Houston County Sharks win state basketball championship

March 13, 2013 

It’s the program’s first basketball championship, but in only their second season of varsity competition the Houston County Sharks are emerging as the pre-eminent high school adapted sports program in Georgia.

Houston County guard Braxton Robinson scored 10 of his game-high 12 points after intermission, Ja-Que Billingsley controlled the glass, and the Sharks added a GHSA/AAASP basketball championship to their rapidly expanding trophy case with a 24-21 victory over West Georgia in the title game of the state wheelchair basketball tournament Friday at the Macon Coliseum.

The Sharks are already the reigning state champions in team handball and football. Houston County moved up to the varsity division prior to the 2011-12 school year.

“We do a good job,” head coach Brenda Arnett said. “We have a great group of kids. Dynasty? I don’t know about that. We were a little nervous going to varsity.”

Robinson scored six points in the fourth of six periods. He missed a layup to open the second half, but he worked his way free for several other shots later. His 17-foot shot just before the end of the fourth period gave the Sharks their first lead of the game at 16-15.

“We had to step up and help each other with picks,” Robinson said. “At halftime, the coaches told us we need to focus more and take better shots.”

Robinson, an eighth-grader at Northside Middle School in Warner Robins, made 5-of-8 shots after intermission.

Meanwhile, Billingsley sparked the Sharks to a 33-15 edge in rebounding. The Northside High School junior pulled down 11 rebounds on his own. He also had four points and four assists.

Billingsley played a key role in Houston County’s ability to break the Wolverines’ full-court pressure.

“Our coaching staff set up some plays to help us get the ball down court,” Billingsley said.

Billingsley and Robinson each played the full 48 minutes. Jeff Sweeney contributed six points and five rebounds in 31 minutes.

Despite three prior victories over West Georgia this season, the Sharks (7-0) started slow in Friday’s title game. Eugene Layne and Douglas Johnston scored baskets to sink Houston County into an early 4-0 hole. The baskets allowed the Wolverines (3-5) the chance to set up full-court defensive pressure.

The Sharks initially struggled to handle it. When they did, they missed open shots in the lane.

Johnston finished with nine points. Layne had 10 to pace the Wolverines.

Throughout the first half, Johnston was the best player on the floor. He scored seven points and pulled down two rebounds. Johnston also was credited with three steals and had a number of pass deflections. West Georgia led 13-10 midway through the contest.

Johnston had a chance to force overtime, but his 3-point shot attempt from about 25 feet fell short just before the final buzzer sounded.

Contact Chris Deighan at cdeighan@cox.net.

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