STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. - The Alcovy Tigers may not have put on their prettiest performance to date, but they did enough to defeat the KIPP Atlanta Warriors 56-47 in the first round of the Greenberg Price Annual Christmas Tournament at Woodland High School.
The Tigers got off to a fast start and quickly jumped out to a double-digit lead over the Warriors. The Tigers held the Warriors to just five points in the opening quarter of play, while the Tigers finished the quarter with 19.
Dylan Driver, Oliver Gerard, Trevon Howze and Avion Young accounted for all of the team's opening quarter points with Driver leading the way with six. The Warriors would play the Tigers closer in the second quarter, but would still go into the halftime break trailing the Tigers by a 31-16 mark.
It was the play of the third quarter that would draw this game tight as the Warriors would finally own a quarter in the game outscoring the Tigers 14-8 in the third. The Warriors would match the Tigers fourth-quarter output as each team finished with 17 points in the final quarter of play.
Tigers head coach harped on the fact that this was not the best his team could have played and that they need to play a full four quarters if they want to compete against high-quality opponents.
"If I had to grade it, we were right at a 70. We did the job as far as getting the W, but the team is a lot better than how they played today," Hardwick said. "We have to learn to play a full four quarters."
Hardwick hammered home the point that his guys need to play more sound on the defensive side of the ball and with better basketball IQ to get that 70 closer to a 100.
One guy that had a solid showing for the Tigers was Avion Young, who led the Tigers in scoring with 16 points and hit three clutch threes to give his team momentum in the early stages. Hardwick overall was very pleased with Young's night.
"We really needed that offense that he put in today, and he actually ran point guard for us today, especially when Trey got into early foul trouble," Hardwick said. "I'm very proud of his maturation. I still want him to be able to play a complete game, but other than that, he did a really good job for us today."
Another player that had a strong overall showing was Dylan Driver, who had multiple rebounds and easily had a double-double. Driver finished with 10 points on the night and Hardwick has been pleased with not only his play but the leadership he has shown as of late.
"He's definitely been a leader and is the team captain as of right now," Hardwick said. "He's a silent leader and very coachable kid. He probably had another double-double today, I think he had at least 18 rebounds today, so he's really been a solid player of us."
The Tigers' other double-digit scorer was the high-flying and always exciting Oliver Gerard, who finished with 14 points and had multiple dunks throughout the contest. However, in addition to these three players, freshman Ben Hodges stood out for his efforts, and coach Hardwick had high remarks for the young Tiger.
"Being that he's a freshman, it's very promising, and his progression really started at the end of that Newton game," Hardwick said. "His progression is something that will need in the future, so I'm very proud of Ben Hodges, especially on the defensive end."
With this win, the Tigers have earned a rare opportunity to exact some revenge on their county rival the Eastside Eagles, who they will meet in the second round of the tournament. Hardwick knows that his guys will need to put together a full game and play their best basketball to beat a string Eagles squad.
"Well, we're going to have to play with all we have. I respect what Eastside's coach is doing and what the players are doing over there, so they're not going to just lay down, so we have to bring our A-game to seal the deal," Hardwick said. "We went down 17 points in the first half. I've been telling the guys don't put yourself in the hole, we have to play a complete game."