by Russell Cooks & Christopher Dunn
It is said, it is difficult to beat a team three times in one season. The Sandy Creek Patriots defied the odds last night by defeating the Fayette County Tigers 65-58 Wednesday night.
The Patriots got off to a tremendous start as Elias Harden opened up the scoring with a 3-pointer, and Evan Jester connected on a putback to give Sandy Creek a 5-0 lead. AJ Freeman hit a 15-footer off a rebound by Keith Heard, and, before you knew it, Sandy Creek led 7-0.
Eric Williams finally got Fayette on the board with a 15-footer, but Freeman answered with a three to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead. Fayette’s Austin Nesmith connected on 3-pointer to cut the lead to 10-5. Harden connected on another 3-pointer to give Sandy Creek a 13-5 lead. Phillip Young kept the Tigers close by converting on a jumper and a slashing layup to cut the lead to 13-9.
The Patriots responded with a 10-point run that was lead by Harden’s driving layup on an assist by Freeman and back-to-back threes by Christian Turner. A Jester putback gave Sandy Creek a 23-12 lead at the end of first quarter.
Young scored on a putback to ignite a seven-point run by Fayette early in the second to make the score 25-19.
Javon Jackson got Sandy Creek back on track by scoring on an outlet pass by Jester and adding a free throw for the three-point play to give Sandy Creek a 28-19 lead.
Noah Gurley kept Fayette in the game by scoring two baskets and one free throw that cut the lead to 28-24. Turner answered with a three-point play to push back in front by seven.
The Tigers would not go away as Jaylon Cheffin hit a 3-pointer to make it 31-27 at halftime for the Patriots.
Nesmith opened the scoring in the second half with a three that cut the lead to 31-30. Harden and Jester both responded with buckets, but Williams connected on a three and Gurley scored on driving layup and the score was tied at 35-35.
Turner and Cheffin traded 3-pointers to keep it a tie game before Cheffin gave the Tigers their first lead with a driving layup to make it 40-38.
Gurley converted a monster slam dunk for the Tigers, but Turner would not let the Patriots fade. Turner scored three-straight for his team then used his defensive skills to get Fayette to commit a five-second violation. Livid over the call, Fayette’s coach, Andre Flynn, was given a technical foul.Turner converted on both free throws to put Sandy Creek back in front 43-42 at the end of the third quarter.
Sandy Creek scored the first five points of the fourth. Fayette answered with a coast-to-coast Young layup and another Cheffin 3-pointer to cut the lead back to 49-47.
Jackson gave the Patriots a burst of energy as he scored on a driving layup, then it was Gurley answering on a coast-to-coast drive to make the score 51-49. The Tigers just refused to die.
Freeman gave Sandy Creek a huge spark when he connected on a three on a assist by Turner, then Harden connected on one-of-two free throws to give the Patriots a 55-49 lead.
Cheffin hit another three for Fayette to make the score 57-52 Sandy Creek at 2:42 mark.
Harden connoted on a pair of free throws and a dunk off a long Turner assist to give Sandy Creek a 61-54 lead with just under a minute to play.
Cheffin sank yet another 3-pointer to cut the lead to 61-57, but the Patriots stayed calm. They ended the scoring with Freeman and Harden both converting two free throws apiece to seal up the 65-58 Sandy Creek win.
Elias Harden led all scorers with 22 points. Christian Turner posted another double-double with 21 points and 10 assists. Evan Jester added 11 rebounds.
Jaylon Cheffin lead Fayette in scoring with 19. Austin Nesmith and Noah Gurley each finished with 13.
The win improved the Patriots record to 18-7 overall and 8-3 in region play, while the loss moved the Tigers to 14-11 overall and 4-7 in region play. Most importantly, it set Sandy Creek on a collision course to meet the Woodward Academy War Eagles for the Region Championship Friday night in Carrollton. Sandy Creek and Woodward split their two regular season games, so the winner will own bragging rights and a number one seed in the State Tournament.
Our Lady of Mercy’s basketball teams have made this year one for their record books, but they’re not done yet. Both Bobcat squads advanced to the region tournament semifinals with wins over Landmark Christian, each notching a 20th win for the first time in school history.
The Bobcat boys took their turn first, beating Landmark 65-53 Wednesday afternoon.
