MCHS has enjoyed fast start, but must now prove itself in divisional play
As good as Madison County’s 11-3 record looks, that matters little to the Red Raiders’ upcoming opponents.
Madison County opens its 10-game subregion schedule Friday at home against nearby rival Cedar Shoals at 7:30 p.m. as the battle for postseason positioning begins.
“Coming back from Christmas, everybody is 0-0,” said coach Steve Crouse, whose team is off to its best start ever under his watch. “These are the games that determine who we’ll play in February (in the region tournament) … We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The higher Madison County finishes in the final subregion standings, the more favorable draw it gets for the 8-AAAA tournament.
The subregion schedule runs until Feb. 9.
The Red Raiders return from a plentiful Christmas, going 2-1 in a recent three-day tournament at Oconee County. Madison County beat Athens Academy and Oconee County but lost to South Gwinnett, an Elite Eight team in Class AAAAA a year ago, for the tournament title.
“I’m really proud of how hard our kids played,” Crouse said. “We competed with them.”
Both Patrick McCrary and Stan Maxwell had to sit for stretches against South Gwinnett with foul trouble, which hurt the Red Raiders’ upset hopes. McCrary finished with 18 points and eight boards. Maxwell added 14 points, five rebounds and six assists. He had 11 at the half.
Madison County trailed just 40-35 at intermission, but as Maxwell sat with three fouls, Madison County went scoreless for four minutes in the third quarter.
“I’d say that was the turning point of the game,” Crouse said.
T.J. McGuire heated up from behind the three-point arc in the second half, hitting 3-of-5 and finishing with 14 points.
Madison County cut the South Gwinnett lead to single digits in the fourth quarter, but the Comets stepped up and hit 8-of-10 free throws in the fourth quarter to pull away.
The Red Raiders did just the opposite at the charity stripe, hitting just 5-of-17 attempts for the game.
South Gwinnett also finished with 12 more rebounds than Madison County.
The Red Raiders did, however, limit their turnovers to 13 and had 17 assists.
“That’s a good number for us,” Crouse said.
Though Madison County lost, it got to match up with one of the better basketball programs in the state.
And Crouse noted that Madison County had a chance to win a holiday tournament trophy, something it hadn’t done in several years.
“We got to play in a tournament atmosphere,” Crouse said. “ … We’ll do it again in February (at the region tournament). We’ll be ready for it.”
With no game this past Tuesday, Madison County had the entire week to prepare for tomorrow’s (Friday’s) game against Cedar Shoals. The Red Raiders hammered the traditionally-strong Jaguars 60-39 last February in the last meeting between the two schools.
“I’m sure they’ll be thinking about that,” Crouse said.
Cedar Shoals is off to a 4-7 start but has plenty of weapons, Crouse said.
“They’ve always been athletic,” he said. “Their defense will be tough. Their coach does a great job … We like having them come to our gym first.”