WILLIAMS BAY — With a 19-2 regular-season record, the Faith Christian boys basketball team earned a No. 4 seed — good enough to be the home team in the first two playoff rounds.
As long as they were able to beat first-round opponent University Lake/Trinity, that is.
On Feb. 26, the Eagles did just that, handily topping the Lakers 74-40.
A trio of Eagles seniors scored at will in the win, with Amos Johnson leading the way with 21 points, Andrew Kent next up with 19 and Luke Thomas adding 14 as well.
With University Lake/Trinity taken care of, Faith’s next contest was another home matchup, this time against No. 5-seed Young Coggs Prep on March 1.
As a matchup between the fourth seed and fifth seed, on paper it looked like it would be a close matchup. In reality, it was also a close finish, with Young Coggs winning 58-54.
While the final score was close, it didn’t always look like it would be a close finish.
To start the game off, Young Coggs went up 6-0. But Faith Christian slightly cut into that lead, and after five minutes of play, Young Coggs led 11-6.
From there, the visitors caught fire, going on an 11-3 run to take a 22-9 lead with nine minutes remaining until halftime.
It was a rough start for Faith, which wasn’t playing at the team’s normal level to start the game off, in part distracted by Young Coggs’s tough pressing defense.
“We came out tight, and we weren’t playing our basketball. Once we settled down and started playing our game, we got into a rhythm and got back into the game,” head coach Brian Pollard said.
Sure enough, once they began to relax, Faith Christian’s boys started to mount a comeback.
With 1:40 remaining in the half, Young Coggs’s lead was down to just one basket at 25-22. After 40 more seconds, Faith was within one point 26-25. But by halftime, Young Coggs’s lead was back at three points, 28-25.
In the first nine minutes of the game, Young Coggs outscored Faith 22-9. But over the next nine minutes, Faith got the better of them to the tune of 16-6.
The comeback continued in the second half, and just two minutes in, Faith Christian picked up its first lead of the game, 32-30. Three minutes later, the lead was up to six points, 38-32.
Pollard and his assistant coaches spent halftime tutoring the players, and they responded, which sparked the comeback effort and eventually building a lead.
“I think we knew what we had to do, and that was moving the ball on offense and attacking the basket. That’s what we talked about at halftime. When we did it, they couldn’t stop us, and we were getting good looks,” Pollard said.
Little did the home team know that its six-point advantage was the largest their lead would be.
As multiple Faith Christian players got into foul trouble, Pollard had to utilize his bench more than he’d hoped, which gave Young Coggs a small window to regain its lead.
The visitors took advantage, slowly but surely creeping back to only trail by two points with 11 minutes left in the game. Two minutes later, Young Coggs took a 46-45 lead.
At this point, Faith Christian was reeling, with multiple players actively avoiding fouling out and all five players on the court drained from the hard-fought game. With Faith on the ropes, Young Coggs could’ve attempted a knockout punch, but instead they made a head-scratching decision to burn the clock.
With no shot clock in high school play, Young Coggs point guard Fredrick Couch held the ball for just over two minutes with the score at 48-47. Eventually, they ran a play, netting a layup to extend the lead to 50-47.
While wasting two minutes gave Faith Christian less time to spark a comeback to tie or win the game, it also gave them time to avoid fouling and rest.
“To be honest with you, it gave us a break, a chance to catch our breath. That actually was in our favor,” Pollard said.
After Young Coggs got its lead up to three points, Faith Christian went down the court and cut it back to one at 50-49. That trend continued until just past the two-minute mark, when Faith Christian was forced to foul and Young Coggs went up 56-51.
From there, it was a free-throw contest, and with the road team ahead at the start, Faith Christian wasn’t able to make up enough ground for the comeback. The loss ended Faith’s season in the second playoff round for the second year in a row.
It was the team’s seniors who did the heavy lifting once again, scoring all 54 of the team’s points.
Johnson led the way with 28 points. Thomas was next up with 12. Kent and Quintin Skrodzki both scored seven points.
The team may have hoped to go a bit deeper into the playoffs, but after a successful regular season and one playoff win, they knew they had very little to hang their heads about.
“We ended up 20-3. Won our conference. We beat Catholic Central twice, which was great for us. Beat Williams Bay, which is always fun. We won the Williams Bay tournament, which was a great experience for the kids,” Pollard said.
“It was a great season.”