That late-season stretch when Weaver was missing injured guard Chris English gave Hamby the chance to drive home point he had tried to make all season.
“It helped us grow up a little bit as a team,” Hamby said.
Weaver went on to win a highly competitive Class 3A, Area 10. For that and leading the Bearcats to a 22-10 finish and their first Northeast Regional appearance since 2008, Hamby was named The Anniston Star’s Class 3A boys coach of the year for Calhoun County.
English missed four games with a hand injury, a stretch that saw Weaver play higher-classified opponents, including 5A Southside and 6A Spain Park. It was a time for English’s supporting cast to take shots that Hamby wanted them to take before English was hurt.
“A lot of times, what you get with a team like we had with Chris being such a great player is sometimes the other good players tend to look at Chris too much,” Hamby said. “A lot of people on the outside looking in might be thinking, ‘Well, Chris is shooting the ball maybe more than he should.’
“A lot of times, our guys passed up shots. They were so used to him (English) scoring, and this gave us a chance to develop more as a team.”
English was injured in the Calhoun County tourney final against Oxford on Jan. 21 and sat out of a 62-40 rout of Wellborn the next night. He played the first half of a 56-53 area loss to Saks on Jan. 25, scoring 14 points, but didn’t play again until Feb. 8 in the area tournament.
In between, Weaver lost 59-45 to Spain Park but beat Faith Christian 81-63 and 4A Munford 67-61.
Weaver’s overall development showed in the postseason, with the Bearcats beating White Plains and Piedmont in the area tournament and Glencoe in the sub-regional.
A lack of size — Timothy Hawkins was a small forward having to play post — cost the Bearcats in the Northeast Regional. They lost 72-65 to Holly Pond in a game that saw Weaver get outrebounded 46-17.
But point guard Michael Stephens hit 5 of 10 shots in that game, including a 3-for-4 showing beyond the 3-point line, and scored 13 points. Paul Hubbard added 10 to complement English’s 27-point showing.
The time with English out was especially good for Stephens.
“One of the problems I had with Mike was he didn’t shoot enough,” Hamby said. “He’s a really good shooter, handles the ball well and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and a lot of times he tried to pass the ball too much. … In our final game, Mike shot the ball better than anybody.”
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.