Rumor has it that Madison County boys’ basketball coach Steve Crouse will shave his head if his Red Raiders qualify for the state tournament.
If true, Madison County’s Tuesday night region tournament game with Monroe Area will determine whether or not the coach’s hair comes off.
A victory would propel the Red Raiders (20-5, 8-2) to the Class AAAA tournament.
“If the guys remember it, I’ll do it,” Crouse said. “I hope they don’t play hard for that goal, but that may be one we need to dangle out there for them.”
Tip-off is Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Monroe Area High School.
Shaved head or not, a state tournament-clinching win over Monroe Area Tuesday would mark a joyous occasion. Madison County, which notched its first 20-win season in 13 years, has not qualified for the state tournament since the 1996-1997 season.
But this is an extremely tough first-round draw for the Red Raiders.
Madison County technically tied for the subregion championship with an 8-2 mark in 8-AAAA North play, but its 3-2 record against competition from the other side of the region (8-AAAA South) relegated it to a no. 3 seed for the region tournament, behind Winder-Barrow and Clarke Central.
So the Red Raiders must find a way to beat a Monroe Area (16-7) team that blasted Madison County by 21 points earlier this year.
Crouse said his group must play better defense in the rematch.
“We’ve got to ‘D-up,” he said. “That’s no. 1. We didn’t do that when we played them. We’ve got to play defense. Defense has kind of been our trademark.”
To make matters worse, Monroe Area is hosting the Region 8-AAAA tournament, which means that Madison County must take down the Purple Hurricanes on their home floor.
Crouse hopes a big crowd — one made up of a lot of Madison County students especially — will show-up and offset Monroe Area’s homecourt advantage.
“We travel well, but we need those students to come and give us that energy,” he said.
Madison County enters the region tournament coming off a victory — barely.
Trae Burton hit a baseline jumper with three seconds left Tuesday night in Mt. Airy as the Red Raiders fended off Habersham Central 53-52.
The game-winning shot was set up by a steal from T.J. McGuire.
Bradley Raines scored 20 points in the first half and finished with 24 to lead the Red Raiders. Stan Maxwell added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Madison County, which beat Habersham Central by 25 points earlier this year, overcame a 19-turnover night in avoiding the upset.
“We didn’t play well,” Crouse said. “But we got the win on the road. We’ve got 20 wins on the season. So we’ll take the win. We’ll take the 20, and we’ll go to work on Thursday and prepare for Monroe and the region tournament.”
If Madison County wins Tuesday, it would likely face Winder-Barrow or Clarke Central — barring an upset — Friday at 5:30 p.m. for the right to advance to the region championship.
“I like that road, but we’ve got to get Monroe first and that’s our focus,” Crouse said.
•Clarke Central 59, Madison Co. 54 (Feb. 5): A fourth-quarter cold snap Friday cost Madison County its biggest home victory in years.
The Red Raiders, in a battle for first place with the Gladiators, scored just two points in the last four and a half minutes as they fell 59-54 in front of a standing-room only crowd at home.
Patrick McCrary led the Red Raiders with 12 points on senior night in his final game at the MCHS gym. Bradley Raines and T.J. McGuire each added 11 in their final home games as well.
Raines hit a 3-pointer with 4:29 left to give Madison County a 52-50 lead and bring the capacity crowd to its feet, but the Red Raiders went silent after that.
Madison County’s only basket following Raines’ 3-pointer came when Patrick McCrary tipped in a missed lay-up with 27 seconds left to cut Clarke Central’s lead to 55-54.
Down 56-54 moments later, Madison County had a chance to take the lead with 11 seconds left, but Raines missed a 3-pointer from the corner.
Following a Clarke Central free throw, the Red Raiders had a chance to extend the game into overtime, but Dominique Parrish missed a 3-pointer with five seconds left from the same spot as Raines’ earlier 3-point miss.
Though close, Madison County led nearly the entire first half and took a 32-30 lead into the locker room.
The lead changed hands seven times in the second half before the Gladiators went ahead for good with 3:10 left with a three-pointer from Jeremy Johnson.
Madison’s County’s fourth quarter slump included three consecutive misses at the free throw line in the final four minutes.