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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Edgewood’s Austin Patrick drives the lane and gets surrounded by Crenshaw’s Chandler Mitchell (5), Tymon Knighten (23) and Reid Campton.

Since Darryl Free took over as the Edgewood boys basketball coach, point guard Austin Patrick has played a key role as the offensive facilitator. However, when leading scorer Robert Stewart went down with an ankle injury, Patrick had to step out of his comfort zone but it did not take him long to find a rhythm.

Edgewood hosted Crenshaw last Tuesday night and while the Wildcats felt confident entering the game, Patrick made things a little easier with seven quick points in the first quarter to build a double-digit lead after just eight minutes. Edgewood never looked back as it eased to a 56-13 win behind a game-high 14 points from Patrick, who played just three quarters.

“When I got here during his sophomore year, he was a great scorer but he hurt his knee,” Free said. “Whether that has anything to do with it, he has not scored as much since. For him get out here and be really aggressive with the basketball and score was awesome to see. He was our leader (last Tuesday).”

Patrick has reached double figures just one other time but the Wildcats needed him as they were without Stewart and two other key players, Austin Champion and Carson Peevy.

“We had about three starters out so (last Tuesday) was all about having other people step up and create more depth going into the rest of the season,” Patrick said. “Coach has been preaching it all season that I need to shoot more and be a bigger part of the offense so with Robert out, I had to step up.”

Patrick hit his stride early after scoring his first two points within 30 seconds of the opening tipoff. He finished off the first half with his lone 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Wildcats a 19-point at the break.

“After I hit the first pull up in the first quarter, that’s when I knew (I was shooting well),” Patrick said. “It’s always good to have two or three people to score the ball. You don’t want to have just one guy to rely on. I’m confident I can help with that.”

Edgewood’s offense stuttered at times against Crenshaw but the Wildcats turned to their defense to create some easier opportunities on the fast break. Patrick may be more known for his work on the defensive end and he kept that up, providing three steals, all of which led to points.

“You don’t have to be the best scorer in the world to play defense,” Free said. “That’s where you earn minutes on this team. They did a great job with that.”

Stewart is not expected to miss much time but his time on the bench provided an opportunity for other players to get more touches. Free knows what Stewart and Kaleb Varner are capable of offensively but he said it’s important for other players to fill in those roles as well and it was good to see Patrick be that guy. 

“To have another guy step up is huge,” Free said. “Teams don’t expect Austin to score that much because he just has not shot as much in his career but he is very capable of doing it. When he plays confident like he did (last Tuesday), he can be a fantastic scorer.”

While scoring always feels good, that did not stop Patrick from being the  facilitator against Crenshaw and he will still take on that role moving forward. He finished with three assists last Tuesday.

“That’s always been a part of my game,” Patrick said. “I want to get my other guys the ball.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.