It’s a team current head coach Ernie Walthour helped develop, and now the First Presbyterian Christian Academy Highlanders are paying Walthour back. First the boys won the Georgia Independent School Association Region 2-AA championship. Now the team will try to bring the coach the Highlanders’ fourth state title.
The road to state was a tough one, and Walthour said the last two region tournament games were battles to the finish.
In a region rivalry that gets more intense each season, FPCA edged out Frederica, 62-57, in overtime last Thursday.
“It was tight,” Walthour said. “We led for most of the game but in the end, just like any good program does — and Frederica Academy is a good program — they made a couple of big shots and ended up tying the game at 54 at the end of regulation.”
FPCA fought back and advanced to Friday’s round two to face Curtis Baptist, a team the Highlanders had split games with during the regular season. FPCA won this time, 59-52.
“Curtis Baptist is well-coached and they have some good athletes,” Walthour said. “This was one of those games where we led by 10 at the half and then, coming out of the third, we got sluggish and they cut the lead to one. Chris Guilfo hit three big three-point shots and Domonique Kirkley did a tremendous job for us in this championship game. He had 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists despite having the flu and playing sick. He played every minute in that game. He was named MVP of the region tournament.”
Kirkley said, “I played my hardest in those games. Now we just need to stay humble and take everything serious… It feels good to know we are going to state and I’m hungry for a state title.”
With that victory, the boys ended the season at 12-10 overall and 7-2 in conference play. Now the slate gets wiped clean as they begin the state playoffs in Dawson against fourth-seeded Valwood at 7 p.m. Thursday at Terrell Academy.
Valwood, out of Valdosta, is in GISA Region 3-AA and is 9-8 overall and 6-3 in the region.
“We don’t know much about them, but we do know they have a couple of good kids that can play at a high level and we have to contain them,” Walthour said. “We are four wins away from a state championship and one loss away from being eliminated.”