by Jimmie Haywood
The Fayette County boy’s basketball team extended its winning streak to 6 in a row after a dominant performance against region rival McIntosh by a final score of 70-41 on Saturday night. The 6-0 start matches the third-best start under head coach Andre Flynn, one shy of matching the 7-0 start set by the 2005-06 Tigers, and just two away from his best start at 8-0, set during the 2011-2012 season.
“I’m real pleased with how we’re doing things,” said Flynn. “We are a complete team, and we have some stars in our seniors — Noah (Gurley), Phil (Young), and Austin (Nesmith) — but there is unselfishness. I tell them that they have to lead the rest of the guys, who are only tenth graders, and they will follow.”
Fayette County senior forward Noah Gurley finished tied for a game-high 21 points as he proved to be a nightmare matchup for the Chiefs big men all game.
“It’s a blessing,” Gurley said of the team’s hot start. “I’m thankful for all my coaches who made us work hard over the summer because now it is paying off. We have some showcase games and out of state games coming up, so I think we can ride this wave and do what we did tonight in other places too.”
Senior guard Phillip Young (13 points) and sophomore guard Joshua Dupree (12 points) each had signature dunks during the contest, while senior point guard Austin Nesmith added 14 points that included a team-high three 3-pointers.
McIntosh sophomore point guard Bruce Carpenter played tough all game as he tripled his season average with 21 points, 12 coming on a game-high four 3-pointers.
As they’ve done in most games this season, the Tigers started this game slowly as McIntosh jumped out to a 12-4 lead behind sharpshooting from Carpenter. Like clockwork, the Tigers began to take over the game in the second quarter following a fastbreak that was capped off by a euro-step dunk by Gurley that made the crowd jump out of their seats.
The second quarter proved to be a major turning point in the game, as the Tigers outscored the Chiefs 23-7 to take a 35-23 lead into halftime. McIntosh’s struggles continued into the third quarter as they were held to just five points in the period, compared to 13 for the Tigers. Fayette County would go on to outscore the Chiefs 22-13 in the final quarter to seal the win.
McIntosh falls to 2-6 overall with a chance for redemption on the road against surging LaGrange (5-1), while the Tigers will look to get closer to history when they compete against Leon (Tallahassee, FL; 5-2) to kickoff the Southern States Classic.
The highly-anticipated girls basketball game between McIntosh and Fayette County lived up to the hype as the Lady Tigers battled back after trailing for the majority of the contest to win by a final score of 41-36.
Senior Darryl Langford played huge during the Tiger rally and finished with a team-high 19 points, however it was her defense down the stretch that really helped dig her team out of a hole. Junior Trinity Brown also stepped up with 10 of her 12 points coming in the second half to go along with some impactful steals during the key points of the rally.
“We didn’t handle the pressure very well,” said McIntosh coach David Dowse. “I’m sure coach (Coach John Strickland) challenged his kids after they got down and they responded, and we didn’t handle the pressure very well.”
“Our half court defense was good, but we turned it over, and they were able to make it a transition game, and that’s how they beat us,” added Dowse.
McIntosh senior DeLayne Rotolo had a big game with a game-high 22 points that included four 3-pointers. Sophomore Rylee Calhoun followed up with two 3-pointers of her own and finished with 9 points.
McIntosh looked like the much better team to start the game as its ball movement and floor spacing had the Tigers gassed from scrambling to find open shooters. The Chiefs also forced Fayette County to commit numerous turnovers in the first half with an effective half-court trapping defense. After holding Fayette County to just four points in the first quarter, the Chiefs seemed primed to take a double-digit lead into intermission, but Langford nailed a crucial 3-pointer to end the second quarter with her team trailing 23-15.
“They had good rhythm in their offense (early), they had good ball movement, and they were hitting a lot of three-balls,” said Fayette County coach John Strickland. “We wanted to try and affect that, so we had to get into the passing lanes and be more aggressive instead of sitting back.”
“(Langford) missed some shots early, but she is a competitor and she kept playing. She got a lot of deflections and those deflections turned into us having the ball in our hands going down the court for layups,” added Strickland.
In the third quarter, a different Chief team came out of the locker room as they committed a number of turnovers thanks to the Tigers implementing a full-court press defense. This shift coincided with a dominating quarter by Fayette County as it cut the McIntosh lead at 30-25 going into the final frame.
In the fourth quarter, the Tigers surge continued as they gained their first lead of the game (31-30) with six minutes remaining before pushing it to as many as seven. The Chiefs would respond with six-straight points by Calhoun (and-one layup, 3-pointer) that pulled McIntosh to within a point at 37-36 with 1:23 remaining in the game. However, the Tigers’ final surge proved to be more than McIntosh could handle as Langford turned a steal into three points, after being fouled on a made layup with 45 seconds left in the game, which helped Fayette County hold on for the win.
With the win Fayette County improved to 5-4 overall and now sits at the number two spot (3-1) in the region 3-AAAAA after winning three in a row, while McIntosh dropped to 6-2 overall and now sits in the three spot (2-1). The Lady Chiefs will look to bounce back when they travel to struggling LaGrange (2-6), while Fayette County will look to extend its streak when they host undefeated Jackson (Atlanta, Ga; 4-0).