Bench depth key in McIntosh 61-57 win over Fayette
McIntosh continues to strengthen their Region 3-AAAAA standing with a 61-57 win over Fayette County on Tuesday night.
Without the services of seniors Zack Pina and Chaz Hardin, the Chiefs relied on team depth to sweep the Tigers for the first time since the 2000-2001 season. Junior guard Naj Ashley-Emory led the way with 22 points, including a perfect 11-of-11 from the free-throw line.
Ashley-Emory’s scoring outburst paced the Chiefs to their 13th win and put them a half-game behind Starr’s Mill for first place in the region.
“I thought our kids battled, and hopefully it will end up being a big win as far as the region standings go,” McIntosh head coach Jason Eisele said. “We’ve got to take care of more business and are going one game at a time.”
The Chiefs were aggressive from the opening tip and frustrated the Tigers with their 3-2 zone defense. Fayette couldn’t get the ball inside and were forced to take bad shots from the perimeter.
The defensive strategy allowed McIntosh to capitalize in transition and it fueled a 13-0 run to start the game. Ashley-Emory accounted for 9 points in the first quarter as McIntosh wreaked havoc in the paint. It frustrated Fayette coach Andre Flynn so much that he was warned by the officials for excessive behavior on the sidelines.
Fayette was held scoreless for the first six minutes of the game. Sophomore guard JeKobe Coleman finally got the Tigers on the board with a nice layup as the team exited the first quarter down 15-5.
Fayette responded in the second quarter with a 23-12 run to get back into the game. They rode the hot shooting of junior forward Greg Smith as he established a presence against the McIntosh backups.
Smith scored 8 points as the Tigers roared back to take a two-point lead midway through the period. They held off the Chiefs attempt reclaim the advantage and went to halftime up 28-27 on the road.
“I am proud of how we fought back and tried to get back in it,” Flynn said. “We are going to fight back, and now we’ve just got to put some basketball with our fight.”
At halftime, Eisele had to settle his team down and get them to lock back in offensively. The strategy worked as McIntosh pulled away in the second half behind clutch shots from role players like senior guard Garrett LeClaire and junior Alex Stowman.
LeClaire scored four points in the third quarter to keep the Chiefs in the game, and Strowman sealed it late with five points in the final period. Both players had to step up to play big minutes and Eisele praised their play after the game.
“We had some bumps and bruises and it is nice to have some guys step up,” Eisele said. “We had a couple rough ones the last few games and it is a good win to get us back on track.”
Fayette had several chances to steal a road victory, but turnovers cost them in the waning moments. The biggest mistake occurred with 12.5 seconds left in the game. Junior Ricky Knight had the ball stolen by Chiefs guard Bruce Carpenter after he apparently dribbled it off his leg. McIntosh took possession and hit two free throws to effectively end Fayette’s chances.
It was similar plays that Flynn said his team must fix if they want to make a push in the region playoffs.
“I thought that McIntosh played a great game and both teams played well,” Flynn said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t fall our way tonight as we just turned the ball over too much. We didn’t handle things well and we have to do a lot better than tonight.”
Fayette is back in action on Friday as they welcome Starr’s Mill in a big region matchup. McIntosh fell to East Coweta on Wednesday and will face Riverdale Friday night.
Lady Tigers push past McIntosh late in 45-36 victory
Fayette County girls’ basketball coach John Strickland knew he needed to make an in-game adjustment. Down 10-5 after the first quarter, the Lady Tigers were out of rhythm and reeling from an offensive flurry from McIntosh.
He used the quarter break to quell McIntosh momentum, amping up the defensive pressure rotation to propel his team to a 45-36 win over the Lady Chiefs on Tuesday night.
“We told them that we were going to have to push the ball and get into our transition game,” Strickland said. “They took us out of that and in the second half I told them we have to push it more.”
The strategy worked as Fayette started working the ball inside to cool off the Chiefs’ defensive intensity. Senior guard Trinity Brown ushered the comeback with 9 points in the first half and capitalized with easy buckets at the rim.
With the Chiefs’ defensive focus on Brown, fellow senior guard Maegan Barkley started to step up. She took over the scoring load and helped shut down the McIntosh backcourt duo of Kennedy Miller and Rylee Calhoun. The Chiefs only scoring five points in the second quarter. Barkley finished the game with 13 points and added a couple steals that turned into transition baskets.
McIntosh wouldn’t go away thanks to the inside presence of senior forward Maddie Emmet. Emmet had six points prior to halftime and kept the Chiefs within two points at the break. In the second half, she continued to bring down rebounds and alter shots at the rim.
The effort wasn’t lost on Strickland as he went to senior center Ozemeyi Egure to add more strength in the post. Egure responded by knocking down four points and changing the tempo with active hands defensively.
Egure helped deflect passes and her presence was key in a 9-2 run in the third quarter that extended the lead. Fayette took advantage and held a 34-25 lead going into the final period.
“She helped to stabilize the middle,” Strickland said. “She took over the game and was excellent.”
In the fourth quarter, McIntosh made things interesting by ripping off a 9-4 run to open the frame. Freshman guard Cami Salaski scored five points and made the deficit 42-36 with 90 seconds left in the contest.
The comeback effort fell short as Brown made a key steal to seal the victory. She stole the ball from Miller and found Barkley for a nice layup. The win gave Fayette their 14th victory on the season and kept them undefeated in Region 3-AAAAA play.
Both teams will be in action on Friday night as Fayette takes on Starr’s Mill at home. McIntosh will face Riverdale after rebounding Wednesday against East Coweta in a 51-20 road win.
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