HOGANSVILLE – He saved his best for last.
Ernest Patillo had been a valuable member of the Callaway High basketball team during his first three seasons of high school, but he stepped it up a few notches and had a phenomenal senior year.
Patillo, a post player, helped lead the Cavaliers to a remarkable fourth consecutive region championship, and the team made it to the second round of the state tournament.
Patillo’s good work didn’t go unrecognized.
He was a first-team member of the all-Region 5-AAA team along with teammates Braylon Sanders, Dre Martin and Joe Brown.
Patillo also received attention from college scouts, and he had a number of schools to choose from.
Patillo made his decision this week, and during a ceremony in the Callaway High media center, he signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Southern Union (Ala.).
Patillo got to share the moment with those closest to him, including a bunch of family members who came to the signing ceremony wearing Southern Union shirts.
“It feels good,” said Patillo, who has two brothers and five sisters. “To be able to have all of them out, supporting me means a lot.”
One of Patillo’s finest games as a high-school player was his final one.
In a loss to South Atlanta in the second round of the state tournament, Patillo scored 19 points, and he was a force inside, pulling down rebounds and blocking shots throughout the game.
The outcome didn’t go Callaway’s way, but Patillo showed he could control a game against a superior opponent like South Atlanta, which was ranked in the top five in the state.
It was the kind of performance Callaway head coach Terry Hayes was accustomed to seeing throughout the season.
“He improved tremendously, his rebounding, his shooting, playing defense, being a team leader,” Hayes said. “He’s not vocal, but he led with the way he played.”
Patillo said Hayes let he and the other seniors know before the season how vital their contributions were going to be.
“At the beginning of the season, coach Hayes told all of the seniors that we had a big role to play,” Patillo said. “So we went ahead and tried to make the season the best we could.”
Patillo was a part of a senior class that accomplished a great deal.
Those players helped Callaway win four straight region titles, and Callaway made it to the elite eight of the state tournament in 2015, the final four in 2014, and the second round last season.
Now it’s time for those seniors to go out and try to succeed on the college level, and Patillo is ready.
“It was always my dream to go play for in college,” Patillo said. “Now that it’s happened, I just have to go and make the best of it.”
Patillo said his trainer, former Callaway High standout Reggie Jackson, played a pivotal role in getting him to Southern Union.
“My trainer, Reggie Jackson, he went to Southern Union. That’s who helped get me the scholarship,” Patillo said. ” And coach (Ron Radford), he seemed like a good man to play for.”
OF NOTE: For more photos from the signing ceremony, check out facebook.com/LDNsports
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports