The memory of a loss in a state championship game always lingers, especially until there's a chance to avenge it.
Crawford County got that opportunity when Seminole County popped up on the GHSA Class AA Tournament boys bracket in the first round.
Seminole County walked off the Macon Coliseum court a little more than a year ago with a 76-71 win over Crawford County in the title game. Payback was tasty for the Eagles, coming in the form of a 95-64 win over the Indians, and then they beat Temple in the second round.
"I wouldn't say it was the best game of the year," Crawford County point guard Monkeize Moore said. "I would say it was a very important game, due to the fact they beat us in the state championship last year and took that opportunity for us to bring that title home.
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"It was a very intense game."
But it's one head coach Clyde Zachery has to tried to bring into context for the defending runners-up.
"We talk about every game as a championship game. 'This game may be your last game, let's go out and play every game as though it's a championship game,' " Zachery said. "It was the championship on that night, but it wasn't the one we're looking forward to."
Zachery and his staff have tried to keep the 24-3 Eagles focused on the goal of returning to the Coliseum and walking off with smiles and hardware, and the next step toward that comes Friday against Holy Innocents at Georgia College.
The Eagles return the vast majority of players from a year ago, including All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year William Jarrell, and All-Middle Georgia second-teamer Marcal Knolton. Moore and Jeremy Raines, honorable mention selections last year, are among the several returnees.
"Now I just feel like everybody knows their role," Moore said of this year's team. "Everybody plays their role the right way."
Including him. He is a veteran point guard with the confidence of a veteran.
"We're sharing the ball way more this year than we did last year," he said. "I'm controlling the game more, I'm keeping the ball in my hands and controlling the floor, what a point guard's supposed to do. I feel way more confident this year. I feel like there's nobody guarding me this year. It's my last year, I just feel like there's nobody guarding me."
Defenses have to deal with the 6-foot-7 Knolton on the inside and Jarrell everywhere. Damien Saffold shares some point guard time with Moore. The Eagles average 79.6 points per game.
"We've got five kids on any given night that can be our top scorer," Zachery said. "We're pretty solid at about eight deep."
Crawford County has won four straight since being surprised by Region 4-AA foe Lamar County 77-76 earlier this month. As the schedule played out, the teams battled again a week later with Crawford County winning 86-46.
"You lose a one-point ballgame in the last second, and you were like 14-of-32 from the free-throw line and miss about five or six layups," Zachery said. "It's not guaranteed. 'We got them again, Coach, we got them.' Then we got a 40-point win."
Ah, the suspense of coaching high school kids.
"You never know what they're going to bring," Zachery said with a chuckle. "Whatever they bring, you've got to take it."
Crawford County is 51-7 the past two seasons, so the Eagles tend to bring something pretty good.
"The key to this year is putting that last year when we were in the state (championship), putting it in our heads seeing another team walk away with our title," Moore said. "Our main goal is to get back to the Coliseum."