AAC Playoff Wrap Up
The 2018 AAC Tournament was set to be located at the Cougar Center. The last time the Cougars hosted the playoffs were back in 2014; the 25th anniversary of the AAC. This season the Cottage School Cougars finished as the #2 seed at 6-2 in the AAC so took on the #3 seed Atlanta Area School for the Deaf Panthers (4-4) in the AAC semi-final. The #1 seed Howard Hawks (8-0) had already advanced to the final knocking off the #4 seed Mill Springs Academy Mustangs (1-7) earlier in the evening. TCS had beaten AASD both times during the regular season but in relatively close fashion. To add a wrinkle to the timing for the Cougars, Cottage entered the night with uncertainty as they were in the midst of a flu outbreak over the past couple of weeks. Each of their players were in and out of school leading into the night, but for the most part did have their full roster (missing one inside player and their assistant coach). Perhaps, under the weather, TCS did not have their best foot forward or as Atlanta Area would see it; the Panthers came into Roswell and took what they have coveted for so long.
AASD was healthy, athletic, and hungry. Some call it fate, others confidence and skill but the Panthers were marching into the Cougar Center with an attitude. They were sick of being beaten by TCS year in and year out. In over a decade of history, AASD has only one victory over the mighty Cougars and zero playoff wins. Tonight, that was going to change!
From the beginning, you can see the Panthers had more swag. They had a quicker step and because of it, Cottage had serious foul trouble early. As TCS tried to make it to halftime, hoping to have the energy to pump of the volume the second half, both teams see-sawed back and forth for a 23-22 TCS halftime edge.
Sure enough, the Panthers finally got the break they were waiting for as Cottage picked up another quick foul to see both their bigs on the bench. AASD’s size in #11 Ahmeen Stackhouse then took over the third period. His 6’5” athletic frame went to work on the glass and Cottage had no answer. AASD finished the quarter outscoring TCS 17-5 for a 39-28 advantage.
The fourth frame was no different, for the exception that the Cougars had a two minute stretch were they had an 8-0 run to cut the game to four points. It was the closest they would come as the Panthers held onto each possession and finished with a 54-47 victory. Coach Briggs spoke after the game; “Suroy and I are so proud of the boys for the turnaround we made this season. Of course we are all disappointed we did not make it to the final, but it happens for a reason. I could not be happier for coach Bess and his AASD team. Those kids earned it tonight and will have a chance at something special.” To answer the question of how and why you fell to a team you beat twice during the season and had home court advantage in the playoffs, coach Briggs’ response; “An unfortunate series of events that we could not control or explain took place over the past seven days leading up to this contest that we cannot explain. All I can tell you is that there were valuable puzzle pieces still present tonight that if connected, we could have found a way to pull this one out. We failed to find the pieces together in time so therefore the night ends as it started seven days ago; disoriented, confused, empty and full of sickness. We will all learn a deeper meaning from this situation and use it to make us stronger. It starts tomorrow in practice then in the consolation game versus Mill Springs on Wednesday.”
Proud Cougar Coaches,
Suroy and Richie
Harris Menetre finished with 24 points, 8 steals (ties a school record with a list of 5 others), and 5 rebounds. Menetre also made it to exactly 500 points in one season this year, which puts him into elite Cougar history. Only one other player scored 500+ points in one season (AJ Farrar 2013-finished with 536).
DJ Watts had one of his best games of the season with 11 points and 6 rebounds; and he did it while playing minimal minutes battling foul trouble.
Murphy Husnik added 8 points, while coughing the whole game as he battled the same flu/cold bug the entire team was going through.
On Wednesday, the Cougars took on the Mustangs of Mill Springs for the consolation prize. After two days to recover and make sense of all the series of strange events, TCS found some clarity and were driven to end on a high note. Coach Briggs spoke before the game; “We have a motto to work together as one for the journey of success, not just for the destination. We have accepted the unknown and are blessed to be here again to play one last game together. They vowed to enjoy every minute.”
As advertised, Cottage played almost flawlessly. It was not the score or hot shooting that made it so but more the mental focus and effort to fundamentally be consistent and to encourage and support each other to make this last game a grade A game.
With the added energy from two more days to heal, the Cougars played outstanding team defense to make each offensive possession a challenge for the Mustangs. Offensively, they passed the ball with precision as each Cougar found opportunities to score. TCS went on to win 46-33 for third place, but more importantly they finished their final day together knowing they did everything possible to make each team member enjoy the process. Coach Henderson spoke on this; “If they reflect back to when we started our first day together last summer to where we are now, they would all admit and be proud of the growth, enjoying the entire journey. They have memories for a lifetime and instilled the discipline necessary to be successful off the court.”
So very proud coaches,
Suroy and Richie
Senior Harris Menetre led the team with 15 points and 8 steals (tying the school record for the second playoff game in a row). Menetre finishes with 515 total points in one season; second all-time to the 536 from Farrar noted above. With 8 more steals, Harris finishes with 102 on the season which is also a school record. Chris Taura in 2015, previously held the record with 101 and the two are the only Cougars in history with 100+ steals in one season. Harris also reached the 900 point club for his career. There are only four members (Omari and AJ-over 1,000 and Chris with 933 points and now Harris with 915)
Senior DJ Watts, who has been at TCS since sixth grade, once again made the most of his final career games. Watts pulled down 11 boards and added 7 points and 5 assists.
Senior Liam Lovette connected on a three pointer in his very last game of his career.
Senior Joseph Matsumoto played outstanding defense and gathered a rebound, steal, and most memorable assist…below.
Senior Carter Hall has also been at TCS since sixth grade and started in his final game. Carter also was the last Cougar to touch the ball as time almost expired. Fellow classmate, Matsumoto made a heads up reverse pass to Hall in the left baseline corner. Hall corralled the pass and with confidence and the same repetition he has done for 7 years in a Cougar uniform, Carter knocked down his first career varsity basket and the last two points for the Cougars in 2018!
Senior Jackson Hurst…thank you for your duties and we hope you enjoyed your final year as a varsity Cougar!
Junior Murphy Husnik went 3-4 from downtown, scoring 13 points.