Make it a season sweep for the Chiefs as McIntosh took round two of the Battle of the Bubble over Starr’s Mill Thursday night. The McIntosh boys used a dominant first quarter to set up a 77-41 romp, and the Lady Chiefs surged in the second, then held off a furious rally to win 47-44.
Originally scheduled for January 22, fear of bad weather bumped back the rematch on McIntosh’s court. A GHSA rule limiting the number of late starts in a week also meant that the boys would play first. All of the changes did not slow down one of the state’s best squads.
“I was kind of concerned playing in the early game, but we came out with a lot of energy right off the bat,” said McIntosh coach Jason Eisele. “Sometimes when you play a rival, you can get tight. We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now, so that helped us. We played loose.”
A special Chief squad led by eight seniors made their last Battle of the Bubble count.
“I told them in the locker room just to enjoy the atmosphere and have fun,” said Eisele. “We want to play loose and have fun, but execute and be disciplined. I know Starr’s Mill is always going to be disciplined, so we couldn’t go out there and play backyard basketball and expect to beat them.”
Starr’s Mill briefly led at 3-2 on a Zach Pina 3-pointer, but that would be the only time. The Chiefs grabbed the lead back emphatically on a Will Washington drive-and-dish to Chase Walter for a dunk. It was part of a highlight-filled first quarter that saw the Chiefs close out with a 22-2 run with two 3-pointers and four dunks. Washington picked up an assist on each jam, Walter throwing down three of them.
Building on the 24-5 lead, McIntosh kept bombing in the second. Braxton Shaw and Jordan Lyons each hit from deep, as the lead swelled to 43-15 at halftime.
Starr’s Mill never packed it again. In the third quarter, they chewed away a little bit of the deficit as Pina dished to Jack Van Nimwegen for a bucket, then Drew Hudson sank a 3-pointer. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the Chiefs were unfazed. Lyons, Shaw, and Cole Guenther each scored from long range to keep them from getting too close. When the defense started protecting against the bomb, Washington drove to the hoop for a trio of layups. Hudson added one more three for Starr’s Mill as they trailed 64-32 heading into the fourth.
With the game in hand, both teams started working their full rotation into the game, and both sides had fresh players eager to shine. Kyle Evert started the frame with a layup, but Brendon Rowan answered with one of his own. Will Stowman and Mitch Maxwell scored for the Chiefs, then Jaylen Holloway added a three-point play. Rowan finished the game off style, scoring the final points on a flying outback to seal up the 77-41 victory.
“I thought we executed pretty well on both ends of the floor, and we got a chance to get everybody in and get some good quality minutes,” said Eisele. “Offensively, I know we can score, but there’s still some things we can continue to work on. I really like where we’re at defensively right now.”
Jordan Lyons led the Chiefs with 17 points, and Isaac Kellum added 14. Will Washington posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists.
The win moves the Chiefs to 22-2 overall, 17-0 in the region.
The Lady Chiefs looked like they had a comfortable win at times, but had to fend off a rally to win 47-44.
“It was a great game. Starr’s Mill fought back valiantly and really had us against the ropes. I thought our kids showed the toughness that we talk about all the time,” said Lady Chiefs coach David Dowse. “You’ve got to keep fighting, and they did. They found a way.”
The first quarter was full of bombs from both sides. The first nine points all came from behind the arc, including a pair of 3-pointers from Samantha Coffey. Emily Nieuwstraten would finish off the quarter with her own to put the Panthers up 15-11. In between, Starr’s Mill got the first glimpses of an all-night gutsy effort from Riley Clark, who left it all out on the court. Clark posted consecutive steals and layups as she pushed her team in front.
The second half belonged to the Chiefs as they outscored their rivals 13-4 to build up a 24-19 halftime lead thanks to another barrage of 3-pointers. After DeLayne Rotolo started the quarter with a steal and layup and Kelly Kozusko answered with a bucket, it was all McIntosh. Rylee Calhoun hit twice from long range, and Savannah Soles joined in the fun from deep to cap off the half.
Starr’s Mill tied it up quickly coming out of the locker rooms on five straight points from Michaela Cushing. They kept pace with another Clark layup and an Alli Jones 3-pointer. McIntosh grabbed the lead for good on a Kennedi MIller jump shot and another Coffey three.
“They tried to pressure us a little bit more and created some turnovers. Later, I thought we handled it a little bit better,” said Dowse. “Kennedi especially did a good job getting us into our offense. When we can get into our offense, we’re pretty comfortable.”
Heading into the fourth up 34-32, the Chiefs added a little cushion, peaking at nine points halfway through the frame.
The Panthers locked in and chipped away at the deficit piece-by-piece until an Alli Jones three-point play put them in front 42-41 with 2:30 left to play. The lead would swing back-and-forth from there, McIntosh pulling back in front on a Maddie Emmet dish to Soles cutting to the hoop, then the Panthers grabbing it on two Kozusko free throws. The Chiefs would finally seal the game with four straight points, including two huge free throws from Coffey with 13 seconds left to make it a three-point game. Starr’s MIll got a good look at a potential tying 3-pointer, but it clanged off the rim.
The Lady Chiefs are now 15-7 overall, 12-5 in region play.