The Coosa Eagles looked prepped for another letdown, trailing the Woodland Wildcats 51-44 with a little over six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter off Thursday’s consolation bracket game at Georgia Highlands.
The Eagles, one night after dropping a heartbreaker to region-rival Model, had just allowed Woodland’s Qua Stocks to run in transition and send the ball home with a ferocious dunk.
Instead of letting the game slip away, Coosa used an 18-4 run and Isaac Bradley’s 12 fourth-quarter points to complete the comeback, winning 69-62.
“Our guys are still hurting from last night. My challenge was you can’t do anything about yesterday. What’s important is what you do today,” Coosa head coach John McFather said after the game. “Winners step up.”
While their offense wasn’t present all night, Coosa’s defensive intensity remained high thanks to Tavaris Wilson’s individual effort. He was active in the full-court press, altering inbounds passes and hounding the ball-handler in the backcourt.
“He only had five points, but defensively, he was all over the floor,” said McFather. “He was huge, and the rest of the kids fed off of his energy.”
Despite Coosa’s strong defensive presence, Woodland matched the Eagles’ intensity for much of the night, forcing turnovers and attacking the basket.
The Wildcats used a 9-0 run to take a momentary lead before the Eagles found their rhythm and tied the ballgame at 24-24 at halftime.
While both teams had a strong first half, the third quarter was a two-man battle between Coosa’s Korley Grier and Woodland’s Stocks.
Grier matched Stocks shot-for-shot and both played stingy defense to keep the contest close. Grier had seven points, one rebound and one steal in the frame, but was bested by Stocks’ seven points, one rebound and three steals.
“I just tried to get my team over the hump so we can score and get us going on defense,” said Grier on his individual effort.
“Korley’s playing like a senior is supposed to play. He’s solid every night on both ends. He plays tremendous defense. He’s shooting the ball well and making great decisions,” said McFather on Grier’s performance. “He’s probably playing the most consistent of any of the players we’ve got. I can’t say enough good things about what he’s doing.”
Despite the duo’s even play, Woodland built a 41-33 lead off of a 10-0 run until Coosa answered with just over a minute to go in the third.
The Eagles rattled off four points in a hurry before the teams traded buckets, and the Wildcats took a 45-40 lead into the final quarter.
When the fourth started, it looked like Woodland would run away with the game, taking a quick seven-point lead.
After spending much of the night on the perimeter, Bradley finally attacked the hoop and it sparked the run for the Eagles.
“In the fourth, Isaac went off. He came alive,” said McFather on Bradley’s big fourth quarter. “He scored 12 (in the fourth). This is the player I’m talking about that could dominate ballgames. We’re encouraging him, and we’re pushing him.”
With the win, Coosa receives not only a confidence boost, but they move to 8-2 on the season, with a second meeting against the Calhoun Yellow Jackets on the horizon on Dec. 26 in the Medi-Thrift Pharmacy Christmas Classic at LaFayette.
“(Calhoun is) in our region. I think they’re going to be excited. It takes some time to work through your emotions,” said McFather. “We’re getting all our team members together, let’s get healthy and let’s keep getting better.”
Woodland drops to 6-7 on the year and will try to recover against North Paulding on January 3, on the road.