Abbeville High School might be the three-time defending boys basketball champion of the Index-Journal Emerald City Classic, but the Panthers hardly resemble the lineup which beat Emerald 58-54 in last year’s tournament final.
In fact, five key players from last year's team (Kennan Gilchirst, Darren Hurley, Josh Martin, 2012 Emerald City Classic MVP Chris Tate, Kelly Bryant) are not on this year’s squad. Gilchirst, Hurley and Martin graduated, and Tate (Athens, Ga., Christian) and Bryant (Wren) transferred.
Only one occasional starter from 2012-13, Joseph Battle, is back and is the Panthers’ point guard.
“This year’s players know this team has won the past three Emerald City Classics, but that has no effect on this year; everybody has got to go out there and do their part,” said Panthers coach Doug Belcher, whose team is 2-5 and plays Calhoun Falls at 6 p.m. in Thursday’s first round at Emerald High School.
Although the Panthers’ lineup is rather different than it was in 2012, the philosophy remains the same.
“You continue to play defense first, and the defense leads into the transition offense,” Belcher said.
Of course, although Abbeville has a different set of players – for the most part – that blend of frenetic pace and intensity on defense has created some scary moments for opponents. For instance, earlier this season against Emerald, the Vikings escaped on a buzzer-beating layup.
And, after losing earlier this season against Clinton by two, the Panthers rebounded recently to beat that same team by nine.
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