In the days before last week’s Region 8-A tournament, the seniors on Lakeview Academy’s boys basketball team gathered for a meeting. The Lions had lost three of their last four regular season games, losing more region contests in a two-week span than they had in the previous three years combined, and the fourth-year players on the team knew the team had to make a change.
According to Adam Cottrell, the message of the gathering was a simple one.
“This is our last time together, and we decided that if we didn’t change something our season was going to end short,” he said. “This is kind of our last ride and our last chance to do what we want to do in high school basketball. We knew that in order to get a good position for the playoffs, we had to go out and play good in our region tournament.”
And that’s exactly what Lakeview Academy did.
Led by Cottrell’s 62 total points, the Lions tore through all three of their tournament opponents, taking down Riverside Military 79-73 in the finals Saturday night. Cottrell had a monster game — 31 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists. It was a perfect finish to a perfect week that also saw him hit 1,000 points in his career and was good enough for him to be named this week’s Times’ Athlete of the Week.
But Cottrell has never been one to dwell on individual stats or personal accolades.
“It’s awesome, and it’s obviously a personal goal that I was able to accomplish,” said Cottrell of making it to career point 1,000. “But at this point in the year, I think we’re all just focused on winning games. I think that’s most important.”
That goal has been clear since Cottrell first joined the team as a freshman.
His first season with Lakeview Academy came only a year removed from winning a middle school championship along with fellow seniors K.J. Millwood, Bryce Blackwell and Palmer Ferguson. That group hasn’t slowed down since moving up to the high school level.
Over the seasons to follow, the Lions went on to complete their winningest four years in program history, according to Lakeview Academy coach Todd Cottrell.
“We’ve got a good group of guys,” he said. “We have really good team chemistry. That allows all our guys to have a little bit of confidence, a little bit of freedom.”
All that chemistry came to a head during the region tournament, as Cottrell’s teammates let him take the lead during his timely hot streak.
After notching a 15-point, 11-rebound double-double in a first-round drubbing of Tallulah Falls, Cottrell scored nearly half of the team’s points in a 37-32 victory over Athens Academy. His big game against Riverside Military Academy — highlighted by nine points in the fourth quarter — was just the icing on the cake.
And while Cottrell was the one lighting up the stat sheets, he was quick to point out exactly where most of that production was coming from.
“My teammates, they’re great, and I think they were playing just as good,” he said. “Defense, rebounding, those types of things maybe don’t get put in the box score, but they were playing good too.”
Lakeview Academy’s recent run has made it one of the most successful basketball programs in Hall County over the past few seasons. This season’s region title is the team’s third in a four-year period, and Adam Cottrell has been a crucial piece of each of those teams.
But with state playoffs just over the horizon, he was insistent that now is not the time for reflection.
“It’s incredible, especially for us seniors,” he said. “But I think we’re looking for more. I don’t think now is the time to look back and get happy about that stuff. We still have hopefully a few more weeks of playing together.”