Rebels short in Elite Eight

Published 3:23 pm Thursday, February 12, 2009

One year after reaching the Final Four, Coosa Valley Academy boys’ basketball (19-11) fell a game short of the AISA semifinal Thursday, falling to Central Christian 76-43, at Faulkner University.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs. We haven’t had a lot of breaks,” senior leader J.B. Ripley said after the loss.

One of the main downs was losing senior point guard Chris Holcombe due to school disciplinary actions with nine games to play in the regular season.

“We lose an outstanding ball handler and a lot of points. Chris was a 20-point guy. When you lose that kind of ball handler, that kind of leadership and that kind of scoring, it’s hard to overcome,” CVA head coach Mike Clinkscales said. “I think my guys did a great job considering. They never gave up. They fought all game and played hard.”

The Central Warriors took an 18-9 lead after the opening quarter and led by 14 at the half, 35-21 with the help of 13 first-half points by Keevon Woods.

Woods opened the second half with his fourth 3-point basket of the game and hit another at the buzzer to close the third quarter to give Central a 57-35 lead. He finished with 23 points and four 3-pointers.

Ripley, who was playing on a bum ankle, matched Woods for a game-high 23 before fouling out of his final game with 1:22 to play.

“He played under pain the whole game,” said Clinkscales, who coached Ripley and the seniors to a junior varsity state title as freshmen. “He’s been the go to man from day one and he was determined to be the go-to man today and he was, even under a lot of hardship.”

Ripley, Whit Lovelady, Brandon Batchelor and Casey Shellnut end their basketball career at CVA, while Clinkscales hopes to rebuild next year beginning with rising junior Sam Bullard and rising senior Gage Holmes, who was second in scoring Thursday with eight points.

Central (22-7) advances to the Final Four to play either Warrior or Lighthouse Feb. 18 at Huntingdon College. Game time is 10:30 a.m.