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Braves drop season finale to Bearcats

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By Matt Birkholtz

The Braves wanted their season to continue beyond the first round of the 32nd district tournament, but it just wasn’t meant to be, as they fell to Walton-Verona 60-48 Feb. 22 at Simon Kenton High School.

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“When it gets time for playoffs, I always say the first one to 50 wins,” Braves coach Jim Hicks said. “Walton-Verona beat us to 50.”

Hicks said his team’s youth showed and that Grant County set out what they wanted to do by getting more shots than Walton-Verona (54-40). The shots just didn’t go in for the Braves.

For senior Josh Blackburn, it marked the end of his high school career.

“It’s really tough for me,” he said. “It is one of the toughest things I have been through. I have been doing this since I was 5 or 6 years old and now it all of sudden just quits. It is going to be awkward for a while, but I will move on and hope the best for the guys next year.”

Blackburn said he discussed his future in college and basketball with Hicks.

“I really look up to coach Hicks here,” Blackburn said. “He did everything he could to overcome adversity this season and I am happy with what he did for us.”

In Hicks’ first season, the Braves finished the year  with a record of 9-20.  Hicks said it’s not where he wanted to end, but that this team is a work in progress.

“Anybody can look at this program and see that the future is bright for Grant County,” he said. “We took a lot of lumps this year, but the players’ stayed positive throughout the season. I hope the community will continue to support us in what we are doing.”

Hicks said he was proud of how his players responded to adversity and injuries, while experiencing some negativity which is part of the game.

“When you lose ballgames, people are going to throw stones,” he said. “I felt that our players stayed positive throughout that and it will carry into next season.”

Some of that negativity showed after the district tournament when a parent made an obscene gesture towards coach Hicks.

Hicks declined to comment on the specifics of the occurrence.

“What is frustrating is that I haven’t been here a year,” he said. “Just be patient and give me a chance. This program is going into the right direction. We are doing things the right way and as the saying goes, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’”

With the season over, Hicks will look to build the leg strength of his players for the 2011-2012 season.

“This season the coaches and I focused on upper body strength,” he said. “We are going to work on their legs and focus on jumping. These players have not been through our weight program a full year and they got stronger as the year wore on.”

Hicks said by June, the team will work on individual improvements. He plans to get the team into some games over the summer.