ACS player William Swartzendruber works his way around a Sparta defender.

ACS falls to Sparta Academy

Published 8:39pm Thursday, December 6, 2012

Atmore Christian School started the first half strong in their Thursday night game against Sparta Academy, but the game got out of hand in the third quarter and the team eventually fell by a final score of 56-36.

The team worked out of an 8-2 deficit to tie the game at 10-10 during the first half. While the score remained close for the rest of the first half, they fell behind by a score of 28-19 by halftime.

The team was outscored 19-5 in the third quarter and with a score of 47-24 by the end of the third quarter, the game was out of reach.

One of the main problems for the team throughout the game was ball handling and passing. That is explained by the fact that the team’s best ball handler and only true point guard, Malik Jones, was unable to play.

“When you don’t have your best ball handler and best decision maker, then you move everyone up their ladder of responsibility and you have them placed, with a young team, strategically in that ladder of responsibility and you move them up,” head coach Tim Battles said.

Battles said fatigue played a big part in the team’s loss. Still, he sees improvement in his team’s overall play.

“In the first quarter, the passes that Ethan Heller was making were a lot better than the passes he was making in the middle of the second quarter,” Battles said. “Then, the panic button hit. If you would’ve seen these guys last year and how they handled pressure and you saw the first quarter, you wouldn’t have guessed it was the same guys, much improved. What you saw at the worst was normal last year. So, they are getting better. They are improving, but we’re nowhere near where we want to be. Nowhere close to even being satisfied. We want to get better.”

On the positive side of things, the team received a strong performance from Kyle Kearsey off the bench. He contributed four points and two rebounds, while also turning in a strong defensive performance that included a steal.

“He’s had no basketball experience and no coaching whatsoever,” Battles said of Kearsey. “He’s trying to take in everything and catalog and understand it and he just works hard. Every time he gets out from the court, you just see improvement and I’m talking every practice. So, he just continues to work hard and improve. I was really pleased with him tonight. He’s aggressive. He’s going to go after loose balls. He does a great job. I’m real pleased with him. He had a real nice game tonight.”

Battles mentioned the fatigue element was especially detrimental to the team’s defensive performance. In the third quarter, Sparta Academy hit three three-point shots, a big part of the reason they were able to build such a commanding lead.

“They hit some timely threes,” Battles said of Sparta. “Those were when we didn’t rotate back quickly enough and the ball was reversed. They did a great job of moving the ball. Instead of moving with the pass, we watched the pass go and said ‘Well, I ought to be there. Oh, he’s shooting. That’s okay.’ They hit them. They didn’t get nearly that many easy looks in the first half. A few possessions in the first half they moved the ball really well and we moved pretty well with them. In the second half, we just wore down. We’ve just got to improve and get tougher.”

Atmore Christian managed to get to the free throw a lot throughout the game, but had trouble hitting free throws at a high percentage. Battles said it’s something they’ve worked on in practice. He said it is something they will continue to work on in practice with an emphasis on developing proper form.

Battles said he is encouraged by the fact that his team refuses to quit, even when they are down by a large deficit.

“One thing I’ve had coaches consistently say, and not all 12 opponents, but consistently being said often is ‘You guys just never give up. They play hard,’” Battles said. “And they do. So, I’m proud of that. That’s something you’ve got to have. You can have all the talent in the world and if they’re not going to play hard, it doesn’t matter. So, I’d rather be in this situation where we’re playing hard and we can learn and grow.”

Ethan Heller finished as the team’s leading scorer with nine points, ten rebounds, and two assists. William Swartzendruber had eight points, four rebounds, and one assist. Christian Scott had eight points, eight rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Miles Maher was the team’s leading rebounder and blocker with nine and two respectively while also contributing three points and an assist. Chris Floyd filled in as a starter and had two points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Charlie Gandy chipped in two points off the bench.

Atmore Christian School followed up Thursday’s game with a road game against SL Jones on Friday and will be on the road again on Tuesday against Aletheia Christian Academy with tipoff tentatively scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

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