PLAYOFF BOUNDPublished 9:05pm Friday, February 7, 2014
Stern looks and “hype” claps replaced the ear-to-ear grins and high fives that were commonplace on the Goshen bench early in the third quarter once the stanza came to a close.
Goshen fended off a 16-0 run to end the third quarter, and picked up some key buckets in the fourth to eek out a 65-54 win over New Brockton in the first round of the area tournament Friday night in Elba.
The Eagles dominated the first half, and kept the momentum going in the first half of the third quarter, but then the wheels fell off the Goshen points-mobile.
In the last six minutes of the third quarter, the Gamecocks scored bucket after bucket, and the Eagles watched their large lead dwindle to just two points.
“Everything was going great for us, and then boom,” said Goshen head coach Johnny Mitchell.
“We didn’t take care of the ball the way we should have, and give credit to New Brockton. They converted our mistakes in to points. Basketball is a game of runs, and we were able to get theirs stopped just in the nick of time.”
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Eagles went on a 6-0 run, which was capped off with a big three pointer from eighth-grader Zach Alford.
The three turned the eight-point lead in to 11, and forced New Brockton to begin shooting more risky shots to catch back up.
Mitchell said Alford’s youth and inexperience might be an advantage to him at times.
“Zach has a lot of confidence right now,” said Mitchell with a smile. “I think it helps him that he is young, and hasn’t been in these pressure-packed moments before. He is so calm out there, because he doesn’t really know how big things are at times. He has as much confidence as any of us right now, and the older guys see that and feed off it.”
Alford’s three gave Goshen breathing room late, but it was a trio of Eagle seniors that closed the door on New Brockton.
Stevie Rodgers, Quay Simmons and Denzil Green combined for 41 of the Eagles’ 65 points.
The tough play of Rodgers and Green drew praise from Mitchell.
“Those guys are the biggest, but they play hard down low,” said Mitchell. “We knew we couldn’t jump with New Brockton’s No. 4. There is no one in this gym that can jump with him. But our guys were able to battle around and pick up some big rebounds, especially on the defensive end to help us put this one away.”
Simmons led the Eagles with 23 points. Green and Alford finished with 10 each, and Deangelo Orum dropped in 8.
With the win, Goshen advances to the sub-regional round of the AHSAA playoffs automatically, but still has the area title game against the winner of the Elba/Zion Chapel game.
Mitchell feels the Eagles will see the regular season champion Elba in the finals on Monday.
“Elba is great basketball team,” Mitchel said. “I have been coaching basketball around this area for a long, long time and this Elba team might be the best ever. Truth is, if Elba and Goshen play 100 times, they probably win 90 of them. But the thing is, we don’t play 100 times. All we have to do is get them once. It will be tough, but we can play loose knowing a playoff spot is in our back pocket.”
The area championship game is set for a 7:30 tip Monday night in Elba.