Alcovy’s boys’ basketball had an up and down 2010-11 season that ultimately came to a disappointing end in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
The Tigers got off to a slow start last year, losing their first three games before reeling off eight wins. Another three-game losing streak around Christmas set them back a bit but once entrenched in region play, the Tigers took off. They won 12 straight including their first region tournament game but ultimately fell short of a region championship.
After losing early in the region tournament, the Tigers were forced to play on the road in the state playoffs. They lost to Thomas County Central in the opening round.
The Tigers lost some key role players to graduation but the core of its team remains intact. And that means Devon Edwards returns.
Edwards led the Tigers in scoring and assists last year while earning All-Region First Team honors for a second year. Alcovy will again lean on his scoring and leadership. But Edwards isn’t the only veteran returning.
Eight players from last year’s varsity team are back, giving the Tigers the most experienced team Sixth-year coach Eugene Brown has ever had.
“We feel like this year’s team is ready,” Brown said. “We didn’t have the on-court intensity, maturity, or leadership to finish teams off. We had to depend on too many things going exactly right on the court. We couldn’t overcome too many mistakes.”
Along with Edwards, seniors Dee Williams, Fred Vance and Deondre Butler enter the season with heavy varsity experience. Juniors Michael Tucker and Justin Wallace are expected to be steady contributors as is Eastside transfer Devin Gerald. Other newcomers Brown is excited about are Derrius Mathis and Marcus Bailey, who both gained valuable experience toward the end of last season.
“Derrius (Mathis) moved up to the varsity team late last year and had some great games,” Brown said. “He has improved tremendously since the summer. Devin Gerald transferred from Eastside with a great shooting touch and basketball IQ. He is quickly learning our system. Marcus (Beasley) also moved up to the varsity late last season as well and gained some valuable experience. He is a very strong young man with great quickness.”
All that experience equates to a team Brown thinks is ready to get over some of the hurdles that held it back in 2010-11. Even though they won 20 games, they often let teams back into games and went through stretches where both the defense and offense slowed down. Brown hopes this group will learn from some of those situations and make improvements this year.
“We have complete players up and down the roster, (we don’t have to hide as many flaws on offense or defense),” Brown said. “We have strong player leadership and they hold each other accountable. We have a great mix of complimentary players and “go-getters”. Everyone understands their role and there is great camaraderie. These guys are confident.”
Brown said the goals are similar this year but success will ultimately come down to an aggregate of several things.
“(We’ll be successful if) we maximize our potential, improve from game to game, win the region championship, qualify for the state play-offs, contend for a state championship, graduate all senior, and earn basketball/academic scholarships for desirable seniors,” he said.
Alcovy will face some stiff competition yet again, especially in the region tournament. Case in point, the Tigers won the subregion and beat Union Grove twice during the regular season only to fall to the Wolverines in the region tournament, proving anything can happen late in the season.
So how does Brown like his chances this time around?
“This team will challenge every team that we have on the schedule to play 32 minutes of tenacious basketball,” he said. “We hope to contend for the region title and make a deep run in the state playoffs.”
Alcovy also plays tough opponents outside of region play including four against county rivals Newton and Eastside. He knows as well as anyone, no team is guaranteed a favorite in those matchups. Regardless, the Tigers should be battle tested when the playoffs do come around.
“Of course our county games are always big, but we are also in a couple of really competitive tournaments (Savannah Holiday Classic and Deep South Classic) that should tell us a lot about our team,” he said. “ The region games are very important for obvious reasons and we added two more state qualifying teams in Chamblee and Stone Mountain so our schedule is pretty tough top to bottom, we are challenging these guys to perform at a high level every night.
“We are looking at each opponent as the toughest game, no surprises — no let-downs. It hard to keep teenage “young fellas” focused on one thing . One method towards that task is the schedule. Hopefully we are tournament hardened by February.”