Coolidge guard Sam Briggs came down with the flu last week, causing him to sit out Thursday’s win against Bell. The durable Briggs has rarely missed a game during his career with the Colts, and when he woke up Saturday morning, he grabbed his gear and headed for the school’s gym a few hours before the team’s game against rival Theodore Roosevelt.
He was still sick. But he willed himself to prepare, knowing that the game against the Rough Riders was one of the most important of his career.
“I felt pretty good. I knew I was going to have a good game by the way I worked out before the game,” Briggs said.
The senior doesn’t have many games left in his high school career, but he’s making them count down the stretch. That included Saturday’s 24-point performance in a win over Roosevelt, in which Briggs hit three of his four three-pointers in the first quarter to help Coolidge start fast and not let up in a 69-62 win.
“We’ve played a lot intense games. But not like that,” Briggs said. “That’s our rivalry school. Every time you play [Roosevelt], it’s going to be hostile. So I think it was good for our team and good for our players.”
Coolidge (13-11, 7-1) has won three straight to remain in the regular-season title hunt in the DCIAA, and lately Briggs has been a major reason why. He’s averaged 26.5 points over his last four games, including a 31-point outburst against Eastern in late January. What’s more impressive has been his efficiency from beyond the arc. Briggs has hit 15 three-pointers in those four contests (he has 36 total this season) and he’s bumped up his free throw shooting average to 88.7 percent by hitting 32 of 35 shots from the line over that stretch.
Briggs dazzled the crowd at Coolidge during the three-point contest at the Martin Luther King Hoopfest Showcase in January, taking Clinton Christian star Byron Hawkins down to the wire in the event. That just scratched the surface on his shooting capability, said Coolidge Coach Vaughn Jones, and over the last several weeks he has emerged as one of the true leaders of Coolidge’s young team.
“Briggs has really, really come on,” Jones said. “Everybody in the city knows he can shoot. That’s what he does. But he’s also worked on his ball handling and decision-making.”
It helps that Briggs is surrounded by loads of talent. Senior swingman Jamall Gregory leads the team in scoring (20.9 ppg) and has posted 14 double-doubles this season, while forwards Justin Route and Doug Farley are each averaging 12.2 points per game. Jones has lauded the recent play of freshman point guard Shawn Dotson, who played most of the second half against Roosevelt and is “potentially a future star,” Jones said.
The Rough Riders (16-6, 9-1) hold a two-game lead on the Colts in the win column, and get another shot at Coolidge this Saturday. Playing a rival twice in seven days is a tall order, Briggs said, but he expects to be at full strength when the two rivals meet again.
“I was just staying in focus, just being confident in myself and my shot,” Briggs said. “It’s very hard to play the same team twice, when they already know what your players do. . . . It’s going to be tough.”
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