Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Loss Doesn't Darken Valdosta's Future

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Loss Doesn't Darken Valdosta's Future

Article excerpt

Some people around Georgia are talking about the end of the

Valdosta boys' Cinderella basketball season in the wake of last

week's 69-68 upset loss to Columbus Carver in the first round of

the Class AAAA state tournament.

But don't shed too many tears for the Wildcats, who got as far

as the semifinals last year. This season logged the first

unbeaten record in school history and earned their first state

poll No. 1 ranking.

Coach John Miller returns seven of the top nine players that

gave the 'Cats a 26-1 final record.

"I think right now, everybody is still a little disappointed

because of the loss," Miller said yesterday, referring to the

Wildcats defeat that came when Carver's Mario Davis scored his

only point of the game on a free throw with three seconds left.

"As time goes on, everybody is going to be able to look back on

this unbeaten season, and the top ranking, and be proud of it,"

Miller said.

The Wildcats probably should be looking ahead, not back,

though.

Valdosta loses two starters, forward Alvin Payton and center

Travis Lewis.

But the Wildcats return everybody else, including leading

scorer Eric Washington (14.8 points per game), Jeremy Brooks,

Kori Hatcher and Jermaine Manning.

That's a pretty good nucleus, but Miller isn't sure the 'Cats

can pull a repeat of this season.

"You can have a pretty good team and still not go unbeaten for

a lot of years," he said of this season. Valdosta went into the

state tournament as the only unbeaten basketball team in the

state.

Another South Georgia No. 1 team also ran into trouble in the

state tournament -- in the second round -- but like Valdosta,

returns virtually its entire squad next year.

The Echols County girls won the Region 2-A title and their

first-round tournament game easily. …

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