Who: Horizon Christian boys basketball
What: GICAA state tournament
When: Friday, 8:30 p.m. and Saturday, 3 p.m. if necessary
Where: Georgia Southwestern State University, Americus, Ga.
There are only so many walls inside the two major buildings that make up the Horizon Christian Academy campus, but the most prominent is adorned from one side to the other with a trophy case.
Inside, Horizon boasts many titles, though in the grand scheme of high school athletics, where the Georgia High School Association reigns supreme, the Warriors’ accomplishments are tokens held more true to their heart than the annals in the greater community.
At Horizon, former varsity boys basketball coach Curtis Eggleston became a legend of sorts. He led the Warriors to state title appearances in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013, with wins in the latter two years while part of the Independent Christian Schools of Georgia and Alabama (ICSGA) and the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association (GICAA).
In those four seasons, the Warriors won a combined 93 games and lost just 13.
Still, first-year head coach Damon Taylor has an opportunity this season to pull off something Eggleston never did: an undefeated season.
It’s an unexpected twist. Last season, with three seniors leading the lineup, Horizon had what would be considered a down year, going just 15-7 and 4-4 in conference play. Eggleston and the school parted ways, leaving a job opening. Charles Wiggins, who serves as the athletic director and the head coach of the football team, decided to task Taylor—an assistant football coach—with the challenge of leading the varsity basketball team.
It would be Taylor’s first gig at a varsity basketball coaching job, but it wouldn’t become a rebuilding year. Instead, Horizon is back. They’ve got a big game Friday night in the GICAA Division I-A state tournament Final Four. They’ll face Covenant Christian Academy at Georgia Southwestern State University, with a shot at a state championship and a perfect season waiting on that Saturday.
They’re 20-0. They’ve outscored opponents by whopping margins all season and have even held two teams to 15 points. They hang their hat on defense, use “point forward” Josiah Laws as an offensive Swiss army knife, and put opponents away with sharpshooting from Ty Logan and Liam Dahlberg.
Needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind year for Taylor.
“I just go home each night so thankful and blessed to be in the position I’m in,” Taylor said. “The main thing is, this job is a lot of fun. I’m having a blast.”
The coaching experience has been less about X’s and O’s for Taylor, and much more about entertainment on long bus rides, team bonding activities involving the popular video game NBA 2K, and preparing his players for their future. Inside the athletic office is a wall full of college schedule posters. The idea is to remind the players of where their futures could be through hard work and dedication.
The plan to cultivate career ambitions is working. In fact, players like Dahlberg, Logan and Laws are at Horizon because of academic opportunity in the first place. They’re all part of a dual-enrollment program at the school that has become attractive to kids in the county. Laws played at Forsyth Central two seasons ago, while Dahlberg was a member of the Lambert basketball team before the GHSA ruled him ineligible after transferring, so he decided to join Horizon and dual-enroll at Truett-McConnell College.
“I’m here mainly for academics,” Dahlberg said. “My brother (Alex) is here too now. At the end of the day, I just love basketball and this is a great opportunity for me.”
The result of these moves—a basketball juggernaut.
It’s a surprise for Logan, who was on the team last year. After losing three senior starters from an underachieving year, he was unsure of how this year would turn out.
“I didn’t know what to expect, honestly,” Logan said. “But we just gelled so fast.”
“Originally, our goal was to get better every day,” Taylor said. “We took each game one game at a time.”
“I didn’t think we’d be blowing teams out like we have,” Laws said. “And we just got through our game the other day, so we’re just now preparing for the next one. We’ll focus like we have been and hopefully we can win it all.”