The top-ranked Alexander boys basketball team won its first four playoff games this season by an average of 5.3 points, and it appeared the Cougars were headed for another close finish in the Class 6A final, locked in a tie game with Lee County midway through the third quarter.
Instead, Alexander blew the game open down the stretch and rolled to a 64-42 victory Friday at the Macon Coliseum. The Cougars (27-5) secured the first championship in program history in their first trip to the finals.
Junior forward Braedan Lue led the way 26 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.
“It feels good, and we deserved it,” Lue said. “We’ve had a tough schedule all year, and I’m glad I can send my seniors off with a ring this year.”
The game was tied 33-33 with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, but Alexander outscored the Trojans 31-9 over the final 12 minutes. The Cougars pulled away with a 13-0 run in the final 3:41 of the third quarter. Lue had five points during the run, and Noah Melson and Jay Quan Nelson had four points each. Melson finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists, and Nelson had 11 points and two assists.
Lee County’s Ousmane Kromah finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, and Caden King had eight points and 10 rebounds.
“The plan this season was, we’ve got a lot of guys that are good offensively, and getting them to share the ball with each other and not really caring who got the credit, I think that was biggest thing,” Alexander coach Jason Slate said. “Early in the [championship game], we had to remind them of that because we were taking some really quick shots. But I think you saw, especially in the second half, them helping each other score. And I thought that was the key.”
Slate picked up his 500th career victory in the Cougars’ 54-53 win over Jonesboro in the quarterfinals.
The tournament played out according to the seeding, as the home (higher-seeded) teams went 22-2 in the first two rounds. All eight region champions – Lee County, Grovetown, Jonesboro, Marist, Alexander, Etowah, Blessed Trinity and Lanier – made it to the quarterfinals. All were ranked in the top 10 except Lee County, which was on the outside looking in despite a 24-3 record before its run to the final. Grovetown, the defending state champion, was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Lanier, 62-58.
“It’s been an incredible run,” Slate said. “It’s been an incredible year. It’s been seven seniors that bought into the plan, so I’m real excited for them.”
Lue was the player of the year in Region 5 this season and is a top candidate for the award in Class 6A. Other region players of the year included Lee County’s DJ Taylor in Region 1, Grovetown’s Derrion Reid in Region 2, Jonesboro’s Devon Rainey in Region 3, St. Pius’ Spencer Elliott in Region 4, Etowah’s Brandon Rechsteiner in Region 6, Blessed Trinity’s Brigham Rogers in Region 7, and Lanier’s Jayce Nathaniel in Region 8.
About the Author