With just two games left in the regular season, the Rome High boys’ basketball team heads into the final week with just three region wins under its belt.
But first-year head coach Terry Smith has an optimistic outlook for the upcoming Region 7-5A tournament. And he knows the Wolves aren’t the same team that started the season.
Second-from-last in the standings, Smith knows what his team is up against, but isn’t afraid to fly under the radar going into tournament play.
“We dug a hole for ourselves,” Smith said. “We’re at the bottom of the region, so we’ve got to go in there and go to work every night. We’ve just got to take one game at a time. We’ve got to shock somebody, but it’s not a bad thing going in as the underdog.
“The great thing about basketball is you have a region tournament. Anything can happen at that time.”
Following Saturday’s 81-67 loss to first-place Kell, the Wolves (4-17, 3-11 7-5A) close out the regular season hosting Villa Rica on Tuesday and Hiram on Friday. Villa Rica is fifth in the region, and Hiram is second.
The Wolves have faced some struggles early on and were short-handed through the first part of the season with the football team advancing to the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
Junior players Justyn Smith and Justin Ingram were the only two players on the team with any varsity experience, and the Wolves dropped the first three games of the year before getting into the win column with a 46-38 win against region foe Woodland.
“We’ve improved from Day 1,” Smith said. “Obviously at the beginning of the season, we were kind of short-handed. We only had two guys out here with any varsity experience. They played the post and all of our guards played ninth grade and JV last year.”
With the return of senior Jaylen Nelson and Jay Wise after football season, Smith said his team has really started to improve.
“It helped getting Jaylen back,” Smith said. “He’s the only senior on the team, and they’ve grown and they’ve gotten better. Three-fourths of our games, we led at halftime, but we just weren’t able to finish.”
In his first year at the helm for the Wolves, Smith said he learned a lot about his team and himself as a coach.
“The No. 1 thing is patience,” Smith said. “When you have a lot of guys that don’t really have a lot of varsity experience, you have to be patient. You know you’re going to take some lumps, so the biggest thing is you just try to stay positive and keep your self esteem and self confidence and you build on it.”