STONE MOUNTAIN — When Caleb Bohn connected on a corner three right before the first-quarter buzzer, Pinecrest Academy’s optimism, while still guarded, still had every justification.
The Paladins were playing the Eagles tough to start their Elite Eight matchup at Redan High School on Wednesday night, trailing them by just three after Bohn’s deep shot.
Then the second quarter started.
Greenforest, right on cue, began to make almost every deep shot they attempted to start that period, quickly upping its lead to double digits behind five 3-pointers to take control of the game. At the same time, Pinecrest’s shooting went silent, and while the Paladins showed improvement late, they were ultimately eliminated from the Class 1A Private playoffs with a 68-50 loss.
“They made a lot of early shots and we got behind, and this is a hard team for us to play from behind against,” Pinecrest boys coach John Bauersfeld said. “We needed to kind of pick the pace up, and it's hard to keep pace with them. We didn't have great shooting. Credit their defense —they played real well and it kind of took us a second to figure out what they were doing.”
Behind four straight threes from the Eagles, Pinecrest was on the receiving end of a 12-2 run to start the second, with turnovers and missed shots muddying the Paladins’ situation further on each possession.
“That's kind of a back-breaker,” Bauersfeld said. “When (the deficit’s) at six, you feel like you’ve got to stop losing the ball and then they hit another three and it goes to nine. It's just hard.
“We didn't get any second opportunities because they do a good job cleaning the glass and they were breaking out and getting open threes. If they're hitting and we're not executing as well as we (can) and rushing shots, we're not getting second shots against them. They kind of made us pay on every opportunity there.”
By halftime, Pinecrest had seen Greenforest’s slim 16-13 first-quarter lead balloon to 35-20 after the Paladins made a few buckets to end the second.
While the Paladins were never able to overtake the Eagles at any point, they certainly got better as the game went on. Bohn, whose first-quarter three was his only made shot of the first half, finished his night with a team-leading 15 points. Oscar Lynch finished with 11.
“We just had to attack,” Bauersfeld said. “I told them at halftime, ‘You've just got to put your foot on the gas and you've got to attack. You can't worry that he's 6-11, you've just got to attack.’ I thought we did a better job of that in the second half. I think we were thinking too much in the first half.”
Wednesday wasn’t the ending that the Paladins were envisioning, but after the best run that Pinecrest’s boys have had as members of the GHSA, the seniors that made that happen couldn’t help but look back at where they’d come from.
“It's an incredible year,” Bauersfeld said. “That’s what we just talked about. For the seniors, from where they were as freshmen and winning one game to now making an Elite Eight run and being one of the top 10 teams in the state in Single-A is awesome. I couldn't be more proud of them.”