The Pebblebrook Falcons had a big task before them when they traveled to Grayson Wednesday night to take on a 25-1 Rams squad ranked third in the nation and first in Georgia. Fresh off a 20-point win over Woodstock last Friday, Coach George Washington’s Falcons would have to be “giant killers” to take down a team undefeated at home and that hadn’t tasted defeat in over two months.
The two teams met over the Christmas break in the Tournament of Champions Holiday Classic, so the Falcons came with a gameplan they thought could reverse their earlier 78-71 overtime loss.
“We saw the mistakes we made on film . . . the things we must correct among ourselves,” Washington said. “We fix those things, we should be alright.”
And for the first eight minutes of the game, things looked like they would go the Falcons’ way.
Pebblebrook opened in a zone defense that kept the Rams’ offense off-kilter for a good part of the first quarter. Active hands and quick feet led to an early 4-point Falcons lead that the Rams cut to two, 13-11, to end the first quarter. Forward Jamal Clyce led the Falcons’ in the first quarter with five points, and guard Andre Young added four on a couple of driving layups. Grayson guard Caleb Murphy led the Rams with nine points in the period.
On offense, the Falcons had to play fast and drive the ball to the basket to exploit one of Grayson’s few weaknesses. They pushed the ball off turnovers and missed shots and guards Danny Stubbs, Caleb Washington, and Andre Young probed for open lanes against the Rams’ man-to-man defense. But points were hard to come by for the Falcons in the second quarter at the same time that Grayson found its offensive rhythm.
An 11-2 run over the final 3:30 of the second quarter would prove decisive. A dunk by Taje Kelly off a loose ball scramble ignited the home crowd and got things rolling. Three consecutive baskets from beyond the arc, including one at the buzzer, sent the teams to the lockers with Pebblebrook down 10.
The Falcons opened the second half man-to-man to force tempo and get back in the game. But after some back and forth for the first four minutes, they found themselves down 17.
Game over? Not quite.
An aggressive three-quarter trap forced the Rams into several turnovers that the Falcons converted to baskets at the other end. A layup off a steal and drive by Danny Stubbs cut the lead to seven points with six minutes left. Unfortunately the Falcons became their own worst enemy and would get no closer. A bad pass on the break, a missed layup, an offensive foul, and a turnover on successive possessions killed the momentum and sealed the Falcons’ fate, 67-54.
Danny Stubbs led the Falcons with 15 points. Tyler Shirley chipped in 10. Jamal Clyce added 9. Caleb Washington and Andre Young each tossed in 8 to round out the Pebblebrook scoring. The Falcons finished the season 16-14.
Great season, Falcons. You gave us many exciting games this year. Next season will be here before you know it…