ATHENS – If you would have told anyone from the village of New Boston what the 2018-19 Tigers were going to accomplish before they played their first game, they would have signed up for it that day.
Back-to-back winners of sectional titles, first district semifinal win since 1985, first district title since 1960, and an elite eight appearance. Not to mention the regular season accolades the Tigers achieved since the beginning of December.
But all good things must come to an end, as the old proverb goes. Such is the case with the New Boston Tigers ‘18-19 campaign following their 75-32 regional final loss to #1 Berlin Hiland Friday night at the Convocation Center in Athens.
“Exactly what we didn’t want to have happen, happened,” said Tigers head coach Adam Cox following New Boston’s loss on Friday. “We didn’t want it to be a track meet with them. I’m at a loss for words for how bad we wanted it and how bad we played. I think a lot of it has to do with their defense, and a lot of it has to do with nerves and us not knowing how to be here and how to respond. Can’t take away anything from my kids: they played hard the whole game, played hard the second half.”
The Tigers needed a fast start to keep up with the state’s top team, an accomplishment not many teams have been able to do this season against the Hawks.
After trailing the Hawks 13-2 with three minutes left in the first quarter, things only went downhill from there. New Boston didn’t connect on their first field goal until there was 6:11 left in the second quarter on a bucket by senior Tyler Caldwell.
At the half, New Boston trailed Berlin Hiland 49-15 after a 30-10 second quarter in favor of the Hawks, helping lift the state’s top ranked squad to their regional title victory.
New Boston graduates two seniors from this historic team, Caldwell and Larkin Branham. Caldwell finishes his career with the Tigers after scoring his 1,000th career point earlier this season against East, helping lift the program to their first district title in 59 years, recipient of New Boston’s Wendy’s High School Heisman award, and is the leading candidate for valedictorian in Glenwood High School’s graduating class of 12 seniors.
“Hats off to my seniors, Tyler and Larkin,” Cox said. “Tyler played a great game, never quit. They’ve both been great kids to coach, Tyler embodies what it takes to be a New Boston Tiger, on and off the court. He’s grown a lot since I first took this job, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
Even though Caldwell’s graduation is a huge loss for Cox’ group, they still have plenty of pieces to build around in juniors Marcus Saunders and Malachi Potts, sophomore Kyle Sexton, and freshmen Grady Jackson and Jerome McKinley that will help make the Tigers a serious threat to once again push for a regional title.
“We lose last year in the district semis and learned what it took to win at the Convo,” said Cox. “Unfortunately, now we know what it takes to win at the regionals. We’ve got to continue to build off of that. For us to win the regional championship and to make the final four, we just figured out how good we have to be. Our offseason workouts and programs is going to be just as important as this loss. What we take from it and what we learn from it, that’s all important because I think we’ll be back here next year. We’ve got the youth and we’ve got the team to be able to bounce back next year.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT