FLOWERY BRANCH — On the eve of one of the biggest games in the history of Flowery Branch basketball the players were as relaxed as they have been all year.
Sure there were plays being practiced, free throws being shot and fundamentals being worked on, but when there was any sort of down time, the players were practicing alley-oops, halfcourt shots and no-look passes.
"These guys have been like this all year," Falcons coach Todd Cottrell said. "This is a very unique group of kids and I don’t think they are going to change now."
And why would they?
The Falcons (26-3) are in the midst of their most successful season. They won the Region 7-AAA title for the first time and, with a win tonight against third-ranked Dunwoody (26-3), the Falcons will be in the Class AAA Final Four.
Tonight’s tip-off is set for 8:30 at Mt. Zion High School in Jonesboro.
And while their season has been historic, Cottrell knows that his team has a tough task in front of them.
"Dunwoody’s probably one of the best teams in the state regardless of classification and we look forward to the challenge of playing against a quality opponent," Cottrell said.
Cottrell’s coaching counterpart, Dunwoody’s Scott Bracco, also thinks highly of his quarterfinals opponent.
"They’re a well-coached team and a very athletic team," Bracco said of the Falcons. "Our region (5-AAA) and Flowery Branch’s region are the best two regions in the state of Georgia."
On paper, Bracco’s Wildcats are the overwhelming favorites. Three of their players: Pierre Jordan, Delwan Graham and Chris Singleton (a McDonalds All-American) are all committed to play Division I basketball next year, and prior to being knocked out of the playoffs last year in the quarterfinals, Dunwoody won back-to-back Class AAA state championships.
To say that Dunwoody’s history is far more successful than Flowery Branch’s would be an understatement, but that isn’t detering the Falcons.
"Our guys have to play like they’ve played all year and compete and we’ll see what happens," Cottrell said. "If we’re there at the end, we’ll have a chance to win."
That confidence comes from the fact that six of Flowery Branch’s victories were by fewer than 10 points, and throughout the year the Falcons have proven that they know what it takes to win. According to Cottrell, that alone cancels out the fact that his team is not as experienced in the playoffs as Dunwoody.
"I think our guys are tested," the Falcons coach said. "We’ve played in the Lanierland finals, the region finals and have played in a lot of close games against good teams in front of hostile crowds."
With that experience throughout the season, Cottrell believes that despite being an underdog, his players are ready for Dunwoody.
"They’re really looking forward to the challenge of playing a very high-quality team," he said of his players. "They’re very confident and I think that we have a good shot."
And if they do win tonight, this group of Falcons will no doubt prepare for their next opponent like they did Dunwoody, with hard work, disciplined practices, and of course, a little fun.