The Prince Avenue Christian School boys basketball team fell in its first game of 2021.

The Wolverines dropped their game against Habersham Central High School last Saturday, 51-48. The loss dropped Prince Avenue’s overall record to 2-7 on the season.

Earlier in the season, the Wolverines lost to the Raiders 69-49, but the team has grown in size and skill since Nov. 30.

Prince Avenue Christian’s squad gained six players, including three starters, following the football team’s state championship victory and end of the football season last Monday.

Two of those new starters were some of the leading scorers for the Wolverines in last Saturday’s game. Senior Phillip Kelley scored 20 points, and sophomore Josh Britt scored 9 points, had three rebounds and two assists.

“It definitely helps to have athletes, but every day those guys are grinding and they're building to be good teammates,” Prince Avenue head coach Brandon Jones said. “All I care about at the end of the day is their character. If they're going to win or lose, they're going to thank somebody for showing up, and high five the opposing team.”

The Wolverines played with intensity from the beginning and were down by 1 point at the end of the first quarter, 12-11. Guard Malachi Dooley of the Raiders scored 12 of his 22 points in the second quarter and Habersham led 21-27 at halftime.

Robert Skaggs scored 7 of his 11 points in the third. First, Will Elrod lobbed up a ball and then Skaggs fought through contact for a layup but missed the and-one free throw. After Britt made a similar lob pass, Skaggs did it again and this time he made his free throw.

The Wolverines were down 27-26 before the Raiders scored 2 but then Britt drove through contact and made a 3-point play to tie the game 29-29.

The Wolverines had some turnovers with more attempts to get Skaggs the ball in the paint. James Robach was able to get one more successful lob pass to Skaggs to end a 5-0 scoring run from the Raiders and after a defensive rebound, Kelley drove for 2 more points to make it 34-33.

Despite the turnovers, the high scoring continued. Robach made a 3-pointer and Kelley used a euro step drive and made his free throw to score the final Wolverine points in the third, making it 42-41.

Down by 1, the Wolverines played hard in the fourth quarter. Weston Elrod and Gabe Hudlow of the Raiders chased a rebound and collided on the visitor’s sideline in the first minute and the ball went to the Wolverines. They missed, and then Skaggs jumped and blocked Hudlow’s shot from above, but it was ruled a foul.

Kelley made his third 3-pointer and then Robach made one of two free throws to tie the game 45-45 with 4:28 left to play. On the next Raiders offensive play, Skaggs fouled out on another block attempt, and Hudlow made one free throw to put the Raiders up 46-45. After another Wolverine miss, Dooley made one of two free throws and the Raiders led by 2.

Kelley had another 3-point play to go up 48-47 before the Raiders called timeout with 2:36 to play. In the final minutes, the Wolverines turned the ball over twice and the Raiders made a 3-point shot.

“I think a lot of turnovers just occurred, either trying to force something or guys not being comfortable in their position,” Jones said. “So, if we get guys to realize where and when we want them to attack, that can solve that problem, and also getting guys more reps. It’s not an excuse; it just is what it is. We’ve got guys who’ve only played five varsity games in their whole career. A team like Habersham, they're going to take advantage of those guys who are inexperienced.”

Jones said the final shot is a “feel thing,” and no one had a hotter hand than Kelley. In the last 10 seconds, he missed a 3-pointer and after an offensive rebound, and then Robach missed what would have been a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

Jones has a few solutions moving forward.

First is prayer, then comes practice, but most importantly will be him trusting his two assistant coaches more. Jones had asked Leshon Richardson and Nathan Scott each to have a play ready for this game, but Jones didn’t use them. Because the new team only had three practices before this game, the Wolverines relied more on athleticism than play design.

“The one play that we tried to run two times, our guys had zero clue,” Jones said.  “And maybe it's me over-talking or overdoing it, and probably over-thinking it, but they weren't ready to knock down any type of shot. That's on me, so I have to rely more on those guys who got ice in their veins, my coaches.”

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