Both Mark Dragoo and Eric Ford are masters when it comes to teaching moments and tough love.
For Dragoo and his Chattanooga Arts & Sciences basketball team it has been a brutal schedule to better prepare the Patriots for what he hopes will be a postseason run in Class A.
“I think we annually play the toughest schedule for a Class A team in this area and it might not look pretty with the wins and losses, but it gets them ready for tough games like tonight. These past weeks or so has taken a toll on us physically and mentally because Red Bank and Tyner will do that to you, and it may have hurt us some tonight because we were tired, but we found it when we had to,” said Dragoo after the Patriots 72-68 win over a never-say-die Lookout Valley team Friday night in a key District 4A contest.
For Ford, who has led a resurgence at Lookout Valley over the past two seasons, his teaching moment came late in the game in a move no coach likes to make.
Leading scorer Jalen Moore was sent to the dressing room after a heated argument with his coach just when the Jackets needed him most with 1:48 left in a six-point game.
“My number one job here is to mold these kids and their character for when they get in the real world. Maybe we win some basketball games along the way. Jalen let his emotions get to him. I still love him, but it was the right thing. It’s next guy up when you lose people and I was most proud of the game Chris Dixon had tonight. He gave everything he had, and our guys didn’t hang their heads when it got tough,” Ford said of his decision.
Up until that point, Moore and CSAS’ Cahlib Edwards had matched one another almost basket for basket all night. Moore took 30 points to the dressing room when he exited and Edwards finished with 28 to become the third Patriots in school history to surpass 1000 points in his career.
And both were at their best coming down the stretch in a tight contest. Moore had scored all 12 of the Jackets’ points in the final period to get them within 64-62 with 3:31 left in the game. Edwards had nine points in the final period after being held to just three in the third period.
“Lookout Valley is a tough team and they fought to the end, but we managed to come out on top. When it got tight in that last period my teammates kinda looked at me and told me it was time to do something. We’ve had some tough games over the last couple of weeks, but we’re better prepared for games like this one because of them. Mad respect for Lookout Valley, though,” said Edwards.
CSAS (10-10, 5-0) remains the only unbeaten team in the district and all ten of its losses have been to teams in a higher classification. In fact, the Jackets are the lone team in Class A to play the Patriots within single digits and have done so twice, including last night.
“We had about three possessions where they really killed us because we didn’t get some weakside help, and then the big rebound at the end got us. We work hard on rebounding but sometimes I think it must be something in the water in Lookout Valley because we get caught looking at the ball instead of going to get it. If you don’t box out, it eventually catches up to you,” Ford said.
Those three possessions all came late in the final period as did the big offensive rebound by CSAS’ Troy Pride. Pride had eight of his 17 points in the final quarter and twice got loose on backside for easy buckets and he was the one who rebounded a missed free throw with 17 seconds left, drew a foul and canned the deciding free throws.
With CSAS up 64-62, Daniel Neely rebounded a Patriot miss and found Pride on the backside for an easy layup to make it 66-62. Dragoo immediately called timeout and came out with pressure to force a turnover at midcourt and Edwards found Pride on the backside again for an easy deuce and it was 68-62 at the 1:59 mark.
LV’s Dixon got a steal and drew an intentional foul on the breakaway. He made one free throw and then immediately drained a 3-pointer to pull within 68-66. CSAS added a pair of free throws and the Jackets got an easy bucket to extend it to 70-68 with 19 ticks left when CSAS went to the line for a one-and-one attempt. The miss bounced to the middle and Pride was there to clean it up, drawing the foul and putting the nail in the coffin with his two makes.
“My guys depend on me for plays like that. Sometimes it might be a blocked shot or a rebound, but you have to mix it up. We’ve had some tough games the last few weeks against some really big teams, so it gets you ready for these situations. We don’t want to take anyone for granted and certainly not Lookout Valley. I’m just glad (Edwards) is with us,” said Pride, who had several big blocks on the night that brought the raucous to its feet.
“There were a lot of things we didn’t do as well as I hoped we would, but we were shorthanded in personnel and I thought we were just a little tired from all the beating we’ve taken physically the last few weeks. I think we will take tomorrow off. We’ve had some good games with Lookout Valley, and tonight was important. We seem to find a way to get the best of them it seems,” said Dragoo.
CSAS, in fact, has lost only twice to Lookout Valley the past 14 seasons in winning 20 of the 22 games between the two, but one of them was early last year in Ford’s first season.
The Patriots shot an even 50 percent from the floor (27-of-54) but had 18 turnovers, with 17 of them coming through the first three quarters. CSAS played without starter Hollis Edwards who had a twisted ankle, and the Jackets were down a pair of starters too in Jacobi Dixon and Allen Ray with injuries.
The Jackets got double digit games from Moore (30), Dixon (10), Jaylen Bates (10) and Kolbe Haddox (11).
Lookout Valley 49, CSAS 32:
The Lady Jackets used a big second quarter spurt keyed by a trio of 3-pointers from Alex Spence to separate from the Lady Patriots and Rainey Barber proved too much in the 17-point win. Barber led all scorers with 24 and Spence wound up with 14 on the night as LV cruised to the District 4-A win.
Deyonna Lansden led the Lady Patriots with 11.
Lookout Valley 11 18 7 13 – 49
Arts & Sciences 7 6 11 8 – 32
LOOKOUT VALLEY (49) – Simmons 3, Millraney, Rainey Barber 24, Sanders 8, J.Reed, Morton, Pell, Alex Spence 14, A.Reed.
CSAS (32) – Deyonna Lansden 11, Meyners, Houston 6, McGhee 8, Thompson, Mayes 5, J.Benn 2, C.Benn.
3-point goals: Lookout Valley 8 (Spence 4, Barber 3, Simmons); CSAS 0.
Lookout Valley 16 15 19 18 – 68
Arts & Sciences 22 17 12 21 – 72
LOOKOUT VALLEY (68) – Jalen Moore 30, Chris Dixon 10, Murphy 3, Jaylen Bates 10, Barber, Talley 2, Colbe Haddox 11, Sanders 2.
CSAS (72) – Troy Pride 17, Neely 8, Cahlib Edwards 28, Drake 3, Morris 8, Orr 2, Akins 4,Wright.
3-point goals: Lookout Valley 9 (Moore 4, Dixon 3, Murphy, Haddox); CSAS 5 (Neely 2, Edwards 2, Drake).
(Contact James Beach via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @beachnut1134)