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Coach proud, thankful

WINDSOR – Had his health allowed, Joe Mizelle would have been directing his team to another state championship at Bethel Assembly Christian Academy.

The coach, however, was not able to attend this weekend’s North Carolina Christian Athletic Conference state tournament because of health issues.

Monday morning at home, Mizelle said he was much better and was thankful for the work done by Jack Williford in filling in on the bench this weekend.

“I appreciate Jack sitting in for me,” Williford said. “He did well and I’m thankful he would do it.”

While Mizelle wasn’t on hand for the championship tournament, he was well aware his team went into the event with a chance to win.

“I’ve known for most of the year we had a chance,” he said. “We’ve had an up-and-down season with everything we’ve dealt with.”

Mizelle said his team lost senior guard Larry Caldwell to an injury suffered in the season-opening Lt. Nick Brantley Scholarship Tournament. From there, Caldwell also suffered a bout with the flu and missed several games.

“Larry was only 100 percent towards the end of the season,” Mizelle said. “I knew we had what it took. It was just a matter of getting everyone there on the same night mentally and physically.”

Mizelle said he didn’t think those absences were an excuse for not having been as successful as they had hoped in the regular season.

“You can’t make excuses,” he said. “Things just have to fall into place.”

Those things started falling in place two weeks ago in a contest at Rocky Mount Prep, according to the coach.

“The game that changed my mind about going to the nationals was the game at Rocky Mount Prep,” he said. “We were down by something like 18 in that game and come back and won. They showed me they had what it takes.”

Mizelle said offensively the team had some good scoring in Caldwell and Josh Freeman, along with senior center Stephen Miller. He said having Jonathan Hoggard and Frank Feher also in the starting lineup made him feel like the team had all the weapons necessary to win.

The regular season was a time to grow and learn and Mizelle said he hoped his team had learned to win and lose this season.

He believed that helped in a good state championship contest against Riverside Christian Academy.

“I felt good about their chances,” he said, “but you don’t ever take Riverside lightly. I knew they wouldn’t go down there and lay down.”

Mizelle stayed in touch throughout the state title game via telephone calls from Bethel Athletic Director Edith Williford.

“I’m pleased with the boys,” he said. “Riverside has been in a lot of state championship games and has always seemed to be the one that knocks us out.

“We managed one in 1994, but they’re always tough,” he added. “I was pleased our boys were ready for the challenge.”