Arts & Sciences basketball coach Mark Dragoo knew his team hadn't lost a district game in six seasons. But he wasn't ready to say anything about it until after Tuesday's game against Grace Academy had been completed.
Once the 68-52 victory over the Golden Eagles was in the books, Dragoo had plenty to talk about.
Shariff Cobb led three Patriots in double figures with 18 points, and CSAS ended the third quarter on a 20-4 run and sealed the District 5-A regular-season championship with the 16-point victory at home.
"I knew about it," Dragoo said about the undefeated streak, "but I wasn't going to say anything about it until I knew we were going to get it."
CSAS (22-4, 10-0) led wire-to-wire and threatened to blow the game out in the opening moments, turning steals into easy baskets on the offensive end. A resilient Grace team stayed close due to the scoring prowess of junior guard/forward Corey Nelson, who had 17 first-half points as the Eagles trailed 34-30 at halftime.
He had a putback dunk to start the third quarter but was held to two fourth-quarter free throws as the positional defense of the Patriots stepped up.
"We were in a fog in the first half; I don't know why, but we didn't have a lot of energy," Dragoo said. "At the half, we challenged them and told them this is a chance for them to win the district outright."
Grace coach Jon Mattheiss agreed that the defensive intensity picked up during the pivotal third-quarter run, which included 15 consecutive CSAS points.
"I don't think it's what we didn't do but what they did," he said. "They're so quick, we tried to get the kids not to speed up and fall into the trap of playing their game."
Mattheiss also noted that the Patriots adjusted to Grace's zone defense, which allowed them some layup opportunities.
Jackson Lenoir finished with 14 points and Alex Stallion had 10 for CSAS. Stephen Record followed Nelson's 21 points with 10 for Grace (15-9, 8-2).
"I feel real good about our depth," Dragoo said. "We're well-rested right now, and we have a lot of experience and weapons."