By ARTHUR L. MACK
BIRMINGHAM — For one moment, it appeared St. Luke’s would pull off an upset for the ages.
The odds were against the Wildcats in Friday’s Class 2A state championship game at Legacy Arena. No. 9-ranked Aliceville had a size advantage, a rebounding advantage and a noisy and boisterous crowd behind it.
But St. Luke’s came within an errant pass and possible game-winning shot from pulling off the victory and claiming its first Blue Map after three previous losses in the finals.
One could sense the disappointment on coach Garreth Trawick’s face as the clock ticked down to the last 10th of a second after a long inbounds pass was stolen by the Yellow Jackets’ Jatavius Colvin to preserve their 44-43 victory.
“We didn’t accomplish anything — we didn’t win the state title,” Trawick said. “As far as I’m concerned, we haven’t accomplished anything yet. It’s rinse and repeat coming up in the back end of March.”
But Trawick said there is much to look forward to next season with the bulk of his team returning, including standout guard Brandon Cooks.
“We’re losing only two seniors,” Trawick said. “Being in this spot, everybody knew and everybody was paying attention to it. Everybody in our path pays attention to it, so we know we’ve got the target on our back.”
The Wildcats were overpowered on the boards, a fact which led to their defeat, yet they battled back from a 22-10 deficit.
“I felt in the moment our guys were trying to force a few things to try and keep up with the other team and I had to trust my team on the offensive side,” Trawick said. “They were telling me what they were seeing, so we set up some plays for that, and on the other side it was just about getting stops, staying in front, rebounding.
“We started taking some more charges and getting some rebounds and that was what we were trying to do to offset Aliceville and get back in the game.”
Cooks missed all but the last three regular-season games with a broken collarbone suffered in preseason practice but St. Luke’s caught fire when he returned and won seven straight games.
“That was the concern, plugging him back in,” Trawick said. “Would the team be able to jell in a short amount of time with a five-team area? I hyped it all season long; it didn’t matter if we were a top seed or a bottom seed in a five-team area. You start out with a win-or-go-home game and we were concerned about that but you see what the kid can do. He loves this game and I’m sure he watched more film than I was watching of crosstown opponents, up the road, and what the rest of the state looked like.”
Cooks did his part to get the Wildcats to the finals and to the edge of a state title, scoring 11 of his 20 points in the second half Friday.
“I just told my teammates to keep up the confidence and making sure we can play together with the chemistry we have,” Cooks said. “That would help us on the court and we can do everything together. I wouldn’t say I put the team on my back. Everybody had different things they had to do in order to be in the game.”