Joshua Staley finally has an answer to the question he’s been asked over the last few seasons about winning a championship.
In his second year at A.C. Flora, Staley guided the Falcons to the Class 3A state championship over Midland Valley. It was Staley’s first title in 12 years as a head coach.
Staley also was named The State’s Coach of the Year.
“You don’t pay much attention to it because you got to focus on the process on doing things right every day, as good as you possibly can be,” Staley said. “But as a competitor, it wasn’t a monkey. It was a gorilla. I was fighting to give these young men an opportunity to be successful. We were fortunate to get it done this year.”
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It was the fifth time Staley has led a team to the championship. He went 0-3 in title games as girls’ basketball coach at Orangeburg-Wilkinson, and then lost last season to Midland Valley in his first year at A.C. Flora.
The Falcons defeated the Mustangs in a rematch for the school’s second state title in three years.
“It is shared. It is not an individual accolade,” Staley said of the championship. “It took a lot of people to make sacrifices and a lot of parts coming together. When so many people put themselves last for a team to finish first, it is very gratifying.”
But it definitely wasn’t easy.
From the Falcons’ last-second win over Lower Richland to clinch the Region 4-3A title to the title game against Midland Valley, A.C. Flora was tested along the way.
The Falcons needed a late blocked shot from James Reese to hold on the final seconds to beat Berea, 55-51, in the Upper State finals. Reese delivered again in the upper state final against by Seneca by hitting a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left as the Falcons survived a wild final minute to win 56-52.
The championship game wasn’t as dramatic, but the Falcons still had to survive a late fourth-quarter comeback to beat Midland Valley 60-50.
Staley said that toughness his team showed late in the season during the 15-game winning streak to finish the year was there from day one, and grew during the intense practices he would put them through throughout the season.
“Character is learned and developed over time. You can’t just wake up and say you are going to be tough today,” Staley said. “We had to go through a lot of experiences to get to that point. The way we approach our offseason, each practice and game, it develops the character these young men had.
“Every team we played in the playoffs made us earn it. The guys showed a lot of resolve and grit, and it paid off at the end.”