McDonough Relies On "Next Man Up" In Win Over Holy Innocents, Advances To GHSA 4A Second Round
After a shocking semifinals loss to Lovett last week in their region tournament, the McDonough Warhawks bounced back with a win to claim the number three seed ahead of the Georgia High School Association Class 4A state championship tournament. Now considered a dangerous three seed, despite being down two starters, the Warhawks had to travel to face the Holy Innocents Golden Bears on Wednesday in the opening round of the tournament, in what would be a championship atmosphere.
The Warhawks got off to an overall decent start as they opened up the first quarter with a 9-4 run, however, with center Caleb Wilson of the Golden Bears coming alive defensively in the paint with a few blocked shots, Holy Innocents was able to turn defense into offense as they closed out the quarter on a 7-5 run and trailed 14-12 at the end of the quarter. The Golden Bears would carry their momentum into the start of the second quarter as a 6-1 run would give them an 18-15 lead, but the Warhawks would finish strong on a quick 6-2 run to take a 21-20 lead at the half.
In the third quarter, McDonough would appear to take command of the game, as they would go up by as many as 10 points at one point in the period, but the Golden Bears would battle back to take a 39-38 lead, however would quickly give the lead back to the Warhawks as they would go up 45-40 at the end of the period. Yet, the Golden Bears would not go away as they would once again take the lead going up 55-52, but a crucial foul on Wilson drawn by Keenan Gray on a shot that would count, would eventually lead to the game being tied as Gray would make good on the free throw and Wilson would foul out.
Taking advantage of Wilson’s absence, the Warhawks would close out on an 11-3 run in route to a 68-58 win. “To pull out a win like that is huge, especially since I’m playing a lot of young guys,” McDonough head coach, BJ Thomas said after Wednesday’s win, particularly due to the amount of missed free throws by the Warhawks. “We were horrible from the free throw line,” Thomas said. And with the absence of two veteran starters, Thomas credited his younger players for their ability to fill the void to help McDonough pick up the win.
“A lot of young guys had to step up and play major minutes that they might not have normally gotten and they showed they were ready for it. And that’s what being a team is about. Next man up and they did that. I’m so proud of them,” Thomas said. With the win, the Warhawks will travel to take on the No. 1 seed, Sonoraville later this week and for Thomas, he wants his team to work on their free throw shooting, joking that “we might just get in the gym and shoot free throws for two hours,” Thomas laughed and adding, “Keeping up our defensive intensity. Our defense is what’s kept us this long and it’s helped us get to this point. We have to keep doing that,” Thomas said.