So last June, McCrary decided to return to his first love.
“There was nothing else I can do other than go back to what I enjoy doing,” he said. “My love is coaching basketball and being with these kids.”
McCrary was prepared to take the best available job. He was surprised – pleasantly so – to learn that his old job at Columbia had come open. It was his, if he wanted to.
He didn’t have to think about for more than about half a second. McCrary was not only back on the bench, but back where he’d spent 24 seasons and won five state championships.
There was a slight transition period. The seniors at Columbia were in the seventh grade in 2011 when McCrary’s final Columbia team went 31-1 and won the state championship. It took a while before they finally came around to his way of thinking.
“I tried to get the kids to believe in one another and trust the process,” he said. “I got here late and we got caught (and beaten) early. Now they see what we’re doing and they’re playing like a cohesive unit.”
No. 6 Columbia (17-6) has played a tough non-conference schedule, but scored a big win over private school power St. Francis in a Christmas tournament. The Eagles have won nine of their last 10 games and Wednesday beat No. 3 Miller Grove. The Wolverines defeated Columbia a week earlier in the first meeting.
“You had two programs with a lot of history going at it,” McCrary said. “They won at their hourse and we won at our house. We’re evenly paired, so it comes down to adjustments and we were fortunate to be able to make our adjustments at the end.”
Columbia and Miller Grove could end up playing again in the Region 5-AAAAA tournament, which is being hosted by Miller Grove. Columbia opens the tournament against Clarkston and will likely need to beat No. 7-ranked Southwest DeKalb to earn a rematch with Miller Grove. Columbia and SWD split during the regular season.
Southwest girls go for perfection: The No. 3-ranked Southwest DeKalb (20-4, 11-0) girls can finish the Region 5 schedule with an unbeaten record if they can win at Arabia Mountain on Friday. Southwest won the first meeting 63-29.
Region 4 boys going to the wire: The race for the top seeds in Region 4 is going down to the final weekend. Union Grove (19-5) and Eagle’s Landing (16-6) are tied for first with 11-4 league records. Stockbridge (16-9) is finished at 11-5 and Dutchtown (16-7) is at 10-5.
Union Grove finishes against Woodland. Eagle’s Landing plays at Locust Grove. Dutchtown concludes its season at Ola. There could conceivably be a four-way tie for first place.