Despite winning consecutive individual awards, Curtis Baptist boys basketball coach John Spurlock found team victory to be much sweeter.
Spurlock guided Curtis Baptist to a GISA Class A state title with a 56-47 win over Dawson Street on March 2 in Macon, Ga.
It was the Crusaders’ second consecutive trip to the state semifinals after falling short of the championship game the previous year. They finished the task this season, sweeping through the tournament and winning their first title since 1996-97.
Spurlock’s coaching efforts and team success earned him The Augusta Chronicle’s Independent Boys Coach of the Year honor for the second consecutive year.
“We came off last year and it was a bitter taste to come home without the state trophy,” Spurlock said. “This year, winning it was really sweet for our kids, and they did an excellent job.”
Curtis Baptist lost seven seniors from the previous year’s team but still had star point guard Brian Wilson, who led the team with 20 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Brother Justin Wilson had 9.8 points per game, and Micah Ryals added 11.2 points per game.
“I think (the seven seniors) were probably as pleased as the ones who remained,” Spurlock said.
The Crusaders finished 24-9, cruising through the tournament bracket with double-digit margins in all but one game – the state championship. While the team often had a height advantage in games, the Crusaders also used efficient shooting. They shot 47 percent inside the arc, while averaging five 3-pointers a game. The team averaged 67 points per game.
For senior Brian Wilson, Spurlock’s tough running drills early in the season paid off for more than just conditioning.
“It was a great honor to play with coach,” Wilson said. “He teaches us the fundamentals and everything, but one thing especially he teaches us is discipline. Discipline is key.”
That discipline went a long way toward the team bonding.
Wilson said during summer practice that the players decided they wanted to work instead of just having fun. He said the team bonded more than the previous year.
“We work very hard and try to instill in them that we play through four quarters of basketball, because we’re in the press a lot, and hopefully in the end that pays off,” Spurlock said.
While Brian Wilson is graduating, Justin Wilson, Ryals and McKai Ray will all return as the Crusaders look to repeat as state champions.
“With those three guys returning next year, they carried a big load for us, as well as replacing that senior leadership the year before,” Spurlock said.