Sunday, January 6, 2013
Augusta, GA -- Ask any coach or player, and he'll tell you home court advantage is very real.
So what happens when you don't have a court you can call home? Well, don't ask the Paine basketball team anymore.
After nearly two years without a place of their own, the Lions are finally settled in a new den.
With one wide open lay up, Kenny Fluellen christened the HEAL Complex and a new chapter was started for the paine basketball team.
"It felt good," Fluellen said. "I'm just happy it was me, but I'm glad my teammates backed me up and helped me score out, and we did everything right."
Fluellen finished with a game high 27 points, but one of his teammates might have been the most excited one to see this dream gym finally become a reality.
Senior guard Mario Jordan said, "We've been waiting on this for a long time. I personally, I've been waiting on this since I got here. This is my senior year so you know I really appreciate this. I felt like if they didn't play in the Carter, they didn't know what to appreciate."
Of course, the Carter is historic Carter Gym, the Lions' former home until it was torn down a year-and-a-half ago.
Since then, Paine has been a traveling show, playing home games at both Josey and Richmond Academy high schools. But Saturday, that all changed.
"I made them get up at 9:00 a.m. so we could shoot from 9-10 before the women came in," said Head Coach Jimmy Link. "They really all had sleep in their eyes, but they wanted to get here and see the gym. It was the first time they've all gotten in it."
The HEAL Complex seems appropriately named for this pride of Lions.
Over the last two years, they've seen a coach resign, have been essentially homeless and the roster has almost completely changed. Yet, all those distractions suddenly seem far in the past.
"It's going to help us a lot because we didn't really have anywhere to shoot until now," Fluellen said. "The gym just opened this morning so now we have a place to shoot. I mean, it should be better for us. We're going to step it up and keep winning."
And as for their plans from here on out?
Fluellen added, "I'm probably going to shoot later on tonight. Hopefully I'll get in here and keep shooting."
Jordan agreed, saying, "Now that I have my own gym, I can just come in here and work out whenever I want to. I'm a gym rat, so I'm going to love that."
The Lions don't have to wait long to continue the success of their 96-90 opening win against Stillman. The Lions and Lady Lions are back on Ronnie O. Spry Court Monday night against Miles.