There’s a saying in sports that sometimes the best offense is a good defense, and that proved to be true for the Habersham Central High School (HCHS) Boys’ Basketball team Tuesday night as they held off the visiting North Hall High School (NHHS) Trojans 43-26 in Mt. Airy.
The victory was special for a number of reasons as it was both the first of the season for the Raiders (1-2) and the first win at home, but more importantly, it was the first of Head Coach Cody Anderson’s career at the helm.
“It obviously feels incredible,” Anderson said. “I’m excited to have that elephant out of the room, because you can’t deny the pressure that you feel as a coach and as a team until you get your first win.”
Anderson said having the win come in the team’s first home game of the season made it even more special.
“Winning feels really nice, especially at home,” he said.
The game started off well for the Raiders as they jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but then adversity struck.
“Malachi [Dooley] picked up his second foul and went to the bench,” Anderson said. “Immediately, I’m made aware that as a coach, I haven’t prepared us to play without him. Our team just doesn’t run the same when he’s not on the floor.”
With the sophomore point guard out, the Trojans battled back to tie the Raiders 16-16 at halftime.
Anderson said Dooley’s absence from the floor was the first time this season the team has had to play without him for an extended period of time.
“To go up 10-0 and then only score six points the rest of the half … and go in the locker room 16-16 not really playing well – we were in a funk,” he said. “We kind of had a choice to make at halftime. I told them, ‘That team over there is going to fight for it and you’ve got to go earn it.’”
The Raiders did exactly that, clamping down defensively and shutting out the Trojans with an 11-0 third-quarter.
“To come out in the second half and not allow them to score the entirety of the third quarter is a big credit to our kids,” Anderson said. “I think to overcome the adversity, which we definitely did, was really good for our team.”
Leading 27-16 entering the final quarter, the Raiders went on a 16-10 run to end the game and preserve the victory.
Grayson Adams led the way with 11 points, nine rebounds and two assists; Dooley had nine points three rebounds and two assists; Joshua Pickett, Jacob Brown and Parker Behrends had four points each; Micah Ward had three points; and Isaac Barnes, Jeb Barnette, Grant Tipton and Jace Reeder had two points each, but it was the defense that really starred.
“The great thing about the way we play is everybody has a role and they all have a job to do,” Anderson said, adding the Raiders’ fundamental defense comes down to jumping to the ball. “I tell our kids every single day that when all five jump to the ball, 90% of your job is complete – 90% of the time, it’s going to work, if you jump to the ball enough. It solves a lot of problems.”
Anderson said no one player stood out amongst the rest.
“It really was a team effort,” he said. “I thought we did what we want to defensively and we were able to secure rebounds. When we do that, we’re hard to score against.”
Another factor in the outcome of the game was the fans who came to watch the Raiders, as their enthusiasm and energy proved pivotal throughout the game, Anderson said.
“The crowd was phenomenal,” he said. “It can’t go without repeating enough what a big deal that is for our kids, but also the opposing team. I don’t think it’s something we’ve had in a while and it’s huge.”
In future home games, Anderson hopes for a more entertaining show.
“I just hope for more points,” he said. “But if you’re a basketball junkie, I think you enjoyed the game.”
Tonight, the Raiders will be back on their home court as they host the visiting White County High School (WCHS) Warriors for another non-region tilt. The Warriors enter the game with a record of 1-1.
“They really push the ball and their coach does a fantastic job,” Anderson said. “They have very tough kids who are going to go at you and you’re going to have to go earn every victory against them.”
Anderson sees an edge for his team, though.
“We have things we do schematically that will give us an advantage with how they play,” he said. “We’re not going to win a game in the 90s, 80s, 70s or even 60s – we’ve really got to center our game plan around our defense and how we slow them down. It’ll be a good test for us, but it’s the next step we have to take.”
Tipoff for tonight’s game is set for 8:30 p.m.