A dream season for the McIntosh Chiefs was cut short Saturday in the Round of 16 as their star point guard Will Washington broke his wrist in the fourth quarter and the team was unable to hold on to a nine point lead, eventually losing 66-65 in a heartbreaker at home against M.L. King.
The loss was the first all year for a team that had gone 29-0, largely thanks to their supremely talented backcourt duo of Will Washington and Jordan Lyons. The athletic pair of junior guards have grown together, with Washington helming the offense at point guard. With about six minutes remaining in a game the Chiefs had largely controlled, Washington skied for a massive dunk attempt over an M.L. King defender’s challenge. He was fouled on the play as he lost control at the height of his jump and came down hard, immediately leaving the court clutching what would turn out to be a broken wrist.
Though the team was up nine with about six minutes to play at the time, they suddenly found themselves lacking the floor general that had been so crucial to everything they do.
“We had some costly turnovers down the stretch, had some people playing out of position from what they were used to,” said coach Jason Eisele. “I’ll tip my hat to M.L. King, they did a great job. It’s really tough. Will’s been kind of our one man press breaker all year long. Without him in there we couldn’t do some of the things we’re used to doing.”
McIntosh was eliminated in the same round last year by a mere three points, and certainly had their eyes on a deeper run this time around. To lose again by such a slim margin was tough, coach Eisele said, but it didn’t diminish what has been a historically great Chiefs season.
“I’m real proud of my guys for what all they’ve accomplished. It took us losing our point guard. I think that kind of shook us up a little bit, just guys worrying about him,” Eisele said. “There’s a lot of broken up guys in [the locker room]. I think in terms of what they were able to do with the community and all these people filling the gym, the little kids coming in getting excited about McIntosh basketball, that’s something you can’t take away.”
Mcintosh would jump out to a lead in the first half with some great all around play. Lyons reminded everyone of his amazing range with a deep three-pointer to take an early 15-7 lead.
Braxton Shaw showed his range in the game, as well, scoring 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting from behind the arc, including a couple shots that came at crucial times in the game.
Chase Walter and Dishon Lowery were anchors in the paint as usual, with Walter racking up 13 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks while Lowery scored nine to go with 13 rebounds.
M.L. King would scrap back in the first half behind some long range shooting of their own, ultimately carrying a 31-28 advantage into halftime. McIntosh came back with a third quarter run of its own as Lyons really attacked the basket and got some easy buckets off M.L. King turnovers. The Chiefs carried a 52-39 lead into the fourth quarter and looked ready to advance to the Elite 8.
Washington’s injury may have rattled them, as Eisele wondered. He was obviously immediately in a lot of pain after a scary fall, and was soon seen leaving the arena clutching his wrist.
Missing their lead ball handler, the Chiefs struggled to control the rock against aggressive pressure from M.L. King. A series of turnovers allowed M.L. King to battle back into the game and, eventually, seize the lead.
Despite the disappointing finish, Eisele has a unique opportunity to come back with another great team next year. With only two seniors graduating and the talented core of the team returning, Eisele thinks the lessons of this game can propel the team to another level next year.
“I just told them I was real proud of them. Our motto this year was make history and they’ve done that. Last year we got knocked out by three. This year we got knocked out by one. That’s just all the more motivation for next year,” Eisele said.
“If you told me that we would have gone undefeated in the regular season, I did feel we were going to win a region championship but not in the way we did it, I never would have thought we’d have gone 29-0 before we got our first loss,” Eisele said. “It still hurts, but it’s been fun. It’s a fun group of guys, I’m real proud to coach them and I’m happy that I get to work with them again all summer long and all into the next season.”
(Photos by Michael Clifton / www.kombatkamera.com)