Horizon had lost twice in the span of 11 days this month — after losing twice all of last season — and Curtis Eggleston couldn’t sleep.
Those two setbacks, by a combined eight points and against the Horizon boys’ two toughest region rivals, prompted a late-night brainstorm. With a short rotation, Eggleston was forced to abandon his usual run-and-gun style for a more measured approach.
Still, there were, and are, no guarantees that it would work. Outside of Josiah Laws and Michael Walker, the Warriors aren’t a big team. Thursday night’s game against North Georgia Christian — a team with two 6-foot-4 frontcourt players — was Horizon’s first litmus test.
Three Warriors reached double figures: Walker (23 points), Laws (11 pts) and senior guard Jared Hamby (10), and Horizon fended off several fourth quarter charges to get back on track with a 60-52 win.
Horizon’s problem in those two losses: running out of gas in the fourth quarter. In that sense, problem solved.
"I’m going to go home and talk to my wife and she’ll ask how tonight went," Eggleston said. "I’ll say we’ve got to rebound and shoot free throws better than we did, because it’s sort of chasing after this perfect game that you’re never going to get to."
It’s an attitude that speaks to why the Warriors are yearly contenders in the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association (GICAA) state playoffs. Eggleston is willing to change on the fly and, equally as important, his players are willing, too.
"We had a meeting earlier this week about how we’re going to slow it down, and I’m really thankful that they bought in," he said.
Making Horizon’s midseason transition even more difficult was the presence of four new, major contributors. Laws, a transfer from Forsyth Central, Debo Durnwald, Ty Logan and Bailey Mauldin had never played for Eggleston prior to this season.
"We have some young and new guys, and there was a bit of a learning curve and a breaking of egos, maybe," Eggleston said. "Obviously when you lose guys like Dakota [Holtzclaw] and Jake Fussell, that’s going to happen."
Horizon was by no means perfect Thursday night, but there was an assuredness about their passing in order to find space in the paint — "We can get a good shot when we want it. We need the great shot," Eggleston said — that can only come from a team growing more comfortable with one another.
One of Horizon, Kings Academy and Cumberland Christian (the two teams that beat Horizon last week) will miss out on the state playoffs; only the top two teams from February’s region tournament qualify.
Eggleston won’t look that far. There was more work left to be done, including a visit to Kings Academy next week, but first, with all the gym lights off and cars gone from the parking lot, there was the veteran coach sweeping the locker room floor, trying to get it just right.