CHARLOTTE – Charlotte Latin hung with Christ School for three quarters, but the mojo that helped carry the Hawks to the NCISAA semifinals for the first time in 15 seasons finally ran out in the nightcap of the first set of games at Ravenscroft on Feb. 21.
The Hawks had been an unlikely story to represent Charlotte in the Final Four after a 1-3 start and a key injury to starter John Beecy, a senior captain who was averaging 15 points and five rebounds per game before breaking his leg.
But, in a move that coach Chris Berger said sort of embodies the Hawks season, Beecy was front and center on the bench and served as a defacto assistant coach after he was hurt.
“John Beecy had a great year, but he had tough luck with the injury,” Berger said. “He was chomping at the bit to get out there, but he couldn’t. But what did he do? He didn’t sulk, but he showed a lot of character and actually was a coach. I hate it for him, but he showed a lot of courage.”
The Hawks needed courage to hang with Christ School, a team that had four players taller than Charlotte Latin’s Bennett Smith, who tops their roster at 6-foot-5. But Latin battled on the boards and negated that advantage for much of the game.
“We needed to be physical, that was a big key to the game for us,” Berger said. “ At halftime, it was 16-16 in rebounds and I think it was pretty equal in the second half, too, so we were very pleased with that.”
The Hawks didn’t shoot the ball particularly well all evening. Other than junior all-state point guard Randy Johnson, no Latin player was in double figures.
Even so, the Hawks led 14-9 after the first quarter and 23-19 at the half. The two teams went back and forth exchanging the lead in the third, before Latin closed the deficit to two at 34-32.
But Christ School would go on a 14-4 run to open a two-point lead to 48-36, essentially putting the game away although Johnson and the Hawks cut the lead to seven late before falling 55-46.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be,” Berger said. “I was really proud of the effort. Defensively, we did well. When you only give up 50 points to a team like that, you have a chance to win it. It’s bittersweet. I hate that it’s over, and it really hasn’t hit me yet. But on the other hand, what a great group of guys I had.
“Everybody wants to win their last game, but the silver lining is I’m proud of these guys. They battled through adversity. We had some injuries and we had some illnesses, but there was no complaining like teenagers sometimes can. It was a special year.”
Johnson was sensational, as he poured in a game-high 27 points including 15 after intermission.
“He was really good tonight and has been really good all year,” Berger said.
The Hawks will lose seniors Beecy, Ryan Brouse and William Lloyd, but return a lot of talent including Johnson, Graham Calton, David Felkner, Smith and Grayson Clements, which has the makings of a formidable possible starting five for the Hawks next year.
“We lose William Lloyd and Ryan Brouse who were spark plugs for us, verbal leaders and guys that we followed, but we got some experience, the stage tonight was bright and hopefully that helps us in the future,” Berger said. “We were thrilled to be here. I think we got some younger guys some great experience for the future and I think we sent our seniors off in style.
“Great season, and we have a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to.”