TRION, Ga. - If any good news can come out of a 65-point loss, Ed Clendenen was able to find it.
Moments after his outmanned Gordon Lee boys' basketball team finished absorbing a 91-26 loss to Atlanta area private school St. Francis at the Region 6-A tournament Friday, Clendenen was able to smile at the thought that this will be the final time the Trojans will have to face any of the single-A private schools. Gordon Lee will be moving up to Class AA next year.
"I'm not going to miss this at all, watching these basketball factories play," Clendenen said after his team's season ended at 11-15. "The've got 100-200 kids in their school and at least three Division I players with three or four more that will play somewhere.
"They might not be the best team in Class A, but they're the most talented. If they don't win it, it won't be from lack of talent, and they're very well-coached as well. We couldn't compete, bottom line. I hate to say that, but we were just out-classed out there."
The news was better for host Trion in the late game. The 22-2 Bulldogs hit 12 of 16 free throws, including 6 of 8 in the final period, and held off Fellowship Christian, 43-34. Ethan Young led the winners, who will play St. Francis tonight at 8:30, with 10 points.
St. Francis (18-7), which had among its deep rotation two 6-foot-9 players, one 6-8 forward and the region player of the year in sophomore guard Kobi Jordan-Simmons, blitzed Gordon Lee from the first possession. At one time in the opening period the Knights had more dunks, three, than the Trojans had points.
With guards Jordan-Simmons and Malik Beasley, who shared scoring honors with 19 points apiece, penetrating at will and leading a suffocating full-court press that caused 11 first-period turnovers, St. Francis built a 29-2 lead five minutes into the game. A brief 9-2 Gordon Lee spurt ending the first period and starting the second, paced by Samuel Welsh's five points, cut the lead to 20, but an ensuing 16-0 Knights run ended any Gordon Lee dreams.
"I've enjoyed my kids this year, even though it's been a struggle," Clendenen said. "I love them and appreciate how hard they've worked for me this year."
Earlier Friday at Trion, North Cobb Christian eliminated Darlington, 70-40, and Whitefield Academy downed Excel Christian. The Gordon Lee girls lost a one-point contest to Mount Paran at Darlington and will await the final Class A rankings to see where they land for the state-tournament field, which splits public and private schools.
The region tournament switches entirely to Darlington for the semifinals today and the finals Monday.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.