Last weekend Fort Stewart’s Youth Challenge Academy’s basketball team vowed to defend its championship title against Fort Gordon in Augusta. Keeping their word, the boys rallied after a sluggish start to win 69-64 in overtime.
YCA Assistant basketball coach Antinique Mathis said the boys scored first but the squad’s initial success soon came to a screeching halt.
"In the first half we started off kind of sluggish," he said. "We started winning 16-2 and then we didn’t score another bucket in the first half. We ended up down by eight so when we went into halftime I gave them a little pep talk."
However, the coach said he was nervous when his YCA boys looked lethargic in the third and fourth quarters. Fearing they were about to lose, his team set out to make a quick comeback.
"With two minutes left and down by 10, we really just cranked it up and brought home the win," Mathis said.
YCA Cadet Jarelle McFadden was named game MVP for chipping in 19 critical points.
"Overall, the team played well toward the end of the game," Mathis said. "They played the way we were supposed to play and we really got the job done in overtime. It was one heck of a game. It was very exciting."
YCA head basketball coach Ernie Walthour, who was unable to make the trip to Augusta, credited Mathis for rallying the players and bringing home the trophy.
"One thing I would like to add is that this team was not together for very long," Mathis said of his YCA squad.
"We had just three weeks of practice and Fort Gordon had been preparing for six months. So for us to go out there and win … to be able to put a system together this quickly and beat them at home was exciting. We are pleased that our kids accepted the challenge and were able to win the game in overtime."
Walthour said the YCA team will play more games in Liberty County.