Deerfield-Windsor’s Jay Barber (23) goes up for a layup against Brookwood on Saturday. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY — When it comes to basketball in Southwest Georgia, Deerfield-Windsor boys coach Gordy Gruhl has earned the right to be called a living legend.
Known for his intensity and sound basketball teachings, the fiery sage, who is usually even-tempered after games, could not help but voice his disgust after the Knights let an early double-digit lead slip away before losing in the closing seconds Saturday evening at home to Brookwood 49-48.
“We got what we deserved; (Brookwood) looked like they wanted to win a lot more than we did,” Gruhl asserted. “When you don’t play hard defensively, you don’t execute, you turn the ball over a lot — you get beat. It’s a shame because the game should not have been that close, but they executed down the stretch and we didn’t.”
The Knights fell to 14-6 on the season and 2-2 in the region. Gruhl said he could not remember the last time Deerfield lost a region game at home.
The crushing defeat was made possible by Brookwood’s Jake Piazza, who led all scorers with 23 points and was responsible for the game-winning shot.
After a scramble for a loose ball, the Warriors called timeout with 14.8 seconds remaining. The ball was inbounded to Piazza who stalled for a bit, drove left down the middle of the lane, pump faked a shot getting two defenders in the air and then sank a soft jumper just inside the free-throw stripe.
“We put the ball in our best player’s hands and backed everybody to the baseline and let him go one-on-one,” Brookwood head coach Brad Piazza explained. “We had a post player screening down low—it’s a play that has been working for us all year and it worked again when we needed it to.”
The Knights had two seconds left but were not able to get a shot off in time.
Although the game was close for the majority, given how it started one could argue that Deerfield should have cruised to an easy victory. The Knights came out the gates and ran off 13 straight points. The Warriors accumulated five turnovers before scoring their first bucket.
But the hot start quickly came to an end as the Warriors (9-11) finished the quarter on a 7-2 run. Their play continued to pick up in the second just as the Knights were getting out of rhythm with turnovers and shoddy defense.
“I just thought we lost focus and, ultimately, lost the game on the defensive end,” Austin Fallaw said. “We executed towards the end a little better, but we let them throw the ball inside without really defending them. It was almost as if they were scoring at will.”
Gruhl’s viewpoint was a bit more critical.
“We got off 13-0 and we quit playing,” he said. “We were sharp at the start of the game, but after that I didn’t see anything good. I didn’t see anything good from the players, anything good on the offensive end, anything good on the defensive end. We couldn’t catch the ball, we couldn’t shoot the ball, we turned the ball over and we weren’t very good defensively.
“That is a recipe for disaster and that’s exactly what we got. Now we can either fold up the tents and start spring sports early, or we can come back and look like we want to play basketball and play like we’re capable of playing.”
Center Justin Eady was the only Knight to score in double figures with 10 points. The Barber brothers had seven points apiece and Fallaw and Trey Young each chipped in six points.
Down a couple of players to injuries, Brookwood was able to do more with less. The Warriors overcame 13 first-half turnovers and outscored the Knights the rest of the way. Hampton Worthey had nine points, while John Stauffer added seven points and Chase Flowers six.