just needed to calm down and stay focused and things would fall back into place for us. But that Alexander team is a scrappy bunch.”
Indeed, the Cougars stayed close all night. South Atlanta regrouped at intermission and led by 10 late in the third quarter. But Alexander converted a four-point play and to trail by just six, 57-51, heading into the final period. Then the Cougars went on a 9-3 run to tie the game at 60 with five minutes left in regulation. But the Hornets went on a 10-0 spurt to put the game away.
“Our kids are pretty resilient. By now, after the summer league games and fall leagues they’ve played almost 80 games together, like an NBA team,” Reddick said. “They are at a point where they don’t panic.”
Reddick said his team’s tough schedule steeled it for this current post-season run, and specifically a game like Wednesday night.
“We played one of the toughest schedules in Class AAAA, if not the state,” Reddick said. “We played Marist, Grady and Columbia twice, and all of those teams have been ranked all season. That has helped us be mentally tough.”
Junior guard Costa Anderson, who led all scorers with 21 points, agreed.
“We’ve been here before, many times,” Anderson said. “Our coaches have prepared us and we’ve been in close games, so this was nothing new.”
Senior forward Kertiss Baisden said the long, tough schedule has helped the Hornets as well.
“You can’t get tired,” said Baisden, who had 12 points to go with 10 rebounds. “We have too much to play for. We want a ring. That’s why we have a poster of the ring in the gym to keep us motivated and remind us of why we’re here: To win a championship.”
Alexander (68) – Karim Mawuenyega 18, Mikell Lands 17, Hassani Gravitt 12, Jaquon Grier 7, Lemarcus Frazier 6, Eric Arnold 4, Gerran Brooks 4.
South Atlanta (78) – Costa Anderson 21, Naquavious King 20, Kertiss Baisden 12, Jonathan Range 10, Derrick Byrd 8, TrevionWebb 3, Terrance Lindsey 2, Quendarrian Miller 2.