A Friday night football state championship game didn’t give the Patriots much time for turnaround in preparation for the Christian Heritage basketball tournament.
In the football game against Tipton, basketball players Ben Webb and Will Haas suffered injuries that caused them to sit out the first two games of the season. Their absence was apparent in the first game against Christian Heritage, a 59-25 loss. Their second game played a different tune.
Against Little Axe, the action went back and forth throughout only to end on crucial plays in the final moments of the game.
The Patriots made the plays on offense and defense to get them ahead. Kirk Cole’s free throws secured the 47-43 victory.
“I’m very pleased,” coach Kevin Cobbs said. “You never know how you’re going to shoot free throws this early in the season. To be able to ice the game late with free throws was good.”
Southwest Covenant was nearly automatic from the free throw line. Andrew Hickman’s 4-for-4 from the stripe led the team’s 10-for-14 night.
Cobbs’ team had to rely on past experience with each other to pull out the win over Little Axe.
“We had some guys that played together all summer and that’s what we relied on, really,” he said. “We’ve now had more games than practices so it’s nice they’ve played together at some point in their past. We ran some good sets they remembered from last year.”
Not having their standout player in Haas has caused the Patriots to adapt without him.
“Not having Will hurts us because our guys are used to deferring to him and tonight, Kirk (Cole) and Tyler (Kelly) had to be step up and be the go-to guys and they did,” Cobbs said. “That was really good to see.”
Cole completed the game with 13 points, Kelly had seven with a flurry of assists. Anthony Cox contributed 12 points in the game as well.
Though they won their first game of the year, Cobbs said he needed to remind his players what the game was all about.
“We’ve got no problems gelling together as a team it’s just a matter of learning how to dribble and shoot again,” he said. “In the locker room I held up the ball and said, ‘this is a basketball.’ It’s been a while since they’ve seen one.”
Offense came up clutch but the Patriot defense kept their opponent in the game. Once they go back to practice, defense will be their main focus.
“We don’t have any size, except Anthony but he’s going to be overmatched quite a few nights in Class A basketball,” Cobbs said. “We’ve got to learn how to help inside more than what we’re used to.”
The Patriots will finish out the CHA tournament Monday at 2:30 p.m. for a chance to win the consolation trophy.