An inspiring season ended with a gut-wrenching loss.
First Presbyterian Christian Academy’s chase for another boys’ basketball state title came up a few points short Saturday as the Highlanders lost, 60-57, to Furtah Prep in the Class AA championship game at Mercer University in Macon.
However, first-year head coach Shane Smith said the boys left it all out on the court and have much to be proud of this season.
“I had to take a minute to reflect on what a great season we had at FPCA … 23-3 … state AA runners-up,” Smith posted to his Facebook page the day after the loss. “I can’t begin to say how proud I am of these young men and the effort that they gave last night and all season … you left everything on the floor and you never quit.”
Highlander Miguel Pineda scored 23 points in the contest. Wallace Smith chipped in 13. Michael Burnett added nine points, and Domonique Kirkley and Ahman Muhammad each had six points.
Smith admitted he didn’t know what to expect coming into the season as the new head coach of a team of young men coping with the death of Ernie Walthour, the former head coach and youth mentor who was shot and killed during an alleged armed robbery in July 2013.
“I had really big shoes to fill, and had some kids who were heartbroken from the loss of their coach and mentor,” Smith said. “Thank you guys for sticking it out and being determined to show Ernie the great things that he instilled in them didn’t go to waste.”
Smith thanked FPCA’s administration; his assistant coach, David Linderman; and the parents of the young men on his team. He said everyone at FPCA made his experience memorable.
“I can’t thank you enough for all your hard work and dedication to these kids as well as to me,” Smith said to Linderman. “Without you, this would have been so much harder than it was. You and I turned and almost impossible situation into a miracle season, and I thank you for that.”
FPCA went undefeated in Region 2-AA at 10-0 — its sixth-straight region title — had an 18-game winning streak and beat last year’s state champions, Memorial Day, three times this season.