By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
GAYLESVILLE – Kolby Brannon came out of the Gaylesville boys locker room drenched Tuesday evening. His beard was dripping with water, and he said he was cold, but it was feeling he wouldn’t trade for the world.
The Trojans had just won a rare basketball postseason game.
After building as much as a 19-point lead early in the third quarter, the Trojans held off a late Coosa Christian comeback to earn a 58-51 victory in the Class 1A, Area 12 boys basketball tournament opener. They advance to meet top-seeded Spring Garden on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.
“It feels good,” Brannon said of both the ice bath and the win. “We came into this season and our big thing was earning respect. A lot of people felt like we didn’t belong here. To get a chance to go to Spring Garden tomorrow with a school who the past three years had three combined wins, to get this one tonight and hang on like we did means the world to us. It means the world to me. I love these guys to death.
“It’s hard for some people on the outside to understand, but it hasn’t happened here in a long time. That was huge for our program,” Brannon continued. “I know it’s been more than seven years (since Gaylesville’s advanced in an area tournament). After that I don’t know, but it’s been a long time. To do it coming off one win year last year makes it that much better for these guys. They know what it’s like not to be able to even have a chance.”
The Trojans shattered the proverbial ice on Monday night. They had four players reach double figures, something Brannon said he wasn’t sure has happened this season. Kyler Bradley led the way with 19 points, including three 3-pointers. He also had eight steals, four rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.
Kuper Bradley, Collin Hendon and Tanner Eads each netted 12 points. Kuper Bradley also added five assists, five steals, four boards and a block. Hendon had four boards, three assists, two steals and two blocks. Eads also contributed five rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks.
Braden Sharp pulled down 10 rebounds. He also had three steals, two points and two assists.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Brannon said. “Some of these guys have gone through waves, but tonight thank goodness they all clicked at once.”
But the Conquerors made the Trojans earn their rare postseason victory.
Gaylesville (7-22) built a 33-16 halftime advantage and held a 36-17 lead with 6:13 to go in the third quarter before Coosa attempted a comeback. From that point, the Conquerors went on an 18-7 run to close out the quarter, trailing 43-37.
Coosa’s run continued into the fourth quarter, in which they whittled Gaylesville’s lead down to two points at 48-46 off a basket by Jacoby Tucker with just under four minutes to play.
The Trojans bent, but they didn’t break. They were aided down the stretch by a 6-of-8 free-throw performance to help them maintain the lead and hold on for the win. Kuper Bradley made 5-of-6 shots from the charity stripe down the stretch.
“To start this season we would’ve folded,” Brannon said. “Early in the season we blew some games late, and we’ve talked about that a lot. That’s one thing we feel like is different right here at the end of the year. If we get down to those moments, yeah we may panic here and there, but we’re able to hang on finally. Tonight was one of those that made me get some more gray hairs, but we were able to hit free throws down the stretch and hang on. That makes it fun.”
Tucker tallied 15 points to lead the Conquerors. DJ Mackey managed 12 points. Jadan Burns added eight points. Drake Dupree finished with five points.
“I’m beyond proud,” Brannon said. “At the start of the year, our goal was to try and get 80 shots a game. It doesn’t happen a lot, hardly ever, but this past week starting with Wellborn, I saw that switch kind of flip. We shot 65 times. We went to Donoho and struggled, but we responded Friday night at Victory (Christian). We shot 81 times, and finally here we are. It’s the best time to figure it out.”
Coosa Christian 48, Gaylesville 39
GAYLESVILLE – Shonda Epps scored a game-high 22 points, but they weren’t enough as the Lady Trojans’ season ended with a 48-39 loss.
Laney Coker contributed eight points for Gaylesville. Gracie Dawson finished with five points.
Bella Cate O’Bryant led three Coosa Christian players in double figures with 15 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Ra’nyiah Dupree delivered three treys and had 11 points. Natalie Delp also had 11 points. Caitlin Cates finished with eight points.
Coosa Christian held the lead at each of the quarter breaks. The Lady Conquerors claimed a 15-8 advantage after one and held a 20-16 edge at halftime. They built a 37-29 advantage after three quarters.
Coosa Christian travels to face top-seeded Spring Garden on Tuesday at 7 p.m.