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McIntosh outlasts Starr’s Mill 57-51 in overtime ‘Battle of the Bubble’ win

Photo by Michael Cuneo

By Michael Cuneo – 

McIntosh coach Jason Eisele talks strategy to his players. Photo by Michael Cuneo.

For the second time this season, the McIntosh boys’ basketball team has defeated their division rivals The Starr’s Mill Panthers. A dagger three from Starr’s Mill junior Philip Schultheis with 13 seconds left in regulation sent this game to an overtime period, where McIntosh was able to outduel the Panthers at the free-throw line.

McIntosh already beat Starr’s Mill 61-52 in December, marking a sweep of the ‘Battle of the Bubble’ rivalry that has grown amongst the two Peachtree City schools.

Starr’s Mill head coach Josh Reeves knew the team would have to block out some of the noise that comes with the rivalry, stating that the team had to focus on the fundamentals.

“We tried to shut out all the noise. With this game, you got a lot of outside distractions, so we try to keep everything internal. We try to block out all the noise and just try to think about the basketball.” Reeves said.

Blocking out the noise seemed to be going pretty well for Reeves’ side throughout most of the game. The Panthers led the Chiefs by a margin of 7 points at the end of the first half, maintaining the lead as they entered the fourth quarter up 31-25.

It was McIntosh, however, who found some late rhythm, taking their first lead of the night with 1:38 second left in the game.

6’8 McIntosh senior Emeka Iloh was highly efficient in the matchup, going to the line 10 times on his way to a game-leading 24 points.

Chiefs junior Theo Elwell also had an efficient night in the paint as he totaled 9 points and provided a few crucial baskets.

Schultheis led all Panthers scorers with 13 points on the night, and despite hitting a phenomenal three-pointer to force overtime, was unable to hoist his team past their division foes.

For McIntosh, the win advances the team to 11-8 on the season and second place in their AAAAA Region 2 rankings. The Chiefs will host Griffin at home on Jan. 28.

For Starr’s Mill, the defeat is more confidence hindering than anything as the team now sits at 3-13 on the season, far from playoff contention. The Panthers will travel to play Northgate (Newnan) on Jan. 28.

The Lady Chiefs completed a sweep of their rivals, using a suffocating defense to beat Starr’s Mill 48-33 in the opener.

“It’s always good to beat them, and it’s always extra exciting,” said McIntosh coach Rick Fontaine. “We’re having a good run. We’ve won quite a few games in a row here. Regardless of their record, (Starr’s Mill) is gonna come out and give us their best shot.”

The Chief offense came out cooking behind the shooting of Bella Duiser, who hit a trio of 3-pointers in the first quarter. While she supplied the early scoring, the team pressure on defense staked them to a 17-7 lead after one quarter.

“We did a great job defensively. I was proud of the girls,” said Fontaine. “That’s what we worked on yesterday in practice and talked about in pregame, making sure we took away their strengths and made them play to their weaknesses and get rebounds, and we did that.”

McIntosh funneled the ball more into the paint in the second, with Shanyah Brown scoring down low and Olivia Henders converting an and-one. Jaclyn Hester did her part to keep the Panthers in the game with a pair of late 3-pointers to make it a 26-18 game at halftime.

The Chiefs grabbed the momentum back out of the break on consecutive buckets from Kendall Davis and a Duiser steal and layup.

A 42-24 gap heading into the final frame would not get much tighter. A Zara Vaughan 3-pointer bumped the lead to 20 points, and an Anna Kirby Panthers buzzer-beater supplied the final points in the 48-33 McIntosh win.

It was an evenly-distributed effort on offense for the Chiefs, with Duiser leading the way with 11 points, followed by Davis with 11 and Henders with 9.

“It’s a big difference when you’ve got when all five of our starters who could run the point if we needed them to,” said Fontaine. “It makes a difference when you can do that because they can’t take away one girl.”

Starr’s Mill was led by Hester, who scored 19 points, followed by Sunny McQuade with 6 and Brooke Godown with 5.

The Chiefs keep pace in the region chase with the victory. At 13-4 overall and 6-2 in region play, they’re feeling good after notching three region wins in a week.

“We had a long week of basketball,” said Fontaine, pointing to a road win over Northside as key. “It’s great that we could come back and respond and win this one.”

By Michael Cuneo

Michael Cuneo is a news and sports reporter for the Fayette County News. Michael graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in Journalism in 2020. In his off time, Michael enjoys torturing himself as an Atlanta Falcons fan. Follow Michael on twitter @michaelcune