The Life Christian boys basketball team celebrates after beating Trinity, 81-72, on Friday night in the National Association of Christian Athletics state title game at Turner Gym in Albany. The Warriors, who are in their fourth season of existence, will now head to nationals in Tennessee. (Shelby Turner/Special to The Herald)
ALBANY — Keith Graves wasn’t expecting it.
And that’s just how his kids wanted it.
Graves, the Albany native and Life Christian Academy alum, led the Warriors’ basketball team to the National Association of Christian Athletics state title Friday night with an 81-72 victory against Trinity.
The win comes in Graves’ first year as head coach — and then he was rewarded (or punished, however you look at it) by being doused with ice cold water on the hardwood floor of Turner Gym.
“Man ...” Graves began, “they were jumping everywhere celebrating, then all the sudden they came out of nowhere and got me. I’m still in those clothes. I need to change.”
But it gets better.
“After it was all over and everyone left, the water was still sitting there on the floor,” Graves said, before adding with a laugh: “So I’m like, ‘Guess I got to be the one to clean this up, too.’ ”
Now that’s dedication, and Graves doesn’t mind a bit.
The former Middle Georgia Tech star guard took over a program that had won just four games a year earlier and lifted it to new heights. Life Christian not only won the state title in just the program’s fourth year of existence, but it went from 4-17 a year ago to 21-4 this year.
“We feel proud,” the coach said. “Everyone does. Now we got nationals.”
That next step comes in March when the Warriors head to Dayton, Tenn., to represent the state of Georgia in the NACA nationals.
Darien Holmes led Life on Friday with 26 points, Tray Buchannan added 23 and Dontravious Sims chipped in 16 points and also had seven steals. Trinity’s William Payton led all scorers with 39.
DWS BOYS 78, TIFTAREA 62: The Knights (19-3, 8-0) closed the regular season with their 14th straight win Friday as Weston King led the way with 12 points, Pete Langstaff added 11 and Herald Super 6er Ramello Carter chipped in 11. Tiftarea was led by Sam Tucker and Ethan Mims’ 12 points .
DWS now awaits the winner of next week’s region tournament play-in game between Southland and Tiftarea, and the Knights will play the winner in the semifinals Friday at Darton State College.
The Bearcats ended a three-game losing skid Friday night with a 52-49 win against Cairo, one of their biggest rivals.
Leading the Bearcats in scoring was Dontavious Marshall (17 points), Jamez Harris (13), Tyree Crump (11) and Stephen Johnson (11).
Bainbridge closes its regular season at home tonight against Seminole County.
CRISP GIRLS 67, FULLINGTON 17: Crisp Academy seniors Jay Jay Yawn and Kendall Wilson celebrated Senior Night on Friday by combining for 31 points and 12 steals in the Lady Wildcats’ 18th straight win.
Yawn led the way with 22 points and six steals, while Wilson added nine points and six steals for Crisp County, which tallied 25 steals and ended the regular season 25-2 overall and 10-0 in Region 3-A.
Herald Super 6er Madi Mitchell chipped in 10 points for the Lady Wildcats, who are the No. 1 seed in the region and open the tournament Thursday against Georgia Christian.
RANDOLPH-CLAY BOYS 68, WEBSTER 27: Clinging to one of the final Class A playoff spots, the Red Devils won their fifth in a row Friday behind Herald Super 6er Gary McCrae’s game-high 17 points.
Kwemente Parker added 11 points for Randolph-Clay, which is No. 13 in the state’s power rankings, which sends the Top 16 to the state playoffs.
The Red Devils conclude the regular season today at home against rival Calhoun County.
DWS GIRLS 49, TIFTAREA 40: Nyla Perry scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds to help the Lady Knights clinch the No. 1 seed in the GISA Region 3-AAA tournament.
Casey Kincheloe added nine points for Deerfield, which will play either Southland or Calvary Christian next Friday at 7 p.m. at Darton State College in its region tournament opener.
Tiftarea settled for the No. 2 seed but will also receive a first-round bye.
TAE BOYS 57, SHERWOOD 54 (OT): Terrell Academy outscored Sherwood 10-7 in overtime to win the GISA Region 3-A showdown.
Leading scorers for Terrell Academy weren’t available at press time, but T.J. Clay led Sherwood with 14 points.
Sherwood finished tied for the No. 3 seed in next week’s region tournament with SGA, and a coin flip on Monday will break the tie between the two schools.
TAE GIRLS 70, SHERWOOD 37: Sherwood’s Lakeshia Elder was looking to finish her inaugural season as Lady Eagles’ head coach with a bang Friday night, but unfortunately for her squad the Terrell Academy Lady Eagles had other plans. The visiting Eagles took Sherwood to the woodshed on Senior Night, on the backs of Lauren Barfield and Marilauren Farr. The Terrell Twin Towers commanded the post all night en route to a 70-37 drubbing.
Barfield led both teams with 26 points and 12 rebounds, while Farr put up 14 points and nine rebounds of her own.
RANDOLPH-CLAY GIRLS 74, WEBSTER 23: The Herald No. 1 Lady Red Devils outscored Webster, 22-3, in the second quarter and then cruised to their 12th straight win.
Kanekia Washington led the way with 14 points, while Adriana Blackmon (13 points), Whenikia Washington (10) and Kobi Thornton (10) also got in double figures.
Randolph-Clay wraps up the regular season today at home against rival Calhoun County, which lost by just two earlier in the season against the Lady Red Devils in Edison.
SEMINOLE COUNTY GIRLS 80, MILLER COUNTY 28: The Lady Indians held Miller County scoring machine Mallory Diamond to 13 points and easily won the Region 1-A game after jumping out to a 58-16 halftime lead.
Katrese Brown scored 21 points to lead Seminole, while Alexus Watson finished with 20 and Candace Barber added 12.
Seminole (14-7, 11-3) finishes the regular season today at Bainbridge.
SEMINOLE COUNTY BOYS 89, MILLER COUNTY 66: The Seminole County Indians outscored rival Miller County 23-9 in the second quarter and never looked back to improve to 17-5 overall with an 89-66 win on Friday.
Jordan Harris (22 points), John Hudson (12), and Robert Speights (10) led Seminole, while Antravious Benton scored a game-high 31 points to lead Miller County.
The two teams will play again in the Tuesday’s opening round of the Region 1-A tournament at Mitchell County.
CALHOUN SWEEPS STEWART: Quenton Taylor scored 15 to lead the Calhoun County boys to a 60-55 win against Stewart County and keep the Cougars on the bubble of the Class A playoff picture.
Entering Friday’s game, Calhoun was No. 19 in the rankings with the Top 16 entering the state tournament.
Isiah Hallmon (12 points), Jamario Jackson (11) and Dajohn Williams (10) also scored in double figures for the Cougars, who wrap up the regular season today at rival Randolph-Clay.
Destiny McIntyre scored 20 points and Herald Super 6er Brandi Buie added 19 for the Calhoun County girls, who won, 65-32.