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Gators face tall task in semis
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Bulloch Academy's Matt Childers drives past a defender during the Gators' state quarterfinal victory. - photo by LISA AARON/Special to the Herald

The Bulloch Academy Gators boys basketball team is heading to Americus Friday evening, as for the first time since 2010 the Gators have advanced to the GISA state final four. The Gators will be going up against Holy Spirit.

Bulloch Academy advanced to the state semifinals after knocking off Westminster 58-48 in the opening round at home, and then taking out Tiftarea 78-64 in round two, which was played at Stratford Academy in Macon.

“We’ve gotten this far by playing solid defensively, and making runs when we have needed to,” said Bulloch Academy coach Chance Cofield. “We have et a few of our goals by winning the region championship, and advancing to the final four hopefully this isn’t where things end.

The Gators have relied primarily on leading scorer Pierless Brown who is averaging 25 points per game, but the Gators also have five other seniors who contribute including Don Aaron who averages 12.5 points per game and Matt Childers who averages 10 points per contest.

“We have six seniors, and many of them have been playing together for a while,” Cofield said. “This is only my first year with them, but they are a tight group, and I think they all seem to be on the same page as far as being focused and ready.”

While the Gators rely on Pierless Brown, Holy Spirit is led by senior guard Anthony Edwards who is ranked as the No. 1 high school prospect in America according to many publications. Edwards is 6’5’’ and 215 pounds and averages over 25 points per game for the Cougars.

“We all know about Anthony Edwards,” Cofied said. “The players know about him, their classmates are all asking about him, even the GISA have publicized he is playing in the final four to try and get people to the game.

The Gators have played before loud crowds during the season, but they know this game will be of statewide significance considering it involves the top player in the country.

“It seems like they have kind of forgotten who he’s playing against,” said senior guard Ty Mingle. “We feel like they have overlooked us, and we feel like that is fueling us to want to prove we can beat this team.”

“We know we are the underdog, which means we have to play even harder,” Aaron said. “We have to make shots and rebound, and keep playing defense like we have all year.”

While Edwards grabs most of the headlines, the Cougars have other weapons as well, and are looking for their third straight GISA state title.

“I have had some sleepless nights trying to find a way to gameplan for this team,” Cofied said. “You can’t just worry about Edwards because they have other players who may be Division 1 talent as well. We are just going to have to play our game, and trust in what has gotten us here.”

The Gators and Cougars are scheduled for a 6:30 start in Americus at Georgia Southwestern University. If the Gators win the championship game will take place Saturday at 8:20 p.m.  in Americus.