Madison County downed North Oconee in a thriller on the road Friday and punched its ticket to the state tournament.
The Raiders earned a first-round bye in the Region 8-AAAA tournament and will play at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Jeffeson in the region semifinals against the winner of the Stephens County/Jefferson matchup. As the second-place team in the region during the regular season, the Raiders (15-9, 6-4) guaranteed themselves a trip to the Class AAAA state tournament. If the Raiders win Friday, they’ll play for the region championship at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Jefferson. If they lose, they’ll play at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m proud of the guys,” said Raider head coach Tim Drake. “It’s testament to the hard work they’ve put in and the fact that they’ve been buying in to what the coaches are preaching. I’m excited for the seniors. We couldn’t ask for a better group of leaders.”
The Raiders dropped three-straight games last week, falling twice to regular season region champions St. Pius and once to Stephens County. But Madison County bounced back, downing Oconee County, 51-36 at home, and North Oconee, 53-50 on the road, to capture second place in the region.
“The guys really bounced back well after losing three in a row,” said Drake.
Madison County was led Friday by Region 8-AAAA “Co-Player of the Year,” senior point guard Trevon Daniel, who had 15 points and four rebounds, while Tay Howard had 11 points and eight rebounds.
“In middle school you never would have thought he (Daniel) would be the leading scorer his senior season,” said Drake. “But he put in the work in the off season and he got there. You just can’t say enough about him.”
The coach praised his other seniors, too. He said Cortney Stevenson has been a great defender for the Raiders.
“Cortney waited his turn and he started this year,” said the coach. “He’s been asked to guard the other team’s best player.”
Drake said senior KJ Burton, who has provided inside help while also showing a shooting touch from outside, has been unselfish and interested in team glory, not personal glory.
“KJ just says, ‘Coach I want to win,’ whether he plays or not,” said Drake.
The Raiders earned a trip to state after losing eight players from last year, including senior standout Golston Gillespie, who has played in only four games due to a knee ailment. But the coach said Gillespie has been there for his teammates, which has been important.
“Golston hasn’t missed a practice or game unless he’s getting treatment,” said Drake. “He’s the consummate team player.”