Feb. 22—ERWIN — Capping a year of adversity for the Crossroads Christian men's basketball program, the Colts on Saturday evening suffered a loss to Cape Fear Christian Academy, which used its superior athleticism to dominate the game and win 79-38.
Crossroads ended up finishing the season with a 4-11 overall record, but head coach Scottie Richardson said the final total was nowhere near indicative of how hard his players worked to improve while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We won the season," Richardson said. "It's been such a crazy year, and for this team to make the Elite 8 with all of the adversity we've been through is amazing. We could have lost by 100 and still won."
Although Cape Fear established a presence underneath the rim early, the Colts initially kept pace thanks to efficient shooting from senior Asher Fulk, who knocked down three early triples to give his team an early lead.
Once Fulk had to go to the bench with his second foul in the first quarter, Cape Fear took advantage and began attacking CCS from every angle. A 10-point deficit for Crossroads at the end of the opening quarter quickly festered to 28 points, with another three from Fulk being CCS' only points in the second quarter.
Cape Fear only added to its advantage during the final 16 minutes and advanced into the Final Four of the NCISAA 1A playoffs with the 41-point win.
Having previously lost to Cape Fear by a score of 90-59 to open the season on Nov. 13, Richardson did not expect anything to come easy on Saturday afternoon and is confident that Cape Fear is a favorite to win the state championship following its performance against CCS.
"They added a couple of new pieces that we didn't play against in the first game," Richardson said. "We played hard early, but we knew that it was going to be a tough task and that this would be a game of energy. [Cape Fear] is a good team and they are No. 1 in the East for a reason."
Saturday also served as the final game for Crossroads seniors Fulk, Colby Taylor and Noah Brantley, who Richardson praised for stepping up to guide their fellow teammates during a mentally straining campaign.
Fulk, who scored 17 of CCS' 38 points against Cape Fear, considered himself honored to learn from Richardson during his final three years with the program. But he also believes the upcoming senior class will easily carry on the values and principles he, Brantley and Taylor instilled into the team this season.
"It was a good ride during my three years here," Fulk said. "I'm just happy that me, Colby and Noah ended up leaving a legacy here, and I'm happy that we can pass it down. This isn't the end of anything, but instead it's the beginning of something these guys are going to do. We're the foundation, but they're going to keep building."
Fulk intends to become a student manager at the collegiate level, with the goal to eventually become a head coach himself one day. He said that a year as challenging as the 2020-21 season provided him great practice on how to guide others through different types of situations.
"You just never knew what was going to happen," Fulk said. "You had to stay on your toes and you couldn't let anything get you down. Throughout the year, we had so many different themes that were designed to keep us going, with unity being the biggest thing. We had to stay unified through all this."
Even though Fulk will no longer be a part of CCS basketball, the rest of the team's starting lineup — juniors Andres Prince, Drew Rogers, John Eason Jr. and Trent Willingham — are all expected to return to the team next year.
Richardson said that the impact of Fulk, Brantley and Taylor will be seen throughout the program for many years to come. He is counting on the next senior class and the rest of the underclassmen to carry on that legacy and continue to make CCS competitive in basketball during what he hopes will be a more normal year.
"Continuity and chemistry are going to be important," Richardson said. "There were a lot of things that we missed with all of the times we stopped and restarted, but we have to get better fundamentally and I think we can accomplish that."