Fayette gets road sweep over McIntosh

Fayette County continued its run through Region 3-AAAAA with a 55-53 win over the McIntosh Chiefs on Saturday night. The Tigers won their seventh consecutive game as they outlasted the Chiefs late comeback attempt.

Junior guard JeKobe Coleman led the Tigers with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. He was instrumental down the stretch, connecting on three 3-pointers, to help push Fayette into the winner’s circle. Sophomore Will Richard also chipped in 13 points as the Tigers improved to 7-1 overall and stayed undefeated in region play.

“He (Coleman) bailed us out again tonight,” Tigers head coach Andre Flynn said. “He made some key shots and some key runs. We got to get better moving forward.”

McIntosh hung tough at home. The Chiefs fell behind by 10 points early in the second quarter but fought back have a chance to win it late. Senior guard Naj Ashley-Emory ignited the comeback with 21 of his game-high 23 points in the second half.

Ashley-Emory found a rhythm by getting to the rim. He repeatedly broke down the Tigers’ defense and finished a plethora of contact layups. With six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Ashley-Emory rattled off five consecutive points. He later added a smooth mid-range jump shot to bring McIntosh within six.

On the next possession, McIntosh senior guard Bruce Carpenter cut the deficit to within five at 38-33. It forced Flynn to call a timeout and settle his team down. Carpenter’s bucket, 2 of his 19 total points, ignited the Chiefs faithful. McIntosh was in striking distance with the fourth quarter still to play.

“There were several times in the game that we were down by 10 or 11 points,” McIntosh head coach Jason Eisele said. “Earlier in the season, we might’ve phoned it in. They fought tonight and fought for each other. That is progress in the right direction.”

After the timeout, Coleman came alive once more. He hit a deep 3-pointer as time expired to extend the lead back to double-digits.

In the fourth quarter, McIntosh didn’t go away. The Chiefs outscored the Tigers, 20 to 12, as Carpenter and Ashley-Emory combined for 18 points in the period. However, Fayette made their points count when it mattered most.

Bruce Carpenter added 19 points 55-53 loss to Fayette County. (Staff Photo: Chris Dunn)

With under a minute remaining, Coleman drove into the lane and made a tough layup around two defenders. He iced the game with a free throw. Fayette went up 55-49.  Ashley-Emory made it interesting late with two quick baskets. However, the deficit proved too much as time ran out on the Chiefs.

McIntosh fell to 1-6 overall and 0-3 in region play. Despite the loss, Eisele knows the team can turn it around. He was pleased with the efforts of several players and acknowledged the team is still finding its way.

“I think even in a loss, it will give us a little bit of confidence knowing that we can go against one of the better teams in the region,” Eisele said. “We can go toe-to-toe with them if we can play a full game as opposed to playing in pieces. We had a lot of fight and it’s encouraging.”

The Chiefs are back in action in the Southern States Classic on December 14.

As for Fayette, the Tigers are still learning how to finish games. They jumped out to a commanding 24-15 lead in the first half and saw it slip away. Several players were hot early but saw their production fade late.

Senior guard Josh Dupree had 6 first-quarter points but only scored 2 points after halftime. Dupree finished with 8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. Fellow senior Greg Smith added 9 points and junior Kingston Calhoun had 7 points.

Flynn hopes to get his players to develop a killer instinct. He knows that with more aggressiveness, they can truly reach their full potential.

“The last five games we have been up in the exact same spot,” Flynn said. “We don’t focus in like we are capable of. Then, we do something and we close it out. I guess it is a blessing that we can do that. We have to learn how to put teams away. Once we get the killer instinct, we will be okay.”

Still, Flynn was excited to earn a hard-fought win. He praised the team defense and the play of Richard, who had several key blocks.

“I am proud of the guys and I am always on them,” Flynn said. “It’s basketball.”

The Tigers are also in action at the Southern States Classic on December 14. They will face Therrell High School at 6:30 p.m.


Lady Tigers roll past McIntosh 

For years, the calling card of the Fayette Lady Tigers has been a stingy zone defense. The defensive alignment, revamped by head coach John Strickland, has been a staple for many years and shut down the best of teams in the state.

On Saturday, McIntosh felt the wrath of the zone defense. The Tigers forced the Lady Chiefs into perimeter jump shots all night. McIntosh hit their fair share, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the Fayette in the end.

The Tigers held on to win 46-39. Fayette improved to 6-3 overall and 3-1 in region play. McIntosh fell to 6-2 on the season.

“We are still trying to catch up,” Strickland said. “A lot of teams got their nucleus in order and I lost a lot of girls last season. We are happy to be still hanging around so far this season.”

With a win over McIntosh, Strickland has the team going in the right direction.

The Tigers played inspired basketball all night and it started with sophomore guard Ghylissa Knowles. She was hot in the first quarter and scored the team’s first 10 points. She went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc and made some key defensive stops.

Ghylissa Knowles sparked the Lady Tigers early with 10 first quarter points. (Staff photo: Chris Dunn)

At one point, she outscored the entire McIntosh team 10 to 8. Knowles finished with 20 points and three rebounds on the night.

“She is our scorer and she can score the ball,” Strickland said.

McIntosh didn’t go away easily. First-year head coach Rick Fontaine quickened the pace with a full-court press that forced Fayette into mistakes.

During a three-minute stretch, the Chiefs caused 4 turnovers and a jump ball. It worked out as senior trio Rylee Calhoun, Kennedi Miller, and Anna Muh combined for 12 points in the first quarter.

“We were trying to pick the tempo up a little bit and get a rhythm going,” Fontaine said. “We started out flat in the first quarter in the last few games. It worked pretty well and we got some pace out of it. Both teams played well and they took care of the basketball.”

In the second quarter, Fayette took control behind sophomore center Celine Thomas. She was solid in the middle and altered shots at the rim. She also collected four blocks that negated McIntosh from taking a lead.

On one possession, Thomas got the crowd involved after blocking Miller’s shot. She later sent a couple more out of bounds. Her rim protection impressed Strickland as he stuck with her at center throughout the game.

“She is really tall and long,” Strickland said. “She is really starting to get it and she is young and a sophomore. She is holding that middle down pretty good.”

As a result, Fayette held a 22-18 lead at halftime. In the second half, senior guard Sidney Sims took over as the Tigers’ driving force. She was aggressive and attacked the basket at will. She scored 14 of her 16 total points in the final periods.

Sims set up teammates and answered every potential McIntosh run. After the Chiefs went on a 6-0 run to open the fourth quarter, Sims quelled the momentum with 4 quick points of her own. She was also rock solid at the free-throw line. She nailed 5 straight free throws keep the Tigers lead manageable.

“I thought she (Sims) was the difference in the whole game,” Strickland said. “Out of everyone on the floor,  she was quick and made great passes to the basket and she made some nice plays inside.”

McIntosh made it close late. Freshman guard Carrie Consolino hit a big fourth-quarter three to draw the Chiefs within two points. She later stole the inbounds pass and made a layup to tie the game at 39-39.

However, Sims didn’t let the game slip away. With 1:31 remaining, she nailed a clutch jump shot to give Fayette a two-point lead. Later, Thomas added another block on Miller as the Chiefs didn’t draw closer.

Sims iced the game at the charity stripe as Fayette escaped with a victory.

“I think at the end of the game, it was just a couple shots we could’ve made,” Fontaine said. “It was a couple of layups here and some short jumpers that went in and out. Once we got down by six (points), they made their free throws and won it.”

Both teams get a week off before returning to action. Fayette plays against Southwest DeKalb in the Peach State Holiday Tournament on December 20. McIntosh hosts Sandy Creek on December 21.