Knights Take Rook

CAHS Boys basketball team makes their way to the Playoffs after pivotal game

Knights+Take+Rook

Larry Bonilla, Photography Manager

He shoots, and he scores! The CAHS Boys Varsity Basketball team has made it to the playoffs for the first time in program history, winning their game against Spring Hill last week by a single free throw. The team fought a hard-won, uphill battle throughout the second half of the game after losing a star player in the 3rd quarter.

“Last year we missed it by a three-way tie,” said head coach Brian Crawford. “We returned five of the guys who missed it, so our theory this year was to finish the business to get into the playoffs as the first UIL sports team for the school.”

Ever since the Spring of last year all the way to the days leading up to last week’s game, sophomore Jaylon Gray admits that the road to playoffs was a very difficult tread.

“Ever since we lost to Gilmer, it was like our next game we either win or we are not making the playoffs,” said Gray, “So how we approached it was to have the elite mindset, to have confidence, and put up a fight as much as possible and play until the last buzzer of the fourth quarter goes out.”

Gray is the only Sophomore on the Varsity team, and he has made it his priority this season to allow the upperclassmen be able to play their best without an underclassman letting them down. At last week’s game against Spring Hill, that dream came to fruition.

“That night the atmosphere was great,” Coach Crawford said. “The situation was if we lost, we’d have to wait on the outcome of Spring Hill and Chapel Hill that following Tuesday, and if they would have beat them, we’d have to play them a third time to see who would get the final playoff spot.”

Junior and starting point guard Ethan Montgomery helped lead the team in the first half of the game. With his help, the team was given a nudge to break even with Spring Hill by the third quarter. However, shortly into the second half of the game, Montgomery was injured. 

“Chad Daniels took a charge and the dude fell onto my lower leg with his shoulder.” said Montgomery. 

For the rest of the game, Montgomery would be stuck on crutches praying and hoping for the best. The fans and coaches were concerned that once one the greatest players that night was out, the team wouldn’t be able to make it without him.

“I felt like we lost the game, two or three times,” admits Crawford, “Because, just by the flow of the game, and when you have been coaching for 18 years now, you just kind of know. Then Ethan goes down at the end of the third quarter, and we had to play a whole quarter without the guy who just brought us back.”

At the end of the fourth quarter, this crucial game was forced into overtime. However, as the time on the clock began to dwindle, something absolutely remarkable happened. Junior Chris Hill, who had also made many successful attempts at tipping the scale of the score previously, made a game changing play.

“From the corner of my eye I saw Chris run, he went to the center, caught the ball, took it, drop step, and it went in,” said Crawford. “It hyped everyone up and they felt like, if he makes this free throw, we’re going to win the game. So everybody was telling him, ‘Chris maintain your emotions on the inside and just make the free throw and we’ll beat em by one.’”

And the rest was history. As the game ended, Cumberland fans erupted in joy as the reality of the victory set in. Members of the crowd, the cheerleaders, and players celebrated.

“It was very emotional when Ethan got injured,” says Jaylon, “We saw him crying in the corner, and man I know how he feels. We all broke down as a group for a little bit, but at the same time we realized we made it.”

With the win during the game that fateful night, the team would finally make their way to playoffs, which would be the first in the five years of the High school. Montgomery admits that he was ecstatic to be able to play even though he ended up injured.

“Going to playoffs for the first time is something our school’s never done before,” said Montgomery. “It was like making history for the team, my brothers. Many of us haven’t experienced going to the playoffs, probably none of us. “

So now the team, and the entire school, wait patiently to see where this season will take the Knights next. As they prepare for their first playoff game against Paris on Tuesday, February 25th, the players and coaches are proud of the progress they have made already this season and what it means for our school.

“It gives our school a positive spin and puts us on the stand and that even though we have “Academy” at the end of our name, we have good student athletes that do a good job,” says Crawford, “I think we earned the respect of a lot of people by knocking off a school that’s used to making it every year. We’re still new kids on the block, and we just put a pillar out there and we’ve let people know we’re here to compete.”