Historically, Copper Basin boys' basketball has been through some gloomy times. Current coach Tim Kidd has dealt with his share in his previous five seasons at the high school.
But one thing Kidd knew coming into this season was that he had promise for the future in a talented sophomore class that's 11 strong. Thanks to some solid efforts by the senior class, good fortune has come the Cougars' way even faster.
Kidd's second Cougars team won 12 games and advanced to the Region 3-A tournament before having its season end with a loss to District 6-champion Marion County. Led by their six seniors, three of them starters, the Cougars will match that win total with one more victory.
"They've always followed football around here, but we've been having some huge crowds come out," said Kidd, whose 11-6 team is 7-1 at home. "The student section is involved. They've had T-shirts made up. It's turned into a neat atmosphere. We've always had support, but now everyone is kind of excited to come watch us play."
One senior starter is 5-foot-9 defensive demon Karson Swinehart, also a second baseman on the baseball team. He said the foundation for this season was set when he and his classmates were in sixth grade. Things accelerated right through their time on the high school junior varsity.
"On jayvee we were 9-1 one year," 5-8 senior point guard Jesse Goode said. "We thought that could translate over to varsity once we all were there."
Copper Basin began the season outscoring two Hall of Fame Game opponents 177-62. Two of its losses were close ones in a tournament soon afterward but to larger Georgia schools: Gilmer County and Pickens County.
In the same tournament the Cougars defeated Fannin County, Ga. -- a team they've now beaten three consecutive times for what's believed to be the first time in program history. A three-point victory over longtime District 5-nemesis Grace Academy last season was backed by a 17-point win over the Golden Eagles on Dec. 6.
"One of our biggest strengths is we're a really good shooting team," Goode said. "We shoot the 3 ball well. We press a lot -- zone press and man press. Trapping is a big part of what we do. We're a small team. If they get it down in the post a lot on us, we're in trouble."
Said Swinehart: "Really I'd say defense is what's carried us. One thing we do is go out looking to play defense, whether our shooting is there or not."
Copper Basin has had a rough patch this season, beginning with a forfeit loss for leaving the court in a game in the Seahawk Holiday Classic at Hilton Head Island, S.C. Because Jake Cooper received a second technical foul, unknown to Kidd at the time, the senior forward ended up having to sit out two games that included a loss at district-leading Boyd-Buchanan.
"We didn't realize how much we'd miss him until he wasn't in there," Kidd said of Cooper, a four-year starter who along with Goode and sophomore Tanner Wilcox averages between 12 and 13 points per game.
Copper Basin's other starter is 6-5 sophomore and leading rebounder Tyler Limburg. Seniors Trevor Jones and Chris Trentham are key reserves for the Cougars. and the other senior is Kacy Panter.
"We're hoping to get to the district championship," Limburg said. "It's been a little while since they reached that high. We're going to have high expectations next year, too.We've got a lot of young talent."
There are no juniors on this year's squad, which will change greatly next season. But the seniors, like Swinehart, have some unfinished business and believe a region berth for the first time in their high school careers is reachable.
"When I was a kid growing up, everybody went and watched the girls[basketball team]," Swinehart said. "We want to leave our mark with the guys' program. We want people to know we've been here."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.