Mercy had to battle all game against one of their toughest opponents. They grabbed some momentum early on a Charlie Feldner 3-pointer for a 14-13 first quarter lead.
Landmark battled back to grab a four-point lead early in the second, but the Bobcats had plenty left in the tank. Robert Chery had a gritty game in the post, drawing a pair of charges, and George Haynes posted a putback and Anthony Caruso hit from deep as Mercy swung in front by five. Landmark thought they had a buzzer-beater three heading into the half, but it was waved off, giving the Bobcats a 29-22 halftime lead.
Mercy kept up the pace in the second half, never letting Landmark slip back in front en route to a 65-53 victory.
Their record is now 20-4 overall, 9-2 in region play. They played Southwest Atlanta Christian Friday with their eyes set on a spot in Saturday’s region championship game.
The Lady Bobcats shook off a slow start to beat Landmark 48-36 Thursday afternoon.
Landmark was able to keep the Bobcats on their toes throughout the first half, taking advantage of Morgan Jones’s foul trouble to lead 13-7 after one quarter and 18-16 heading into the half.
Mercy didn’t take long shaking off the slump out of the locker rooms. Eboni Winston’s 3-pointer gave the Bobcats the lead at 19-18, and they wouldn’t give it back. Jones came back into the game and heated up from deep, and Anna Wilcynski posted one of her best offensive performances of the year as they pulled away for the win.
Their record is now 20-2 overall, 10-1 in region play. They also played Southwest Atlanta Christian Friday aiming for their own spot in Saturday’s region championship game.
It was a busy week of basketball for all of the county teams with region action underway. So far, three boys teams and one girls teams have clinched state playoff berths, with a shot at a region championship still alive for two squads.
The Fayette County boys are back in the state playoffs thanks to a thrilling 55-54 overtime win against Whitewater on Monday. The Tigers raced out to a 20-7 lead after one quarter and held a 42-29 lead after three quarters before the Wildcats came alive. Whitewater piled up a 21-8 advantage in the final frame to force overtime, but Fayette was able to pull out the narrow win and clinch a playoff berth.
The Tigers lost to Sandy Creek in the semifinals. They played Carrollton Friday to determine if they would enter the playoffs as a three or four seed.
Whitewater was knocked out of state playoff contention with the loss to Fayette County. The Wildcats finish with a 14-11 record.
Sandy Creek entered the region tournament as the top seed, earning a bye to the semifinals and clinching a state playoff spot. After beating Fayette, they played Woodward Academy Friday night for the region championship.
McIntosh will continue their quest for a state championship after a 50-24 win over Starr’s Mill sewed up their playoff spot. It was a balanced effort with Dishon Lowery leading the team with just 8 points, four players scoring 7, and nine total scoring at least 2 points.
The Chiefs played Drew Friday night in the semifinals. A win there would earn a spot in Saturday night’s region championship game.
Starr’s Mill opened the tournament strong with a 73-48 thrashing of Union Grove. The loss to McIntosh eliminated them from the state playoff chase.
Despite a stellar regular season, it will be a thin year in the state tournament for the girls of the county.
The Whitewater Lady Wildcats will be the lone public school team in the tournament. They opened up the region tournament with a 46-19 win over Sandy Creek on Tuesday on Fayette County High’s court to clinch their spot. Courtney Smith led the way in that game with 16 points. Janiya Jones added 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Whitewater fell 49-40 to Carrollton, the region’s top seed, Thursday night. The Cats played Troup Friday afternoon to determine if they would enter the tournament as a three or four seed.
The loss to Whitewater knocked Sandy Creek out of contention. It was amazing bounce-back season for the Patriots that saw them improve to 9-16 on a squad with no seniors after winning only five games last year and none in region play.
For the first time in a decade, the Fayette County Lady Tigers won’t be in the playoffs. A 47-40 loss to Troup in the opening round of the region tournament ends their run of state appearances.
In AAAAA, both McIntosh and Starr’s Mill opened with wins, but fell in the quarterfinals to end their seasons.
The Lady Chiefs pasted Ola 61-22 before falling to Dutchtown 48-33.
The Lady Panthers beat Union Grove 42-31 before losing to Woodland 46-25.