The Houston Academy Raiders’ ship keeps sailing right along in capturing the Class 3A, Area 3 tournament championship with a 56-37 win over Providence Christian Friday night and breaking the school record for wins in a season.
Houston Academy improved to 28-2, has won 24 straight home games over two seasons at Killingsworth Gym and has won 11 straight games overall – the last loss being in the finals of the Downtown Dothan Hoops Classic to Class 7A Dothan High on Dec. 30.
“We come in every day knowing we haven’t lost in this gym since we re-did it two years ago,” said Houston Academy coach Ron Watson, who the court is named after. “Our last loss here was against Dadeville in the sub-regionals in 2021.”
Houston Academy went 13-0 last season at home and is 11-0 this season. Getting the school-record 28th win breaks the mark set by the 2006 team, which went 27-5.
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“We bring it up every night that we own this place … this is our gym … and it’s going to have to take someone really special to come in here and knock us off,” Watson said.
The Raiders, ranked No. 4 in the state, will defend their home court once again Tuesday night in the sub-regional round by hosting Pike County (7-13), which finished runner-up in Class 3A, Area 4.
Providence Christian (16-12) travels Tuesday to Opp (17-8), the winner of Area 4. Opp defeated Pike County 58-30 Friday night for its fifth straight area crown.
It marks back-to-back area championships for Houston Academy, which made it to the state Final Four last season.
“It’s always nice to be champions whatever it is, but winning the area is really big,” Watson said. “Tonight, our depth played a lot into it and our inside game played a lot into it.
“They (Providence) were pesky for a little while, but I thought at halftime we had our legs under us a little better than they did, so we were trying to run the floor a little more in the third quarter.”
Big guard Rod Jackson did most of his damage inside in scoring a game-high 17 points, while point guard Kadyn Mitchell was right behind with 16 in directing the offense.
Providence Christian was led by 6-foot-3 freshman Pearce Boone, who scored 11, which included some outstanding moves in the lane to the basket. Charlie Leger followed with eight points.
The gym was jam-packed with strong support for both teams, giving it a really good atmosphere for the players to be a part of.
“I told the players before we came out to take this and love it because there are not a whole lot of places around the state tonight that will be playing in this type atmosphere,” Watson said.
While the Raiders won by 19, there were certainly some turbulent waters against a competitive Providence bunch.
Houston Academy finished the first quarter on a 9-0 scoring run capped by a Mitchell steal and layup to lead 16-6 and carried a 30-22 advantage into halftime, the final points coming on a 3-pointer by Corey Campbell. The Eagles had pulled within 23-20 on baskets by Cas Boone and Pearce Boone before the Raiders outscored the Eagles 7-2 to end the half.
Houston Academy kept the momentum much of the third quarter and led 44-31 going into the final period, but Providence kept fighting.
After HA score the first two baskets of the fourth quarter on a power move by Cam Dyer and an inside basket by Jackson, the Eagles scored the next six points on a drive by Powell Phillips, a free throw by Leger and a 3-pointer by Gabe Pemberton to make it 48-37 with 4:02 left.
The Raiders, however, finished out the game by making eight free throws – two by Mitchell and Campbell each, and four by Jackson to end the game.
“We stress free throws and we shot free throws really well tonight,” Watson said.
It marked the third win this season for HA over Providence – the other two being by scores of 64-31 and 70-56.
Despite the final score on Friday, Providence Christian coach Mark Wright believes his team is playing their best basketball of the season going into the postseason.
“I think we’ve grown a lot, and that’s what we’ve talked about is wanting to peak and play our best right now,” Wright said. “Obviously it doesn’t feel like that tonight walking out with the scoreboard what it was, but we did some good things and we competed I thought.
“But we just couldn’t get into enough offense and didn’t take care of the ball well enough and shoot it well enough.”
Still, the Eagles have reason to be confident going into the sub-regional game at Opp.
“We obviously didn’t have our best tonight, but I do feel like we’ve improved a lot,” Wright said. “We’ve faced a lot of adversity with injuries throughout the year and I feel like we’re starting to get fully healthy. Tonight was just one of those nights, but I do feel like we’re playing well, generally.”