“A game of runs” – Cedar Shoals takes down Clarke Central in Classic City Championship

Photos by Ethan Greene and Kira Law.

The Cedar Shoals boys basketball team has kept fans on the edge of their seats this season. With four out of their first eight games ending within five points, including a 64-59 overtime loss to Paideia, the Jags often find themselves in a nailbiter. This trend persisted during the Classic City Championship against the Clarke Central Gladiators. However, blocking out distractions, the Jags pulled out a 70-67 victory.

“We came out and played like a team and got what we wanted to do done,” senior center Joshua Bittler said. “Basketball is a game of runs, we have our runs, they have theirs, but at the end of the day, it’s whoever pulls it out at the last minute.”

Coming off of a 60-57 loss to Seckinger the previous day, the Jags opened up the scoring fast with field goals from senior guard Robert Mack, leading 19-12 at the end of the first quarter.

“We executed very well. It all comes down to my teammates noticing that I was getting hot and getting me open,” Mack said. “There’s always a chip on my shoulder entering every game, but this game meant a little bit more to me.”

Mack, who played for Central last year, accounted for 24 points alongside sophomore Devin Hubbard’s 15, and sophomore Daniel Hollis’ 9.

“It’s not easy to be that guy that went from one school to another, and then you’ve got to play your old team,” Jaguars head coach L’Dreco Thomas said. “Some guys pressed and some guys tried to do too much in that game, but I thought he played well within the system. At the end of the day, I think he used that as an edge and he played a tremendous game.”

Mack’s performance paired with a scenic dunk from Hollis, energized the crowd and the bench. The Jags offense was fluid and flexible, spreading points across six different players, and jumping ahead to a 36-31 lead at the half.

“One thing about my team is that we are always worried about each other. We keep our heads focused on everyone, not just ourselves. We realize that we can’t give up that extra free throw and possession. We’re always playing for each other,” Bittler said.

The team, composed of 10 seniors, two juniors and three sophomores, has already surpassed last season’s win total, something Thomas attributes to a culture shift within the program.

“We’ve weathered the storm. We’ve had to change and reestablish some things, and the kids have responded to that really well. Our kids are tremendous, they do everything we ask them and It’s led to a better start,” Thomas said.

Momentum shifted toward Central after the half, with the Gladiators leading 51-48 at the end of the third quarter. 

“I tell the team all the time: Don’t get too high on the highs, and don’t get too low on the lows,” Thomas said. “We just have to stay focused and make them understand that this is what we have to do.”

After multiple lead changes in the fourth, the Jags found themselves down 62-61 when Clarke Central received a technical foul after a player arguedwith an official. From that moment on, the intensity of the game increased, with the Jags gaining more momentum. 

“Those are things we talk about everyday,” Thomas said. “Let me handle those situations, you guys (players) just play the game, move on to the next play. We don’t retaliate or go back and forth with the other team or officials. People have to know that if you play for me, you have to do things the right way.”

Hubbard made one of the two penalty shots following the technical foul before Mack hit a three-pointer to reclaim the lead with 1:58 to go, marking the final lead change of the contest. 

As the Jags began to chew clock, the Gladiators attempted to stop the clock by fouling with no results as the Jags stuck together to claim their first Classic City Championship win since 2021.

“At the end of the day, we know that we are the best team, we don’t let anything distract us,” Mack said. “We’re really tight; none of us are individuals. We’re all one.”

Ethan Greene

Senior Ethan Greene is the Sports editor for Cedar BluePrints this year. He runs an Instagram photography account, attends car races, and writes about sports for BluePrints. He enjoys being able to work alongside his friends and the opportunity to get a more thorough analysis of sports.

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