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Curtis Baptist boys basketball uses tough schedule to prepare for playoffs

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Close proximity to larger schools boosts the gate, but it also helps growth.

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Curtis Baptist's Shawn Brown (left) and Micah Ryals practice at the school's gym. Ryals, the team's top scorer at 15 points per game, will lead the Crusaders on Wednesday against Dawson Street Christian in the state semifinals.  CHRIS THELEN/SPECIAL
CHRIS THELEN/SPECIAL
Curtis Baptist's Shawn Brown (left) and Micah Ryals practice at the school's gym. Ryals, the team's top scorer at 15 points per game, will lead the Crusaders on Wednesday against Dawson Street Christian in the state semifinals.

Curtis Baptist benefits from playing Augusta Christian, Augusta Prep and Westminster during the regular season. On the court, the Crusaders boys basketball team learns from those tough games in preparation for the state playoffs against programs more similar in size.

So come tournament time, it’s their time to rule.

The Curtis Baptist boys basketball team looks to take another step toward winning back-to-back Georgia Independent School Association Class A state championships when it plays Dawson Street Christian at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Mercer in the state semifinals. Curtis Baptist (22-7) hasn’t lost to a GISA team in its classification since a one-point loss to Frederica in the Class AA state semifinals Feb. 23, 2012.

Not only do those three other area schools, all in Class AAA, help, but they aren’t pushovers. Augusta Christian just won the SCISA state title and Augusta Prep plays Westminster in a GISA state semifinal Wednesday.

“These are the games that make us better in the final four,” senior Micah Ryals said. “When we play those AAA schools, it gets us ready.”

The Crusaders made it back to the semifinals without All-State player Brian Wilson, who averaged more than 20 points per game as a senior in 2013.

Ryals, also a 2013 All-State selection, increased his scoring by 3.1 points per game to 15, becoming the team’s No. 1 scorer. He moved to point guard from shooting guard following Wilson’s departure.

As a result of reaching out to Wilson for advice, Ryals has gotten even better.

Juwan Rouse, a senior who came over from Grovetown, is second on the team at 12 points per game.

Veterans such as Makai Ray add depth for the Crusaders, who had six players with at least seven points in the second-round win.

“They’re unselfish,” Curtis Baptist coach John Spurlock said. “You see that with the average scores – it’s a mixture. Nobody really thinks they’ve got to be the high scorer to be considered one of the better players.”

This year’s team expects more balance in the semifinals, when Curtis Baptist must defeat the team it beat for the title last year. Only this time, it’s a round earlier and the Crusaders are the hunted.

“It’s nice to be top dog,” Ryals said. “It’s good to have the target on your back.”


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