MatthewKee, Staff Reporter
With the regional tournament wrapped up a few weeks ago, Chattahoochee High School’s basketball season has concluded. Plagued with a injured player in the beginning of the season to the decline of the team towards the end of the season, let’s take a look at the 2016-2017 season as a whole.
Before the season even began in November, point guard Isaac Kinsey (SR) faced an injury during the final football game of the season against Alpharetta High School. The injury caused major problems for the team, due to Kinsey’s integral role in the starting line-up as point-guard. Because of Isaac’s inability to play, Andrew Aguana (JR) stepped up to fill the big shoes Kinsey left behind. The starting lineup consisted of Andrew Aguana at point guard, Will Bracknell (JR) at shooting guard, Hunter Patterson (JR) at center, Grant van Beveran (SO) at forward and Ja’von Douglas (SR) as guard and captain. The bench was filled with veterans Will Webb (SR) and Phillip Misenheimer (SR); both switched out frequently with the starting lineup to allow players short rest and recovery periods.
Facing off against Flowery Branch High School, a top 100 team in the state, the Cougars had a rocky start in a non-conference game during the Thanksgiving tournament. Chattahoochee ended up taking a loss against the Falcons but later picked up the slack by defeating Lassiter High School in their final game of the tournament.
After the tournament, the team had little time to prepare for the beginning of the season. Their first opponent was Cambridge High School, who is ranked third in the AAAAAA region. Wanting to play for the first game of the season, Isaac Kinsey joined the starting lineup against Cambridge. Unfortunately, Kinsey’s injury worsened toward the end of the second quarter, putting him out of the game and the first half of the season. The game concluded with a score of 56-50, with the Cougars just falling short of a victory.
Following that loss, however, the Cougars began to improve their synergy and coordination slowly but surely. Their passes were still weak and slow, but the team became notorious for their “comebacks,” consistently rallying during the second half of games to recover from large point deficits and finish with a victory. The team picked up a three-game win streak, knocking out Forsyth Central, North Atlanta and Northview, which the team miraculously came back from over a twenty point deficit in the Northview match. All seemed well until they faced off against Mountain View High School, ranked 25 in the state, in a non-conference game. The Cougar’s weaknesses were exposed and exploited by the superior team, crushing the Cougars with a final score of 65-40.
The loss against Mountain View did not halt their momentum. The team continued their rise, winning five out of six games (only dropping to a defeat to Alpharetta High School, the number one team in the region) to close out the year. With high hopes for the second half the season, especially since Kinsey would return soon as his injury was almost completely healed, the team was poised to battle for the third place spot in the region against Cambridge High School.
Kinsey returned right when 2017 began, as \the team went on to beat Dunwoody High School 64-55 in their first game of the new year. Although Aguana stepped down from the starting lineup so that Kinsey could return to his former position, he continued to play a pivotal role in games, as did Webb and Misenheimer. Morale was high, though the team did seem unaccustomed to their returning point guard. This became apparent when the team lost the following two matches, 57-53 against Cambridge High School and 49-39 against Forsyth Central High School. Falling to Cambridge High School twice, the Cougar’s battle for third seed in their region was uncertain. Undeterred, this unseen synergy and coordination began to strengthen exponentially as the Cougars went on a three-game win streak,scoring 61-59 against North Atlanta High School, 64-63 against Northview High School and 64-40 against Johns Creek High School.
A lot of hype began to build for the team as Kinsey returned to his full power, supported by Douglas’s rapid sprints down the court and Bracknell’s clutch threes. Furthermore, third place was up for grabs once again, as Cambridge had lost a few of their matches which brought their win/loss ratio closer to Chattahoochee’s. This deadly trio, of Bracknell, Douglas and Kinsey, was ready to take on any team and would soon be tested with a match against the titans of the region court, Alpharetta High School. The first and second quarters held multiple point lead changes between the two teams, each showcasing the best of their talents. Bracknell and Douglas were making their shots, and Kinsey’s passes were faster than ever before. As the game went on, the Raiders began to slip away with the lead, building an eight-point margin with less than a minute left on the clock. However, the Cougars did not give up, bringing it back to a three-point gap with twenty seconds left to spare thanks to Bracknell’s insane three-pointer. At the free throw line for Alpharetta, their player missed the free throw allowing the Cougars to rebound the ball and sprint to the other side. Disaster struck as the pass to Bracknell slipped past his fingers and out of the court. Alpharetta had possession of the ball, which was the final nail in the coffin. The Cougars were one throw away from overthrowing the kings, and this loss marked the decline of the team.
While it did not show at first, the loss against Alpharetta High School was detrimental towards the team. The Cougars did end up beating Pope and Centennial for the following two matches, but their plays and coordination began to become sloppier. Initially, no one took this as a warning sign for things to come; after all, the team suffered a close defeat against the number one seed, so they just had to shake off the loss and move on. The team went on to lose to Dunwoody High School, who looked like a completely different monster during the second match against them. The Cougars lost to Dunwoody with a score of 48-45. The loss against the fifth seed solidified the Cougars to fourth seed, allowing Cambridge High School to retain their spot in the top three. On top of losing their contention for third seed, the team fell apart. The final game of the regular season was against Pope High School, the number two seed in the region. Having beaten them before in their previous matchup, the Cougars were wary of what this team could bring. Pope proceeded to show them, outpacing Chattahoochee with a run-and-gun style. On top of that, the Cougar’s patterns and strategies were figured out by this point. Bracknell had no opportunities to shoot, and Pope realized that van Beveren, who retained possession of the ball most of the game when he was in, could not shoot. The Cougars scrambled to make a dent in the massive lead Pope had acquired, but Pope was too strong. The game ended with a massive score deficit of 63-46.
The low morale continued on into the regional tournament as well. Continuing on their newfound strength, Dunwoody High School looked poised to challenge the Cougars in the first match of the regional playoffs. Chattahoochee’s team was in disarray throughout the game, with Bracknell failing to make all but three shots, Kinsey having his passes stolen and Douglas failing to grab any rebounds or make consistent layups. The score concluded 59-48, with Dunwoody advancing and Chattahoochee bowing out of the tournament and ending their season with their third consecutive defeat. Dunwoody High School ended upsetting Alpharetta High School in the semi-finals but losing to Pope High School in the finals.
This season marked rise and fall of the team. While some may argue which iteration of the team lineup was more successful during their run, I find that it is irrational to compare the two. Both had their merits for their respective halves and flaws that were exploited. The “comeback” strategy was not sustainable in the long run, and Kinsey’s passing patterns were soon weaker as opposing teams adapted their playstyle to counter it. While the season came to a disappointing conclusion, I find myself bearing pride for a remarkable and exciting season the team put up. With nailbiter games to smashing defeats, the fans and the team can be proud on the progress they have made. With Webb, Kinsey, Douglas and Misenheimer all graduating this year, the team still retains most of their strong pool of players, but they lack a fifth member to fill the shoes of the senior class. What’s certain is that next season will be another exciting year for the Cougars on court.