Greenwood Christian Academy will play for its first boys basketball sectional championship tonight, but the Cougars think they cleared their biggest psychological hurdle in Wednesday night’s first-round win.
They played aggressively and without worries in Friday night’s Class A Edinburgh Sectional semifinal, racing to a 19-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looking back in a 77-52 win against Lutheran.
Greenwood Christian (17-5) will face Waldron at 7:30 p.m. tonight for the championship and the right to play in the Martinsville Regional on March 15. The Cougars defeated the Mohawks 60-47 during a Feb. 7 regular-season matchup at Greenwood Christian.
Greenwood Christian had lost at home to Lutheran 40-33 on Dec. 14 but dominated virtually every facet of Friday’s game. The Cougars never let the Saints (10-11) draw closer than the 19-2 margin, with 6:42 remaining in the first half, when Lutheran finally scored its first basket.
Greenwood Christian led by as many as 33 before both teams emptied their benches in the game’s final minutes.
“This was definitely the best game we’ve played all year,” said Cougar senior guard Lucas Peters, who scored 18 points, grabbed six rebounds and helped contain Lutheran’s one-two scoring punch of Malcom Donley and Beau Braham. “We’ve been so nervous every year coming into the sectional.
“Once we finally got the win (Wednesday), we were ready to open the floodgates.”
The Cougars defeated Southwestern (Shelby) 68-57 in a first-round game Wednesday.
Greenwood Christian shot 7 of 13 in the first quarter and 26 of 50 overall (52 percent), while Lutheran missed all 11 of its first-quarter field-goal attempts. The Saints shot 30.6 percent overall (19 of 62) and just 5 of 27 from 3-point range (18.5 percent).
The Cougars, meanwhile, hit 10 of 19 from behind the arc (52.6 percent).
“We played more free and didn’t worry as much about having to win,” Greenwood Christian coach Jamie Satre said. “After we got past Wednesday’s game and finally got a sectional win, we took a deep breath at practice. We knew Lutheran’s two best players were (Donley) and (Barham), and we focused on stopping them.
“Jacob Stephenson did a great job on (Barham), and Peters did a good job of staying in his stance.”
Donley scored 10 points for Lutheran but hit just 4 of 16 from the floor. Barham scored six points and shot 2 of 10, with all of his field-goal tries coming from 3-point range. Cole Ballard led the Saints with 12 points.
Morgan Booher led the Cougars with 20 points and also grabbed seven rebounds. Tad Thompson scored 10 points off the bench for Greenwood Chrisitan, and didn’t miss a shot (3 of 3 from the floor, 2 of 2 from the free-throw line, two 3-pointers). Stephenson added eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Cougars have less than 24 hours to celebrate their first trip to a sectional title game, but they seemed to grasp its meaning. A large and enthusiastic Greenwood Christian contingent cheered the team on and rushed the floor after the final buzzer sounded as if they had won a title.
“This is a big step for our program, but (a championship) is our final goal,” Peters said.