Watching your basketball squads play six games in seven nights can give a coach great insight on where his players stand.
When the Augusta Preparatory Day School teams capped just such a grueling run Tuesday night with contests against Briarwood Academy, Augusta Prep coach Kevin Furtado was just glad to see that his players were still standing.
"I think both teams were mentally and physically fatigued, but we actually hung tough with them," said Furtado, who coaches the Cavaliers and the Lady Cavs.
The Augusta Prep girls fell behind Briarwood early, and despite a nice comeback, Prep committed too many mistakes and was stuck with a 45-38 home loss.
For the Lady Cavaliers, the court stretch featured two matchups with Briarwood. Augusta Prep beat the Lady Bucs on Dec. 4 in the opener of the Garden City Classic, then won two more tournament games to clinch a second-straight Garden City crown.
In the nightcap Tuesday at Boardman Gymnasium, Briarwood surged to a 20-7 first-period lead. It was clear that the Cavaliers were running on fumes, but they had the guts to pull out a 50-49 victory.
Augusta Prep's Glenn Miller drives to the basket during the Cavaliers' win over Briarwood Academy. Prep edged the Buccaneers 50-49 in Tuesday action.
Photo by Mike Howell
"Everyone played well after the first quarter," said Thomas Folk, who scored the game-winning points for Prep. "We knew we couldn't give up."
With top scoring threat Glenn Miller off the mark until late in the game, a host of heroes stepped up to lead Prep's rally.
"I thought our big guys did a good job, and so did the guys coming off the bench, like Clint Luckey and Robert Sussman," Furtado said.
The tide began to turn when Folk hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to trim the deficit to 31-26 at the half. In the third, Aaron Crais contributed sparkling defense and sank clutch shots to set the stage for a scintillating finish.
Things looked bleak when Augusta Prep senior Patrick Welch twisted his ankle early in the final stanza, but Folk scored his team's last three points, and Taylor Bird sealed the win with a defensive stop.
Finally, Prep's players had a chance to catch their breath, and their coach was satisfied with their efforts.
"We're a little further along than I thought we would be, both the girls and the boys," Furtado said. "I'm pleased with how we've played so far, but we still have a tremendous amount of work to do."
The Lady Cavaliers ran to a 6-3 record behind strong inside play from Mary Hannah Lynn, and all-around performances from Caroline Hull, Abby Alexander, Monica Ploetske and Katelyn Gibbs.
With the win over Briarwood, the Augusta Prep boys improved to 5-5.
Records are important, but for Prep's teams, the recent six-game marathon was more of a proving ground, preparation for bigger games yet to come.
"At this point of the season we're just getting our legs together, getting in shape so we can stand four quarters of basketball," Bird said. "I think things are going really well."
There is a method to the madness, a reason why Furtado would put his players through the gantlet in early December.
Building confidence and stamina now might mean reaping rewards when the Region 4-AAA slate hits the home stretch after Christmas break.
"I just want to see early how we can handle playing in a lot of games," Furtado said. "In the region tournament, that's what you have to do. Hopefully this stretch will toughen us up for later on."
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