It's almost becoming expected at this point, but to a man as each player on the Houston County Sharks explained afterwards, winning a championship is always unique and special in its own way.
The Sharks took home their fourth consecutive GHSA American Association of Adapted Sports Programs Wheelchair Basketball state championship on Friday with a 40-23 victory over the Gwinnett Heat at the Macon Coliseum.
The victory also increased Houston County's winning streak in all three wheelchair sports to a remarkable 61 straight dating back to 2012-13.
Similar to last season, the outcome never seemed to be much in doubt. Houston County led 8-1 after the first-of-six periods and by 17 at the end of the second. The lead was 20 at the half.
Houston County had defeated Gwinnett 33-14 earlier this season and 44-24 in the 2015 championship tilt.
This game is physical: Witnessing a wheelchair basketball game in person puts the physicality in context. From the clangs of the chairs colliding, to the smell of the rubber tires burning and the bodies hitting the floor, this game is a sensory overload.
Coaching discrepancy: Winning 61 games in a row across three different wheelchair disciplines is no accident. The Sharks have great athletes, but it's their organization from the top down that really makes itself apparent each year in Macon. Houston County is two moves ahead of its competition. They don't react, they dictate and anticipate in a way that no other team in the state can match at this time.
THREE WHO MATTERED
Donovan Way: Way contributed eight of Houston County's first 10 points and gave the Sharks a double-digit lead they wouldn't relinquish with less than half of the second period gone. He finished with a game-high 20 points.
Bryce Lowery: After being outscored 8-0 by Gwinnett in the fourth period and seeing its 20-point lead trimmed to just 12, Lowery stepped up for the Sharks by scoring 6 of his 8 points in the fifth to stabilize the game.
Braxton Robinson: Houston County's most trustworthy ball-handler exited the game with foul trouble in the third period. His continued absence after the half contributed greatly to Gwinnett's run in the fourth that trimmed a large lead.
THEY SAID IT
Senior William Moore on where he feels Houston County has its biggest advantage: "We're better at playing with organization. Our coaches have really brought a level of professionalism to the team as far as how we set up on offense or defense, how we react to turnovers, and how we react to pickups."
Sharks head coach Brenda Arnett on the play of defensive stalwart Jordon Kozloski: "She works hard and she moves the chair better than anybody else does. She got in foul trouble a little early and I had to take her out, but she's just so aggressive and we know that with her."
Arnett on the championship mindset of her team: "We just work hard. I make the practices intense, and to me, if you don't make intense practices, then you're not going to get any better. Sometimes it's hard because we were low on numbers this year, so we played a lot of four on four, but they work hard."