Coach of the Year: Bohon sees Knights continue their rise
by Emily Horos
ehoros@cherokeetribune.com
April 27, 2014 04:03 AM | 1908 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Matt Bohon
<BR>Staff photo by Emily Horos
Matt Bohon
Staff photo by Emily Horos
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When Matt Bohon took the boys basketball coaching job at River Ridge as the school opened, there was no program to coach.

With a group of dedicated freshmen in the fall of 2009, Bohon led the Knights through a schedule that featured a mixture of varsity and junior varsity opponents. The next year, with two classes of athletes and a region schedule for the first time, River Ridge went 3-20, with a 1-10 mark against Region 7AA opponents. The Knights didn’t even qualify for the region tournament.

After another lean season, but with more wins to show for their work, the Knights had a milestone season in 2012-13. Though they still finished below .500, they went 6-3 in Region 7AAAA — even after moving up two classifications — and made their first appearance in the state playoffs.

This season, the Knights finally arrived at the destination Bohon had been leading them toward all along.

River Ridge went 20-9 with an undefeated mark in region play. Along the way, it defeated three county rivals from higher classifications in Creekview, Woodstock and Sequoyah. The Knights also lost narrowly to Cherokee and Walton, highly regarded programs in Class AAAAAA.

River Ridge also won its first region title, and with that, hoisted a banner onto the wall in the gym.

“Hanging a banner in the gym is a big deal to these kids,” Bohon said. “That is something that you can’t take away from them. It was the first boys basketball banner. There are a couple of girls basketball banners, there is tennis, there is track. There are all kind of soccer ones in there, but putting the first boys basketball banner in there is something they will remember forever.”

For helping River Ridge put that first banner on the wall, Bohon is the 2013-14 Cherokee Tribune Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.

“It’s been a five-year process,” Bohon said. “In region play, we had a couple of close games, but most of them weren’t close at all. They exceeded my expectations. I thought we would be better than we had been, but I didn’t think that we would go undefeated through the region and then undefeated through the region tournament.”

River Ridge didn’t just sweep it region opponents — it dominated them. The smallest margin of victory was 10 points against Gilmer, and the average margin was more than 26 points per game.

In the state playoffs, though, the Knights didn’t fare as well. They had a tough draw by matching up with some of the top regions in the state early on.

“Two years ago, we crossed with the region with South Atlanta and Marist, and they had three or four teams in the top 10 all year,” Bohon said. “This year, we crossed with the region that had Carrollton and Alexander and all them. Alexander was in the top two all year. Carrollton came out of there as a No. 4 seed, but the only people that had beat them much in the region were teams that were ranked (No.) 2 and 3 and 4 in the state.”

Bohon appreciated that River Ridge at least competitive in the playoffs, losing to Carrollton 44-38 one year after only losing by four to South Atlanta.

Ultimately, Bohon would like to see River Ridge getting over the hump and go from being a good program to being a great one.

“Competitive isn’t good enough anymore. We have to do better in the future,” Bohon said.

Still, what Bohon has contributed to River Ridge isn’t something that can be named. In addition to heading the boys basketball program, he also teaches math. On a recent Saturday morning, he was at the school to supervise a study session for students preparing for their AP calculus exam.

While basketball and math might not fit well for everyone, Bohon said it has always worked for him.

“Math probably came first, believe it or not,” he said. “I was pretty good at math before I was pretty good at basketball. My biggest influences were always coaches, and I loved basketball. Coaching and teaching was one way to do both.”

Perhaps River Ridge’s dominance over region foes only made it fitting that the program will be competing in a higher classification next year, due to the growth of its student body.

Bohon, however, won’t be sticking around for the transition to Class AAAAA.

His decision to move on after five seasons has nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with grandchildren.

“I’ve been coaching for 29 years, and we’ve decided that it’s time to go play with grandbabies,” Bohon said. “We have grandkids in Huntsville, Ala., so we have decided that it’s time to move on.”

Bohon is quick to say that he isn’t retiring — he’s just relocating — and he’s even quicker to point out that he wasn’t afraid of playing in the future Region 7AAAAA, where River Ridge will be matched up with county rivals Creekview and Sequoyah for the first time.

“It has nothing to do with moving to Class AAAAA,” he said. “We have been playing a 5A or 6A schedule the whole time. That is what helped makes us good.”

The job the Bohon’s successor will inherit won’t be easy.

River Ridge will graduate 10 seniors, and the players waiting in the wings don’t have much experience. Because of the way the program developed, it wasn’t until recently that there were enough players to have both a varsity and junior varsity team.

“Percentage-wise, we probably graduated close to 100 percent of our points and 100 percent of our rebounds,” Bohon said. “I hate to leave the young guys because it was going to be a fun challenge. They are going to be fun to watch.

“I’m not jumping ship. I hope whoever comes on next appreciates the hard work that we put in and takes it to the next level a little bit. We’ve got four kids with some experience, but they are really going to be thrown into the fire.”

Bohon doesn’t know how much coaching he will be doing in the future. He would like to find his way into a gym in Huntsville, if only because his 4-year-old grandson, Park, has recently discovered the game.

“If I get into a situation where there is some basketball coaching available, I would be happy to help,” Bohon said. “The main reason I want to coach next year is that my grandson wants to come to the games. I will stay in the game just a little longer to get him in the gym.”
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