Although a far cry from the previous season when they went 31-1, the Falcons posted a 19-13 record, finished second in their region and reached the Georgia Independent Schools Association state tournament for the eighth consecutive year.
Coach Eugene Fries said he wasn’t sure what to expect when the season began, but is pleased that the team surpassed what many had expected.
“We were young and inexperienced but found ways to win big games,” said Fries. “To have the chance at the region title was something that the guys were so proud of. All year they had heard that we were ‘no good’ because of all the players we lost from the previous team. Well, with the leadership of Braxton (Witherspoon) this group thrived off hearing that and did what many people thought was not possible.”
Witherspoon, was not only the lone returning starter, but also the only player with any meaningful varsity experience. He didn’t disappoint. Averaging 18 points, six rebounds and four steals per game, he was the force driving the Falcons.
However, he wasn’t alone. Danillo Bozovic, who played out of his natural position all year in order to help the team, averaged 15 points and nine rebounds per game. The 6-foot-3 native of Montenegro was undersized most nights playing post, but excelled beyond the arc as the Falcons’ best 3-point shooter.
Sam Wilson stepped into the role of point guard and Fries said he flourished. He averaged 11 points and six assists per game, while forcing an average of three turnovers a night.
“He is very hard to stay in front of, which would make most teams drop to zone defense,” said Fries. “That in turn would open things up for Danillo and Braxton on the outside.”
Witherspoon, Bozovic and Wilson were all named first-team all-region in GISA Region 4AA. Witherspoon was also Class AA all-state selection
Other key contributors were Kris Sun and Cihan Gunduez.
The Falcons entered the region tournament as the third seed, but won a key semifinal against Arlington Christian to reach the region final. While Furtah would lose to Griffin Christian in the championship game, Fries was pleased.
“The problem was that with so many new guys, we had knights when we looked great and we had nights were we couldn’t dribble and run down the court at the same time,” said Fries. “We dropped a couple of games in the region season that with a little more experience and chemistry we wouldn’t have lost.”
Fries said he is excited about the future of the program and knows that there are underclassmen eager to get in the gym to prepare for next season.
“That is something that myself and the coaching staff are very proud of for sure,” said Fries.
The coach said that the program also benefits from students transferring in as well as rising youngsters. The Falcons will lose four players to graduation, including two starters. Players transferring out of the program became a reality after Furtah lost a pair of 6-foot-9 players, who transferred to public schools last season. Still, Fries feels comfortable with the future.
“Those were really the last two in the last five or six years that came to us then left,” said Fries. “Usually once they come here, they stay for the rest of their careers. We have a chance to pick up a couple of kids coming over from Europe. We are really looking forward to next year.”