by Desmond Howard
Following a 66-50 victory over the visiting Chestatee War Eagles, the Sandy Creek Patriots are moving on to the next round of the state playoffs.
Sandy Creek wasted no time early on, opening up the game with a 12-0 run. Per usual, Jabari Smith got out to a quick start, scoring eight points in the first quarter en route to a 27-point performance.
After the first few minutes, Chestatee proved it would not be a cakewalk for the Patriots, going on a quick run themselves to pull closer before the end of the quarter. Kyle Bowmar led the charge for Chestatee with six points in the first, but Sandy Creek finished the quarter with a 19-10 lead.
The next eight minutes of gameplay were more of the same, with SC outscoring Chestatee 17-13 to take a 36-23 lead at the half.
Sandy Creek head coach Jon-Michael Nickerson was not going to let his team look past the War Eagles.
“The casual person who hasn’t watched film on that team sees a tiny team that doesn’t know how to play basketball, but I see a team that is skilled, knows how to run, play in space, and knock shots down,” he said.
Such a description was warranted following Chestatee’s second half performance. Chestatee drained five second half 3-pointers, and for a moment seemed like the comeback was possible. The catalyst for the offensive surge was basic ball movement and spacing, as the Sandy Creek defense was pushed to its limit chasing the ball flying from one spot to another. Unfortunately for Chestatee fans, and to the delight of the Sandy Creek crowd, the Patriots were more athletic and held steadfast to a lead that they would not relinquish from wire-to-wire.
Smith led the way with a dominant effort, posting 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Matt Williams followed with 9 points, Immanuel Alexander, Darryl Rice, and Brian Branch with 7 each, and Deshon Proctor with 5.
Next up they host the Baldwin Braves (14-9) in round two Thursday, Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m.. Baldwin is coming off a 59-38 win over Westover in round one. They feature a balance attack led by junior William Freeman (16.5 points per game), junior Jermyus Simmons (14.8), and freshman Rudolph Satcher (11.3), but they do not have any players taller than 6-6.
As the Patriots turn their attention towards the Sweet Sixteen, Nickerson doesn’t have to light a fire under his team. They take care of it themselves.
“It’s not my job to make them hungry,” he said. “They’re self-motivated. I don’t have to motivate them.”