Pointed out by a colleague to Academics Plus Coach John Harrison, the Falcons could be the hottest team in 1A right now.
That assessment was made after Academics Plus (14-18) won four of five games last week in the 1A-5 district tournament. The high point was a 69-59 triumph over Guy-Perkins last Tuesday which landed them a spot in the 1A-3 region tournament at Mount Vernon-Enola this week. In the semifinals last Thursday, the Falcons lost 57-41 to KIPP Delta but defeated Mount Vernon-Enola, 53-43, last Saturday to notch the three seed into the regional tournament.
They face South Side Bee Branch, the No. 2 seed from the 1A-2 South, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. One victory secures a spot in the 1A state tournament.
“We want to prove to people we can play,” Harrison said. “To come out of the district tournament as the eighth seed was an incredible run. We took care of the ninth, fifth, fourth and three seeds and had the number one seed on the ropes. The only people who thought we could do that were me and those eight boys.”
Last week was especially gratifying after the Falcons lost 10-12 games in the last minute. Harrison told his players that they were a good basketball team but just had to put it together. Luckily, they chose the district tournament as the time to do that.
The catalyst during the run was the play of senior guard Raylon Lynch. During the five-game stretch, he averaged 73 points a game, 12 steals, 14 assists and had just one turnover. He is the one who takes the pressure when Academics Plus goes into its four-corner delay.
“We were probably doing too much and have kind of simplified our offense,” Harrison said. “We are getting the ball to him and letting him make plays.”
In the Hornets’ last three games (Guy-Perkins, KIPP Delta, Mount Vernon-Enola), Lynch scored 27, 14 and 16 points, respectively. Senior Paul Sheesley also reached double figures in all three contests with 18, 16 and 14. Senior Chabala Musonda scored 11 points against Mount-Vernon Enola and was 8-of-9 from the free throw line.
Last Saturday’s victory was good in that the Hornets made some adjustments at the half. Harrison said Mount Vernon-Enola was dominating them on the glass in the first half with 18 of its 38 points on putbacks. In the second half, Academics Plus did not give up one offensive rebound.