Cobras Finish Year with Two Road Wins

HUDSON, NC (By Colt Jensen of CCC&TI – December 16, 2017)…The Caldwell Tech Cobras (10-4) had a rocky start in the month of December. The Cobras suffered a one point loss to Combine Academy on December 2nd, and then rebounded with a nice 97-87 win over Stillwater Prep a week later. But, before the Cobras could get any momentum going, Caldwell Tech had their next game canceled due to inclement weather.

After the up and down start to the month, Caldwell Tech had more time off, as they went another week of without a game because of exams. This left the Cobras with only one weekend tournament before the Christmas break and the end of the year.

To finish the calendar year, Caldwell Tech traveled to Bolivia, North Carolina for the 8th Annual Brunswick Community College Holiday Classic.

It was a long five hour road trip to the Brunswick Holiday Classic, and the tournament featured a grueling three games in three days schedule.

In their first game of the weekend, Caldwell Tech took on the Bryant and Stratton Bobcats. It was a close game from start to finish, but the Cobras were able emerge victorious after making some key stops in the final minutes.

Caldwell Tech guard MJ Phifer led all scorers with 20 points, and had some important three pointers and free throws in the second half that helped preserve the Cobras 85-81 win over the Bobcats. Despite his good night on offense, Phifer credited the defense with the win.

“Everything in basketball starts with putting defense first, you get the defense going everything follows,” Michael “MJ” Phifer said. “I believe any time you win the rebound and turnover battle you win the game.”

A good night on the boards and a victory in the turnover battle were indeed key to Caldwell Tech’s victory as they needed every possession to earn the win. Phifer also wasn’t the only one who praised the Cobras defensive effort.

“We had the best effort defensively that we have had all year,” head coach Matt Anderson said. “I was really proud of our team today as they beat a very good basketball team. We showed a lot of resilience down the stretch.”

After a good win in a close game, Caldwell Tech looked to carry their winning momentum into their second game. That was the plan, but that is not exactly how it played out.

In Caldwell Tech’s second game, against the Shooting for Greatness (S4G) Academy, the Cobras got off to a rough start. At the half, Caldwell trailed 43 to 36, and were struggling to get anything going on offense and get stops on defense.

The only thing working for Caldwell in the first half was Trevor Willis’s offense. Willis hit 3 three pointers and had 17 points in the first half alone. Willis finished with an impressive 33 points and seven made three pointers.

After some halftime adjustments, Willis got some serious help on offense, and five Cobras ended up scoring in double digits. The huge scoring output in second half helped Caldwell tie the game at 81-81, but that tie is where the second half ended. 

After a tie in regulation, the Caldwell Cobras headed for overtime. Caldwell Tech was able to get a clutch overtime performance from guard Jaylon Wray. Wray scored scored six of his 11 points in overtime and half of his teams overtime points. That was just enough to allow the Cobras to escape with a 92-91 victory over S4G Academy.

Caldwell Tech relied on a deep rotation to survive overtime in their second game in two days.

“We play 11 guys so it helps us to not get so worn down,” coach Anderson said. “We love playing in these tournaments to help prepare us for the end of the year when you have to be prepared to play on back to back days to advance.”

Even with the deep rotation, fatigue was a factor the third and final game of the tournament, but fatigue wasn’t the only factor that played a role in the preparation and game play of their third game. With a two week Christmas break waiting at the end of their final game mental preparation and focus was also pivotal.

“I knew that we had a three day tournament and our goal was to go 3-0 down the stretch, so I wasn’t even thinking about Christmas break.” guard Omari Koffa said. “I was just focused on focusing in and finishing a job.”

Unfortunately, the combination of fatigue, mental distractions and a tough matchup got the better of Caldwell Tech in their Saturday matchup. The Cobras only scored 23 points in the first half, and things did not improve much, on either side of the ball, for Caldwell in the second half. Ultimately, Caldwell lost 94 to 65 to the Chattanooga State Tigers.

“We just didn’t come out ready to play today and ultimately that falls on my shoulders,” coach Anderson said. “I got to have our guys ready to play. Today, we just totally forgot what had made us successful, and we wanted to take shortcuts.”

The disappointing end to the weekend tournament left a bad taste in the mouth of many Cobras players that won’t soon be forgot. “I don’t like losing and it’s going to be a long break thinking about this loss,” Omari Koffa said.

Despite the difficult loss, the Caldwell Cobras have a lot to look forward to in the second half of the season.

After winning 10 games in the first part of the season, Caldwell Tech will turn their attention their Region X conference schedule which starts on January 13th against Brunswick. After losing in their conference championship game last year, the Cobras will be anxious to get revenge this year, and win their first ever Division I conference title.

Before Caldwell can fully turn their attention to winning a conference championship, they will take two weeks off for Christmas break, and then play two more non conference games after New Years.

The Cobras will return to action on the Caldwell Tech Campus on January 6th as the take on the Sandhill Community College Flyers at 3pm.

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