Sandy Creek races past McIntosh 76-53 in Tuesday showdown
Sandy Creek boys basketball head coach Jon-Michael Nickerson challenged his team after a disappointing loss to Stockbridge High School on Monday night.
He called the loss the worst of the season and wasn’t happy with Patriots energy level and discipline on both ends of the floor. Nickerson wanted them to respond to adversity like men and not bring negative energy into a highly-contested matchup with McIntosh, who was ranked No. 10 in the Class AAAAA.
The message was received loud and clear as Sandy Creek dominated McIntosh 76-53 on Tuesday night in front of a raucous home crowd. The Patriots played one step ahead all night and relied on speed and length to frustrate the Chiefs en route to their ninth victory.
Junior forward TJ Bickerstaff lead the charge with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists. His athleticism was too much for an undersized McIntosh defense. Bickerstaff’s ability to control the glass early made for easy transition opportunities for the Patriots.
“He was committed to finishing and being a man at the rim and in the paint,” Nickerson said. “It is something we focus on daily with him as we don’t want him to float around the 3-point line.”
Those transition points benefited senior guards Kameron Miller and Jarred Godfrey. Both players were able to get out and run on the perimeter. Godfrey finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds, while Miller chipped in with 4 points and 7 assists.
The fast-paced offense was a pleasant sight for Nickerson. He said after the game that he could feel the energy of his team in the building.
“They defended really well, and we had very few breakdowns from the game plan,” Nickerson said. “They executed really well and I like what I saw.”
Things didn’t go quite as well for McIntosh. At one point, they were held scoreless for three minutes in the fourth quarter and found themselves down 30 points. Only senior guard Chaz Hardin reached double-figures with 17 points.
McIntosh couldn’t seem to find a rhythm offensively and were visibly frustrated with the immense pressure of the Sandy Creek defense. This resulted in two big technical foul calls on senior point guard Zach Pina and head coach Jason Eisele.
They also couldn’t get star forward Cole Guenther involved in the flow of the game. He started out with the team’s first three points, but was held to just five points the rest of the contest.
As a result, the Chiefs struggled to keep up the pace and were forced out of their comfort zone of making high percentage shots. They settled for 3-pointers and missed open attempts. This season, the Chiefs average 38 percent on 3-pointers. Against Sandy Creek, they only shot 25 percent (4-for-16) on the night.
“The whole thing was to make sure they didn’t get open threes,” Nickerson said. “We were willing to give up two-point shots, but we didn’t want to give them threes or catch and shoot looks.”
While the game didn’t affect region standings, it did serve as a benchmark for both teams as they head into the second-half of the season. McIntosh will bounce back from a tough night and could be a force in Class AAAAA Region 3 play. As for Sandy Creek, the win was another reminder that with high-energy, the team could wind up back in Final Four of the State playoffs.
“They listened to the game plan and it showed them that when they listen and buy in to what we are saying, we will be successful,” Nickerson said.
Daija Powell leads Lady Patriots to close victory over McIntosh
A star is rising at Sandy Creek High School and her name is Daija Powell.
The sophomore forward is quickly climbing up the ranks of dominating Patriot athletes and took the next step with an amazing performance against McIntosh on Tuesday. Powell scored 22 points and collected 18 rebounds in the Patriots 43-38 win over the Lady Chiefs. She also blocked three shots along the way.
Her most impressive feat was digging the offense out of an early third quarter hole by scoring all 12 of the Lady Patriots’ points. The scoring output helped Sandy Creek stay afloat in the second-half.
“She had to get in rhythm,” head coach Janie Hodges said. “I think sometimes she tried to force the offense instead of letting it come to her. She stepped up big for us in the third quarter.”
The Patriots needed it as McIntosh started hot from the opening tip. The Chiefs jumped out to a quick lead behind nine points from junior guard Rylee Calhoun. She hit three shots from 3-point range and outscored the Patriots for the majority of the first quarter.
Calhoun got help from a unique game plan that forced ball movement to break the zone defense Sandy Creek was playing. She found open shots and finished the game with 19 points.
Backcourt teammate Kennedy Miller also played a pivotal role in McIntosh taking an early lead. She scored five first quarter points to give the Chiefs a 14-9 lead.
Things didn’t get better after the first quarter. McIntosh went into a drought and only scored five points in the second frame. They struggled to move the ball and were held scoreless for nearly four minutes of game action.
A key moment in the game was two crucial charges assessed to Calhoun. It ruptured the momentum of the Chiefs and gave the Patriots life.
At halftime, Sandy Creek held on to a 20-19 lead. They would hold on to the lead until late in the fourth quarter when junior forward Paris Thompson hit a clutch layup with 90 seconds remaining to make it 38-36.
Thompson would later deflect a shot at the rim and make two free throws to close out Sandy Creek’s sixth victory of the season. She finished with 11 points, including seven points in the fourth quarter.
Her effort was not lost on the team. Hodges praised her performance and said it helped keep the team’s 2018 goals intact.
Hodges hopes the team can finish strong heading into region play.
“We come ready to play whoever they are in front of us,” Hodges said. “Our goal for 2018 is no more losses. We are starting out in the right direction.”
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