North Cobb Christian is ranked No. 1 in Class A by MaxPreps, while North Cobb is sitting at No. 3 in Class AAAAAA.
“I think it is coincidence,” North Cobb Christian coach Greg Matta said of the teams’ success this season.
Their records are not far apart. North Cobb Christian is 18-2 — including a win over its neighbor to the south at the beginning of the season — while North Cobb is 17-3.
While North Cobb’s success is still relatively new — the Warriors were a .500 team two years ago — North Cobb Christian has maintained a solid basketball tradition for several years now.
The success started with Dustin Ware and center Matt Shaw in the lineup. The Eagles won back-to-back Georgia Independent School Association state titles during Matta’s first stint as the program’s coach from 2006-2008. They finished with a 35-0 record en route to their second title in ’08, which also led them to a National Association of Christian Athletes national title.
“Dustin Ware, that’s where it all started,” Matta said of his former star, who went on to a four-year career at Georgia. “Dustin and Matt Shaw were really good players, and they
got it started at North Cobb Christian, and the other players worked
hard and followed them. The younger kids are wanting to be a part of the program.”
Since North Cobb Christian joined the Georgia High School Association in the fall of 2008, it has made the state tournament in Class A three times, still seeking its first state title.
After Matta returned to the Eagles’ sideline in 2010-11, following a two-year stint as an assistant for then-Kennesaw State men’s coach Tony Ingle, North Cobb Christian had its best GHSA season by making the state quarterfinals that year. Last season, however, the team underachieved when it lost to St. Francis in the second round of the state playoffs following an undefeated regular season.
While North Cobb Christian has established the continuity of being a winning program, its big brother down the street has been average as of late before having a breakthrough season last year.
North Cobb’s turnaround started when coach Terry Gorsuch first took notice of 6-foot-7 center Jordan Neff.
Neff was the centerpiece Gorsuch used to build his team around, and with the big man controlling the post, Gorsuch found some scorers and defenders to play alongside Neff.
“We had a big man, and most good programs build around big men,” Gorsuch said. “Other guys around him have gotten better in performing their roles.”
Those players Gorsuch referred to are Saxon Steele, Lee Moore, Dennis Young-Coleman and Jon Beausejour. With all five starters returning from North Cobb’s state quarterfinal run of a year ago, the Warriors (16-3) is in contention to go deep again in the state tournament.
Complementing Neff, a Florida Gulf Coast signee averaging 11.5 points, Steele and Moore are averaging 14 points, Beausejour is shooting 45.2 percent from beyond the 3-point line and Young-Coleman is averaging 3.8 assists.
Though he’s going to graduate all five of his starters after this season — plus three reserves — Gorsuch isn’t worried about the immediate future of the program.
“We have eight seniors, but we dress out five more underclassmen,” Gorsuch said. “They get the benefit of spot minutes in games and practices, and they play in every game, which is a pretty good benefit.”
The immediate future isn’t North Cobb Christian’s top priority — avoiding another playoff meltdown is. The Region 6A title could come down to the Eagles, St. Francis and defending state champion Whitefield.
Led by Kell transfer Kendall Crute, Stephon Jelks and Hunter Ware — Dustin’s younger brother — the opportunity for playoff success is there.
“We have to look at each game as they come,” Matta said. “I did a poor job last year keeping them focused.”