Wilcox County was on the brink of elimination, in a win-or-go-home situation.
That was nearly a month ago in the GHSA Region 2-A tournament.
The Patriots fought through an uncomfortably slow pace to edge Brookstone for a one-point win. They then needed to outscore Central-Talbotton by eight in the fourth quarter for another one-point win in the quarterfinals of the region tournament.
A loss in either one of those games — both ones where the Patriots were heavy favorites — and they wouldn’t have made it to the state tournament.
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But those two wins galvanized the Patriots, who would go on to play another six games. The run ended Wednesday night at the Coliseum, however, with an 87-63 loss to third-ranked Whitefield Academy.
“One game doesn’t make your season bad or good,” Wilcox County head coach George Kennedy said. “I’m disappointed with (Wednesday’s game), but I’m happy with our season. We played great for most of the year.”
The Patriots (25-8) played great for most of the night Wednesday but got swamped by the Wolfpack press in the fourth quarter.
Whitefield Academy (25-6) started the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run to break open a four-point game. The Wolfpack continued to run away from the Patriots with their fullcourt pressure, extending the run to 18-4 at one point. By that time the lead was 17 points, and there was too much distance to make up for the Patriots.
Perhaps even more frustrating to the Patriots, Whitefield broke the game open with its two top players, Brandon Reed and Cameron Baskerville, sitting on the bench with foul trouble.
Whitefield outscored Wilcox County 31-11 in the fourth quarter and 55-30 in the second half.
“I think it says a lot of all of our guys that we could go on a run like that with those two,” Whitefield head coach Tyrone Johnson said. “We never stopped doing what we do.”
Wilcox County led at the half and controlled the pace for the opening two quarters. But foul trouble hurt the Patriots in the third quarter, with three starters on the bench for significant minutes.
The Patriots fell behind by eight points late in the third quarter with key players on the bench. But standout sophomore Nick Marshall pulled them back closer, scoring six straight points to go along with baskets by Kwamaine Outlaw and Nate Moorhouse to pull within two points with less than a minute to play in the third quarter.
“We got back close, and everything just went wrong,” senior Antonio Marshall said. “I’m not sure what it was, I guess bad shots. But (that run to start the fourth quarter) was pretty much it.”
Nick Marshall led Wilcox County with 24 points.