By JOSH FRYE
Atmore Christian School fell just short of a Panhandle Christian Conference championship during the PCC Final Four Tournament Saturday, February 20, in Pensacola, Fla., but still established a school benchmark by finishing fourth out of the conference’s 13 schools.
“I am extremely proud of what the team accomplished this year,” ACS head coach and headmaster Tim Battles said. “I have always been proud of every team I have coached, but this year sets a high standard. These guys are leaders and have worked hard every single day.”
The Rams ended their bid for the title with a 60-36 setback to East Hill Christian last Friday, February 19, in the first game of the tournament.
Gage Gades scored 11 points to lead the Rams against the Eagles. Reese White added nine points; Caeden Battles scored six; Dexter Smoker and Emmett Battles contributed four each, and Titus Dean scored two.
Caeden Battles, ACS’s leading scorer, fouled out of the game with one minute left to go in the third period, but his game was not over. Caeden, son of the ACS head coach, took over on the bench as a coach.
“Instead of hanging his head and beating himself up over getting fouled out of the game,” Battles said. “We looked over and he was coaching. That really spoke as to what type of leader and player he is.”
Despite the hard loss, the Rams still held a chance of finishing strong during Saturday’s (February 20) game against Central Christian of Robertsdale.
The Rams again fell short, dropping a 63-60 decision in a thriller.
“This was one of the most exciting games I have ever coached,” Battles said. “It literally came down to the wire.”
With just 3.4 seconds left in the final quarter, ACS pushed the ball downcourt to Emmett Battles, who attempted a game-tying three-point shot only to have it rim out and fall short of hitting its mark.
“That was a small blow,” Battles said. “Emmett said as we went into the huddle before the final push, that he wanted the ball. With the way he had already played in that game and with the number of three-point shots that he had made, we all thought that was the best decision. The team does not regret it, despite the outcome.”
The younger of the Battles brothers went 5-for-6 on three-point shots, winding up with 15 points, while Caeden Battles hit for 19 points to lead the team. Gades scored 16, and Dean added 10.
Gades also set a season high for rebounds. On Friday he had 18 boards, then added 17 on Saturday against the Saints. With the year’s scorebook now closed, Caeden Battles has inched closer to a school record for his “career,” having tallied 1,222 points. He looks to break that record as a senior next year and has set his goals on reaching 2,000 points.
The Rams closed out the season with a record of 12-9.
According to Battles, Gades, Emmett Battles, Caeden Battles and White have been the go-to leaders for the team all season.
“These guys have grown,” Battles said. “They are steadily working to improve and set the bar high for the entire team. All these guys are close-knit and help one another. When one fails, they all fail and when one succeeds, they all succeed.”