The Briarwood Academy Buccaneers made it to the Elite Eight of the Class A Georgia Independent Schools Association Boys' Basketball Tournament in Douglas last Saturday.
Unfortunately, things didn't turn as well for the Bucs there as they did in first-round action at Andrews College in Cuthbert last Thursday. Briarwood ended up defeating Randolph Southern 54-47 to advance to the Elite Eight competition during the past weekend. In a matchup with Oak Mountain, the Buccaneers lost 63-43 and thus were eliminated from the tourney.
Against Randolph Southern, Briarwood Academy head coach Bo Fleming was pleased with his team's overall performance, especially the way they handled their opponent's pressure and still managed to get the ball inside for several easy baskets.
Senior Trey Stadler had his best first-half performance of the season, scoring 18 points. He finished the game having scored 23 points, while yanking down 12 rebounds.
At halftime, the Bucs held a 10-point lead, 33-23.
In the third period, Randolph Southern made some adjustments that shut down an inside game that the Bucs had enjoyed in both the first and second periods. Going into the fourth period of play, Briarwood Academy still clung to a 43-36 lead.
"We held on in the fourth quarter, playing good defense on our way to a big victory," exclaimed coach Fleming. "Overall, it was a great day for Briarwood basketball."
It actually marked the first win in state tournament play in more than 10 years for the Bucs.
Coach Fleming noted that the win was made possible by a total team effort -- "from playing great team defense to handling their full-court pressure and for playing five hours away, we had great support from our fans. It made the long trip back a lot easier."
Aside from Stadler's performance on the offensive side of things, several other players performed well, too. They included Dalton Reese, who scored 19 points, including 3 3-pointers and six rebounds; Thomas Lynam, 6 points and 8 rebounds; Steven Gunn, 4 points and 3 assists; and Ryan Nelson, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
In the second-round of the Class A State Boys' Basketball Tournament, played last Saturday, Briarwood Academy got behind early and simply could never catch up. At one point in the first period, they found themselves trailing 11-0, as Oak Mountain connected on 3 consecutive 3-pointers.
Aside from having problems scoring early, two of the starters for Briarwood, Gunn and Reese, had a virus. Gunn, who has been a starter all season, wasn't able to play at all, while Reese, the team's top scorer most of the season saw limited action.
At the end of the first period, the Bucs trailed 16-4. They managed to pick up the pace in the second period and found themselves behind 32-17 at halftime. Another big reason for the Bucs getting down so quickly in the game was the fact that Oak Mountain hit 8 3-pointers during the first half.
Briarwood charged back in the second half, cutting Oak Mountain's lead to just 7 points with 5 minutes to play in the game.
"We were forced to foul down the stretch and they hit them, (free-throws)," said coach Fleming.
"We played hard and never gave up. I was very proud of our effort with some key players sick. We had some kids really step up, especially junior guard Blake Sowell, who scored 10 points in the fourth that helped us cut into their lead. We had a great season, making it to the second-round of the state and finishing as region runners-up."
The Bucs were led in scoring by Lynam and Sowell with 10 points each. Stadler scored 9, Reese, 6 and Carson Wiley, 5 points, respectively.