The McEachern Indians traveled north to Buford on Saturday (2/29/20) to take on the top-ranked Grayson Rams in a much-anticipated Final Four matchup. The teams had already met earlier in the season, with Grayson shutting down the Indian offense and wining the game, 83-57.
With the rematch being played in Buford, the sell-out crowd was very Ram-heavy. The 5500-seat Buford City Arena was standing-room-only for this important game that determined who would face the Wheeler Wildcats in the 7A final. A McEachern win would make the final a district showdown between two Cobb County School District teams. The atmosphere was charged well before tip-off.
“We have a lot of new guys on this team,” Head Coach Mike Thompson said. “We lost four starters from last year, but we have come a long way this season. Our game-plan is to make them shoot the ball and to keep them out of the paint and slow them down.”
That game-plan was very effective through the first half. McEachern was able to defend the potent Ram offense and hold them to 12 points in the first quarter and 15 in the second. The Indians posted 29 points of their own and took a two-point lead into halftime, 29-27.
Grayson made adjustments during the intermission and came out with a completely different defensive look. They pressed the Indians all up and down the court, and closed the lanes inside the arc. The Indians were only able to find 13 points the entire period, while the Rams sank 30. The third quarter ended with the Rams up by 15 points, 42-57.
Coach Thompson kept his team’s focus on the court and not the scoreboard and the Indians responded in the fourth quarter with 34 points. But the Rams scored 25, which wasn’t enough overcome the third quarter deficit. The Indians lost the game and ended their season with a final score of 76-82. Grayson upended McEachern’s hopes for back-to-back state titles just as McEachern had upended Meadowcreek’s hopes in 2019.
“Last year was last year,” said Coach Thompson. “I’m proud of what we did this season. Anytime you can muster up a run to the Final Four, I think that’s a good year. Every year is different and you have to prepare for that. With the team we had this year we got better, and as a coach that’s what you want to see.”
Grayson will move on to the finals to take a surging Wheeler Wildcat team. The matchup will feature the #1 and #2 team in the state playing in the final basketball game of the 2019-2020 season. It doesn’t get much more poetic than that.
Congratulations to Coach Thompson and the entire Indian team. You gave us many great sports moments this season and we’re excited for next year. Go Indians!