Cougars complete season with heart-breaking loss
By By LARRY BONDS
Coach Chad Prewett was very proud of his young Cougar team although they came up two points short Saturday night.
With only two seniors on the team, Justin Shirley and Josh Vanlandingham, his Cougars fought a valiant battle in the Elite 8 Tournament.
A very quick Abbeville team came out on fire and jumped to a 31-15 lead. But the Cougars didn't quit. They did what they've done all season.
Just when one may have thought that they had been given the knock-out blow, they picked themselves up off the floor. The Cougars stormed back to cut a 16-point deficit to 8 points at the half with Abbeville's Generals leading them 33-25.
With 1 minute 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Cougars took the lead for the first time since early in the game. Justin Shirley stole the ball, passing to wide-open Robert Hardy who hit a lay-up for an easy basket and a 36-35 lead.
After three quarters of play, E.A. held a slim 39-38 margin. Early in the fourth quarter, the Generals again built a 9-point lead. But the Cougars ferociously battled back and with only 20 seconds left they had pulled within 2 points. Not until Bradford Price let go of a desperation shot from the other end of the court that fell short by a couple of feet with 0 seconds left, was the game decided.
The Cougars had lost a 65-63 heart-stopper. The hurt and disappointment was evident on the players' faces as they headed for the dressing room.
E.A. Coach Chad Prewett said, " These guys played with a lot of heart."
Coach Prewett said they lost the game, but when they walked off that court everyone knew they were winners because they never gave up.
In the hallway outside the locker room, after the disappointing loss, parents, cheerleaders, and fellow students hugged the guys who were making that long walk out, reminding everyone that it's just a game.
Robert Hardy was the leading scorer with 17 points. He also led in rebounds with 13.
Jace Beasley racked up 14 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Justin Shirley contributed 14 points and had 6 steals demonstrating the leadership he provided for this team all year.
Bradford Price added 10 points. Cody White posted 5 points and Chris Moore chipped in 3.
Coach Prewett said, "Our free throws hurt us. We only hit 7 out of 13."
The Cougars finished at 17 and 13. They had just broken into the number 10 spot in the state rankings which Coach Prewett thought was a big accomplishment.
With Jace Beasley, Bradford Price, Cole Norton, Cody White, Steven Shirley, Robert Hardy, Drew Johnson, and Billy McCann returning, the 2002-2003 season looks promising for the Cougars.