The pain was visible in the eyes of Prattville Christian boys basketball coach Jason Roberson.
He wasn’t hurting so much over Tuesday’s 49-27 season-ending defeat to Aliceville in the Central Regional as he was for the fact that it signaled an end of the road for a group of players he had been coaching since they were in seventh grade.
“It was very emotional, and it showed after the game,” Roberson said of having to say goodbye to a total of eight seniors. “Those guys really do mean a lot to me. They put in a lot of hard work, a lot of hours, and they gave it everything they got.”
The departure of starters Jake Newcomb, Adam Roberson and Nathan Graham were perhaps the hardest of the farewells Roberson had endure. The trio was instrumental in putting the Prattville Christian hoops on the map, helping to win the Panthers’ lone state championship — the 2010-11 AISA Class AAA title.
While there won’t be any championship celebrations from this group, Roberson said there’s no reason for the Panthers to hang their heads. For three quarters, Prattville Christian (23-10) hung tough with the more athletic squad from Aliceville.
PCA trailed 29-24 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but that deficit quickly ballooned to more than 20 points. The Yellow Jackets (20-5) held the Panthers to just one basket — a 3-pointer by Adam Roberson — during the final period.
“It did kind of snowball,” Roberson said. “Basketball is a game of runs, and they got the momentum and seized it. Our guys don’t have anything to hang their heads about. We had to work so hard just to stay with them, I thought we laid it on the line and gave every bit of energy.”
Anfernee Mullins had 20 points and nine rebounds to lead Aliceville.
“We just showed there we’re good athletes and that we’re being overlooked,” Mullins said. “We have the team to have a state championship — we’re hungry for one.”
A horrific shooting performance by both schools produced a dismal 15-12 halftime score in favor of Aliceville, which trailed 4-3 after one quarter. In the first half, the Panthers and Yellow Jackets combined to make just 11 of 54 shots.
Aliceville coach Joe Hurst said halftime adjustments led to victory.
“We had some adjustments on our defense to get the guys on the wing one-on-one,” said Hurst, whose squad meets Luverne (22-9) in the title game at 2 p.m. Friday. “Make the guy miss the shot, then we’ll have isolation on the backboard, get the rebound spread them out on the fast break.”