Glenn Hills held off Thomson 62-59 in both teams' region opener Friday night. The Spartans earned their 11th win in 13 tries. The Bulldogs fell to 6-5.
It was not an instance where the favored team overlooked an underdog. Not between these schools.
Not when the schools have seen their tussles on the athletic fields over the past few years result in an ejection or two. Not when a former Spartan saw fit to transfer to Thomson this year.
And especially not when Glenn Hills head coach Richard Wallace checked out of Trinity Hospital on Friday morning long enough to hold a team meeting and go over a few eligibility reports. Wallace left school and went directly back to the hospital for what is believed to be a blood clot in his leg.
"It inspired us that coach Wallace was in the hospital," Glenn Hills senior Chris Reynolds said. "We knew if he was here he'd want us to play hard. So we played hard enough to make coach Wallace happy like he was still sitting on our bench."
Glenn Hills athletic director and varsity assistant James Quarles took over and kept the ship upright. The hard-charging Bulldogs came back from a 10-point deficit with 7:25 to go to take a 59-58 lead with 2:55 left to play.
"It was a gut-check win for our guys," Quarles said. "Their coach had to be on our boys' minds. This had to hurt our focus a bit. Our players are not human if they were not thinking about coach in the hospital during the game."
But the game ended like it began for the Bulldogs. Thomson (6-5, 0-1 in Region 3-AAA) did not score in the final three minutes and missed its final seven shots.
Thomson took a 7-2 lead over the first two minutes of action but didn't score again until Tim Daniels' basket made it 19-9 with 6:23 to go in the first half. The Bulldogs then made their own run to tie the game at 29 at the half.
Daniels scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the second quarter. Backcourt mate Richard Johnson sank three of his five 3-pointers in that stanza. Johnson finished with 15 points. Bulldog LaQuinton Fort also had 15 points.
"They were awfully hard to close out," Reynolds said. "They've got shooters. They've got quickness and they still had a will to see if they could beat us."
The fact that Glenn Hills standout Jerel Stephenson started out ice cold didn't help. Stephenson missed his first nine shots and took a goose egg in the scoring column in the first half.
He rallied the team with nine of his 11 points in the third quarter.
Quarles believed Wallace was "day-to-day" and expected to lead the team over at least the next two games. He also said point guard Reggie Middleton is expected to return to the team sometime this month. Middleton had been placed into alternative school after an off-campus arrest during the fall semester.
"We thought we might get him back this week but the school board left us in limbo," Quarles said.
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.