by Rob Grubbs
On occasion, when the stars align perfectly, a basketball player experiences a phenomenon where he can’t miss a shot. Every attempt, no matter the distance or complexity, goes in. There is no way to explain it, you just ride the wave and enjoy the moment. McIntosh senior guard Keenan Brown experienced that feeling Friday night, when he went 8-for-8, including seven 3-pointers to fuel a surprisingly easy 81-60 win over their rival Starr’s Mill Panthers (9-10) in another installment of the “Battle of the Bubble.”
The matchup focused on the inside play of Panthers big men Jamaine Mann and Nate Allison versus the strong, slashing guard play of the Chiefs in Bruce Carpenter and Naj Ashley-Emory, who was coming off a career-high 37 against Whitewater earlier in the week.
McIntosh took the early advantage behind the shooting touch of Ashley-Emory, but it was not long before Brown began to make his presence known. With the Starr’s Mill student section heckling Brown on every possession, he responded with three 3-pointers in the first quarter. Panther head football coach Chad Phillips, who was nearby, quipped, “You need to pick on someone else.”
The Chiefs (8-11) slowly and steadily pulled away. A nine-point halftime lead quickly ballooned to a 20-point lead before the third quarter was over.
Not to be lost in the offensive explosion of Brown was the yeoman’s work of McIntosh post player Wyatt Patton. He was basically guarding both of Starr’s Mill big men at the same time, fronting Mann on almost every possession and helping against Allison, all while battling the flu.
“It was all physical,” Patton said. “I just had to be more physical than them and just fight to front them,” Patton said afterwards.
The Panthers seemed to be poised for a run in the third, when a Daryl Rice steal and a Mann three-point play brought them to within 10, but Brown and Ashley-Emory were still smoking-hot. The Panthers waved the white-flag with two minutes remaining when they put in their younger players.
McIntosh head coach Jason Eisele wasn’t shocked by his team’s performance.
“We weren’t just shooting threes, we weren’t just attacking the basket, we did a little bit of both,” he said. “We did a good enough job rebounding the basketball, and we played with a lot confidence and we played together. This has been in them all year long just waiting to come out. We said once y’all stay focused and stay together and we’ll have fun out there.”
The man of the hour, Brown, said afterwards, “My teammates told me to keep shooting so I did, it felt amazing, their students kept telling me I was going to miss, so I just pointed at them after each one.”
Brown finished with a career-high 23, while Ashley-Emory led with 31 and Carpenter added 20. Mann lead the Panthers with 19.
While the McIntosh boys were sharp throughout, the victors in the girls game found their spark late, as the Lady Panthers (14-6) overcome a 9-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull out a 44-41 win.
During an 16-4 run in the final three minutes, Jaclyn Hester, Alyssa Angelo, and Ashtyn Lally all hit 3-pointers as they relied on their defense to create offensive opportunities down the stretch. Angelo had 7 points in the final three minutes to will her team to victory.
“I tried different things, I tried to get Alice Anne (Hudson) to post up, I tried to get Jaclyn to post up, I tried to get some else to post up, I was just trying different things to see what would work,” said Starr’s Mill coach Emily Sweeney. “I told them if they wanted to win the game, they were going to have to play defense, that defense was going to win the game, and our defense caused our offense to get better.”
Hester and Angelo both had 13 for Starr’s Mill, while Carrie Consolino finished with a game-high 20 for the Lady Chiefs (13-6).
The win helped the Lady Panthers stay tied with Griffin for the top spot in Region 3-AAAAA. They will host Fayette County in a key contest this Friday night.
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