By Thomas Sellers Jr.
One of the most successful runs in Munford Cougar Basketball history came to an end tonight.
Not since the mid 1990s have the Cougars had a shot to reach Sub-State. That was the cast entering the Brighton Gymnasium in the Region 7-3A Boy Tournament Semifinals against the Craigmont Chiefs.
The District 14-3A runner-ups outlasted the Cougars to win 60-51 and advance to the Regional championship game and earn a spot in Monday’s Sub-State round.
The season came to an end for Butch Hopkins and his Munford Cougars.
“Great accomplishment,” he said. “All the kids have been talking to me. They’ve never been on a winning team before since junior high. To get to this point, to start out the year winning then going through a losing period, everybody was getting down.
“All of sudden they regrouped and came out of that to end the year 9-2,”Hopkins added. “Only losing one home game the entire season, I would have like to have had this one there.”
Munford only trailed 10-9 after one quarter. Behind contributions from players like Sedric Pryor, Kameron Foster, Andre Bell and District 13-3A Tournament MVP Jonathan Stark the contest remained close in the second quarter with the Cougars behind 19-17.
Then the Chiefs closed out the half on a 5-0 run to take a 24-17 lead into the locker room. That deficit remain at 7 points in the third quarter with Craigmont ahead 36-29 after 24 minutes of action.
Trailing by 9 points early in the fourth quarter, Stark nailed a three-pointer to make the score 40-34 in favor of the Chiefs.
Then Stark made one of his ‘Hurt’ moves to shake a defender and get into the lane for a layup. The senior guard drew the foul for a three-point play to make the score 40-37.
Playing on one healthy leg the last couple of weeks, Hopkins noted Stark’s performance was courageous. The veteran coach also noted it has different players all season giving the Cougars a boost to reach the Regional Semifinals like Andre Bell overcoming injuries.
“Different people at different times would step up and do some things,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure working with them. I’m going to miss it. I’ve been doing this for 31 years and it’s happen to me everytime. I’ve never ended a year without a loss. I made it the semifinals of the State twice.”
For a moment it seemed the Cougars might have a shot to reach the 2013 Class 3A State Tournament. After a Craigmont bucket, Stark displayed his range again hitting a three-pointer to make the score 42-40. Then the Chiefs proceeded with a 10-2 run to make the score 52-42 with less than 2 minutes remaining.
Stark hit another triple to cut the lead under 10 points. But the Chiefs went and made six fouls shots down the stretch to prevail 60-51.
“We played one heck of a team,” Hopkins said. “They’re good. We played some real good teams all year long. That has helped us get to where we at.
“This ain’t an early exit,” he added. “This is the deepest exit we’ve had in almost 20 years. They’ve been lucky to win a play-in much less to make it to within one game of Sub-State.”
Although his players left the Brighton Gymnasium disappointed, Hopkins said he hopes they realize their accomplishments in the 2012-13 season and gain valuable life experiences.
“You’ve just got to step up and tell the kids, ‘Thank you and it’s nine months until the next game,’” he concluded. “Tomorrow is the first day of next year. The kids have to learn life don’t always work out the way you want it to. You have to learn how to lose and you’ve got to learn how to win. You can’t ever get happy losing. But you have to learn how to do both with dignity. And I thought we did.”