MURFREESBORO—From the team that wasn’t supposed to, to the team that nearly did.
For the first time in the last three months the Cosby Eagles just ran out of answers. Everything that was working for them worked against them, and it would prove costly in the end.
Entering the fourth quarter with a 47-45 lead, and having buried eight 3-point buckets already, it appeared Cosby was on its way to its first victory in the state tournament in 19 years. However, shots that were falling no longer dropped, foul trouble intervened and a game that seemed to belong to Cosby suddenly didn’t.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win,” Cosby coach Brad Flatford said. “We just couldn’t do enough down the stretch to pull it through, though. We couldn’t get enough consistent stops and missed some shots at the basket that we’ve got to make.”
While it may be the end of the season for Cosby, it’s not likely to be the last trip the returning players on the roster make back to Murfreesboro.
For seniors Seth Arrowood, Chase Williamson and Austin McKeehan — who was given a technical for his fifth and final foul in the closing minutes of the game — it will be the end of their journey, but one they wouldn’t soon trade anything for after the last four years.
“If I could do it all over again, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” McKeehan said. “Coming to Cosby was the best decision I ever made. It sucked having to watch the final minutes of my final high school career play out from the bench, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”
Cosby’s seniors will leave an impressive mark on an already rich program history.
After starting the year off in a major slump, the team rebounded unlike any team before them, turning a 2-4 start into a state tournament bid. While McKeehan, Arrowood and Williamson will certainly be missed, they’ve set a new standard for the large group of returning players coming back for the Eagles.
“(The returning players) need to keep working,” McKeehan said. “They need to get back here and go further than we did this year. They need to use this as motivation to keep pushing, work hard in the offseason to come back.”
However, making it once doesn’t guarantee a spot in the future. Thirteen years separated this season and Cosby’s last trip to Murfreesboro, but with so many returning players coming back next season the group that got the firsthand experience this year now have the feel for what they need to build towards next season.
“We’ve got to hit the offseason hard next year, and use this as motivation,” Cosby junior Jeremy Wise said.
“We know we’ve got to work harder next year,” Cosby sophomore Trey Johnson added.
It’s difficult to take any loss, especially one in such a grand setting, and turn it into a positive, but it’s what Flatford and the returning Eagles must do over the offseason.
There’s sure to be a time frame to dwell on the loss. Being that close to pulling off the program’s first state title and having the opportunity pulled from beneath you is a tough pill to swallow. But, once over the loss, the sooner the work begins to make a repeat run next season the better.
“This should give those guys a hunger coming back,” Flatford said. “We made it here this year, but know we can do some things better. But there’s no guarantees in the following year. I thought we improved as the year went along, and thought it was obvious.
“We’ve got to get back to work and get better as a team. We’ll look to those returners to make sure we do that.”
If this group of Eagles was able to get past a lackluster start to the year to only exceed all expectations and make what many assumed an improbable run to end the year, there’s no telling what they can do with a renewed fire to sit and burn over an eight-month offseason.