Madison County needed two wins on the road to pave their way to the guys’ state basketball playoffs — they got halfway there.
The Red Raiders traveled to Flowery Branch Friday evening and downed the Falcons 53-48 in the region tournament play-in game. The squad then needed to top Salem Monday afternoon to advance to the Class AAAA state tournament, but Madison County fell 72-54, ending their season at 9-18.
“We had a good win against Flowery Branch; that was a positive note to the end of the season,” said Red Raider head coach Steve Crouse. “And we came out and battled for 32 minutes against a very good Salem team.”
Against Flowery Branch, Madison County had three players in double digits, with T.J. Skelton, who drained three three-pointers, leading the way with 13. Trey Carruth and Andrew Lindsey had 10 apiece. Malik Freeman had nine. Trae Burton had seven and Brock Turner chipped in three.
Burton led Madison County with 16 points and 17 rebounds against Salem Monday. Carruth had 16, while Skelton finished with 10. Lindsey added seven. Turner had three. Terrell McCrary added two and Freeman had one.
Madison County led Salem 13-11 after one period Monday, but fell behind 32-22 at the half and never recovered.
“We felt like our game plan was solid because of all the film we watched; we just knew they were so good in transition, such athletes and high risers, we had to slow them down,” said Crouse, adding that that team accomplished that goal in the first quarter. “But we just could not continue that for 32 minutes.”
Crouse said this season included ups and downs, but he feels the team was starting to play some good basketball toward the end of the year.
“We had a difficult early season schedule and we battled through that and got into sub-region and started playing well together,” said Crouse. “We had a little hiccup there in the middle of sub-region and lost a few games, but I felt like we were kind of catching fire our last two or three games. It was a big win against Flowery Branch to get us in the position to have a chance to win and go to the state tournament.”
Madison County will lose six seniors off this year’s team: Trae Burton, Trey Carruth, Connor Hancock, Alex Jordan, Terrell McCrary and Brock Turner.
“I appreciate all the effort the seniors put in over the past four years,” said Crouse.
The coach said he hopes their time involved in basketball will help them off the court in the future.
“Our guys showed up every day and worked hard every day,” said Crouse. “I told them in the locker room, you’re not going to be part of this team anymore, but in life you’re going to be part of a team, whether it’s athletically or work, and hopefully something they’ve learned from basketball will help them be a competitor every day at whatever they choose to do in life.”
While the team will lose a lot of experience next year, Crouse noted that freshmen T.J. Skelton and Malik Freeman and sophomore Andrew Lindsey contributed significantly this year and will provide some backbone for next year’s squad. He said the loss of this year’s seniors will mean more chances for younger guys.
“We’re losing a lot of upperclassmen, so there’s a lot of opportunities for our younger guys from our JV program,” said Crouse, noting that playing time next year will have a lot to do with who puts in the dues over the spring and summer.
The coach said Madison County must work on fundamentals during the offseason.
“We’ve got to execute fundamentals at game speed, not at rec speed or playground speed, but in game speed, and then we have to improve our game knowledge,” he said.