Garrett Tech basketball coach Brandon Smalls has the fifth-ranked Class AA team in the state. He also has unfinished business.
Smalls, who played for North Charleston, had a homecoming of sorts Tuesday night when his Falcons traveled to North Charleston's Cougar Den and came away with a 54-49 Region 6-AA victory.
"Anytime I come into this gym, I have great memories," said Smalls who helped lead the Cougars to the state quarterfinals in 2003. "As I tell the kids, I might be a young man, but I'm still chasing that high school (state championship) ring."
The Falcons are No. 5 in the latest state poll and upped their record to 7-3 overall and 1-2 in league play after losing to Battery Creek and Burke. The win over his old school was a much-needed victory.
"You never want to be 0-3 in anything, especially in your first three region games," said Smalls, who attended South Carolina State University. "We had that rough stretch there, so the kids called a team meeting during the holiday break. They got together, talked things over and refocused."
North Charleston fell to 1-9, including 1-2 in league play. The Cougars led 38-31 after three quarters, but the Falcons rallied to tie the game at 43-43 in the final minutes. But the Falcons went on an 11-6 run to conclude the game.
"We just have to finish better," Cougar coach Tron Grant said. "We continue to play better, but we have to play four quarters of basketball. I know this effort and hard work we're putting in will pay off."
Carlos Scotton, a 6-4 junior forward, led Garrett Tech with 12 points while senior guard Devoran Jett added 11 and junior guard Jascere Stokes tallied eight.
Senior forward Antonio Mack led the Cougars with 11 points, while Statan Levine and Josh Gantt chipped in with nine points apiece.
The Falcons had a couple of players on the bench who were injured and a couple who were not making the academic grade, which is important in Smalls' book.
"I don't let the kids play if they don't have the grades," he said. "Those DNP (did not play) are the coach's decision. I check the grades every day."
As for North Charleston, making the basketball grade should come in the near future.
"The kids are looking much better," Grant said. "It seems like we get by until the fourth quarter."