By Michael Foster
Horizon Christian Academy defeated Alleluia Community School, 47-42, to clinch the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association (GICAA) state championship—the third in school history—Saturday at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus.
Junior wing Andrew Leonard led the way with a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, while senior Liam Dahlberg led the team in scoring with 12 points (he also added six rebounds). Point guard Daniel Durnwald was the other Warrior to finish in double digits with 11 points.
Horizon trailed by eight points in the third quarter before Durnwald hit a 3-pointer after getting fouled, finishing off a 4-point play to steal back momentum. The Warriors took the lead into the fourth and held on in a tight defensive contest.
“I haven’t seen that many kids get emotional like that in a long time,” Horizon head coach Damon Taylor said.
Taylor earned a state title in his first season coaching varsity basketball for the Warriors. He had previously served as a middle school coach and is also an assistant for the football team.
“(This win) was a blessing,” Taylor said. “Those guys work so hard. They’ve given up Christmas break time, had 6 a.m. practices. After our win on Thursday they turned around, practiced at 10 a.m. on Friday at a facility down there and then we went back to the hotel and just studied film and studied film. They put a lot of work on the details.”
Horizon had to deal with a tough 3-2 zone defense from Alleluia, which neutralized their shooters early on.
“Their guards were 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-2,” Taylor said. “So we had to swing the ball back and forth a lot, and really that was the first time all year that we dealt with that kind of trouble. Josiah (Laws) really helped us against that.”
The win also meant the first perfect season in school history, as the team finished 22-0 on the year.
Horizon’s championship win wasn’t as pretty as its semifinal performance at the same site on Thursday, as the team routed Covenant Christian, 84-47.
Senior Josiah Laws impressed against Covenant, scoring 12 points, eight rebounds and dishing eight assists. Dahlberg scored 22, while Leonard finished with 21.
Taylor said the celebration was a community affair.
“Everyone felt like they were part of the win,” Taylor said. “I got a lot of Facebook texts, a lot of Tweets, about 100 messages on Facebook I think. It’s good stuff. The school is very excited about this win.”
Horizon’s last two GICAA state titles came in 2011 and 2013 under former head coach Curtis Eggleston.