There was a sense of urgency surrounding the Starr’s Mill boys basketball team on Tuesday night. The Panthers needed a victory over Fayette County to get back into the thick of the Region 3 AAAAA standings, and they delivered with a dominant 57-38 home victory over the Tigers.
Senior forward Drew Hudson led the way with 15 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds. He also contributed on the defensive end with a steal and ball pressure. Hudson was one of four Panthers to score in double-figures on the night. Fellow senior guard Carson Langham had 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from downtown, while juniors Julian Lynch and Nate Allison had 10 points and 14 points respectively.
“I think we finally put together 32 minutes of basketball,” Starr’s Mill coach Brandon Hutchins said. “We had kind of been injured early in the year and we finally found a rhythm as a team. I was proud of the effort as it was good from start to finish.”
The Panthers started out strong with a 12-8 edge in the first quarter. They beat Fayette off the dribble and found the soft spots in their defensive zone. On many early possessions, Starr’s Mill would run their offense through Hudson and get him easy opportunities around the rim.
Hudson spent much of the night at the free-throw line. He converted those chances into 5 points in the first-half. This resulted in Fayette shifting into man defense just to break the Panthers momentum.
The strategy didn’t work as Starr’s Mill continued to pound the ball inside. Fayette allowed the Panthers to shoot 49 percent from the field and 54 percent from distance.
At halftime, the Panthers held an 18-15 advantage. The scoring margin would increase in the third quarter as Starr’s Mill put up 22 points in the quarter. An aggressive mentality on the defensive end lead to the scoring outburst. The Panthers made it difficult on the Tigers and forced them to play at a slower tempo. Fayette junior guard Ricky Knight was the only player in double figures, as he finished with 11 points.
The Panthers also defended without fouling and had only committed three fouls in the second half, their first whistle not coming until under four minutes remained in the game. It frustrated the Tigers as they were upset with some of the officiating, leading to Fayette coach Andre Flynn receiving a technical foul late in the game.
“I challenged them defensively to step it up and we even went to a 3-2 zone,” Hutchins said. “It bothered them as they couldn’t get their shots off. I was just proud of the way they battled.”
Starr’s Mill cruised to victory in the fourth quarter with a 17-9 run to end the game. The Panthers move to 9-7 with the victory. They are now a game behind Fayette in the region standings.
“I think it is a huge confidence booster,” Hutchins said. “I think it shows the guys that you can play with anybody. You just got to go out and do it.”
Fayette is now 10-7 and has lost three straight games. The Tigers will get their chance at retribution on January 26 as they face the Panthers on their home floor.
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