What a difference two weeks and a challenge can make.
The Wolverines were thumped by rival Athens Academy a the Sinkwich Spartan Center on Jan. 4
Wolverines’ head coach Will Cantrell challenged the team in the days following.
The Wolverines have been on time, early and diligent in their efforts and preparation since one of the more frustrating defeats in Cantrell’s tenure at PACS.
“We really challenged our kids after that game,” Cantrell said. “We challenged them to get in the gym and put the work in. They’ve responded. I’m really proud of them and I hope it continues.”
Two weeks have passed and the Wolverines have passed and the scene in PACS’ gym on Saturday night acted as a painting of just how different things can be in two weeks.
The Wolverines righted the wrong that took place in their first match up with the Spartans.
PACS squeaked by Athens Academy 66-63 on Saturday night.
As the clock hit zero and a potential game-tying shot Palmer Bush came up a little short, the Wolverines and the student section rushed onto the court to celebrate what could be a signature win and a clear signal to the things turning in a positive direction for the once struggling Wolverines. Additionally, bragging rights brings out the emotions for student athletes. Cantrell wants the intensity the Wolverines showed on Saturday night to be consistent throughout the rest of the season.
“It’s special for them because it’s their rival,” Cantrell said. “It’s fun. It’s fun to beat your rival. You also have to help them understand that beating your rival isn’t the end all be all. It hurts a little more and it feels a little better when the ball bounces your way and the opposite. We hope our kids will respond appropriately and come to work on Monday.”
The Wolverines were led by their top score senior Andrew Cheek, who scored a game-high 29 points. Cantrell has grown to know what to expect from Cheek offensively, the Wolverines as a team have needed to find a way to support Cheek’s scoring with the things that don’t go in the stat sheet.
Senior Harrison Finney, who is playing his first season of high school basketball this season acted as one of the catalysts for the Wolverines. Finney didn’t score a single point on Saturday night. The energy he brought on the bench and on the floor has given the Wolverines an edge that they lacked in the first matchup against the Spartans.
“When you’re around somebody who has that kind of energy and level of positivity about them, it’s contagious,” Cantrell said. “I don’t know how or why. I know it works. It’s kind of like gravity. I don’t know a ton about it, but it works. He (Finney) brings a lot of energy, his teammates love him and his teammates love him. It’s a good role for him.”
That energy was felt from the opening tip, not only by Finney but all of the Wolverines and it hit the Spartans and admittedly it stunned them a bit. The Wolverines held a 20-6 lead after the first quarter. The Spartans fought back and had a shot to tie the game at the buzzer. Athens Academy head coach Mike Salvia doesn’t believe in moral victories, but seeing the different ways the Spartans found to score in their comeback opened some options for down the road.
“I think we were shocked,” Salvia said. “I think they all shocked us. I don’t know when their first miss was, but it wasn’t early. They got out to a big lead. They’re playing with a lot more energy...A loss is a loss is a loss. I don’t care if you lose by one or three points. A loss is a loss no matter what. But, what that does for us is that we showed that we’re capable of that (coming back).”