by Desmond Howard
Friday night brought round two of the Battle of the Bubble, and the rowdy crowd again lifted the rivalry games to a new level. Game two saw the McIntosh boys hold off for a thrilling win, while the Starr’s Mill girls dominated the opener.
Be grateful if your fingernails still exist after the nail-biter of a game that saw the McIntosh boys escape the Panther Pit with a 62-59 road win.
Following a slow start for both teams, the Panthers took an early lead 14-9 after one. The game continued to be very back-and-forth with both sides nearly matching each other bucket for bucket in the following quarter. It was clear and obvious that it would be a competitive contest when McIntosh senior Calvin Lisitza hit a 3-pointer from the corner to beat the buzzer to bring the Chiefs within a single point at 24-23 at the half.
“I’m real proud of my guys for not letting panic set in. They battled back and made some timely shots,” said McIntosh coach Jason Eisele. “I think that calmed us down a little bit. Calvin’s 3-pointer at the buzzer really gave us a little momentum, and when we got in the locker room I could see it in their eyes that they were confident. They took Starr’s Mill’s best run and came back.”
As close as the game was from start to finish, the third quarter belonged to McIntosh. This was due almost exclusively to Camerin Lyons, who had a solid six points in the first half, but erupted for 14 points in the third quarter, scoring nearly as many points as the entire Panther team during that time.
“It was just one of those games. Players talk about getting in the zone and the goal feels like it’s 20-feet wide,” said Lyons. “Everything felt good coming out. I found a level of confidence where it felt like no one could stop me.”
Neither team could gain separation in the second half, and the game was tied as late at 57-57 with 90 seconds left on a Michael Townsend putback. Lyons responded with a 3-pointer to put the Chiefs back in front by three, and Zac Cerniglia got to the hoop for two to cut it to 60-59 with 20 seconds left.
Lyons sank a pair of free throws with nine seconds left, and Cam Sutherland’s game-tying attempt at the buzzer was just off-target.
Lyons, who endured derisive chants throughout from the Starr’s Mill student section, silenced the crowd with his phenomenal third quarter performance.
“That stuff doesn’t really bother me. It’s a rivalry game, so I expect it,” Lyons said. “It pushes me. It motivates me to go out there and dominate.”
Lyons went on to finish the game with a career-best 31 points, with 8 assists and 3 steals while helping the Chiefs overcome a few late game mistakes and hold on for the victory.
“Thank God for Cam Lyons because he went off tonight. He said, This is my last Starr’s Mill game, and we’re not going to lose,’” said Eisele. “He put us on his back.”
On the other side; Starr’s Mill can look to missed opportunities from the free throw line as the reason they came up short when the clock hit zero. McIntosh missed two free throws compared to the five missed free throws for the Panthers.
Adding to Lyons’s total, Brad Grasser and Lisitza scored 8 points, Cooper Dolhancyk 7, Shaun Nichols 5, and Evan Gillanders 3 points.
Starr’s Mill was led in scoring by Brandon Allison with 13 points, followed by Malachi with 10, Zac Cerniglia with 8, Michael Townsend with 7, Elliott Baker with 6, and Reese Clevenger, Wesley Grant, and Sutherland with 5 points apiece.
The Lady Panthers handily defeated the Chiefs 49-19 in the opener.
“Its always fun,” Starr’s Mill coach Emily Sweeney said of winning against their foes. “Rival games are the ones they always like, so to beat them is nice.”
The writing was on the wall early, foretelling the type of game fans were about to witness as the Panthers hit the ground running with a 7-0 run in the first quarter.
McIntosh played as though the basket had a lid over it, struggling to get any offense going early on. Meanwhile, Starr’s Mill saw bucket after bucket fall, finishing the first quarter with a 14-3 lead.
The domination continued throughout the first half as senior guard Ashtyn Lally put up nine of the Panthers’ 27 points with three 3-pointers. Alice Anne Hudson added 7 points to the team’s total in the first half as well.
As the game went on in the second half, every player on the Panther roster had an opportunity to play in the blowout. Sophomore Jaclyn Hester had her number called to the tune of five points in the third quarter. The Panthers went on to outscore the Chiefs 20-6 in quarter three.
The final quarter of play was low scoring, and it was the only quarter in which McIntosh outscored Starr’s Mill. The Chiefs outpaced the Panthers in the final eight minutes of play 3-2 with Starr’s Mill’s only basket coming from Lally on a steal and layup as the clock expired.
Both Lally and Hudson finished the game with 13 points to account for over half of the team’s points, but their true star of the game was their physical style of play. The Panthers exerted their will on both ends of the floor from wire to wire.
Sweeney credited the energy and physicality with which the girls played to the rivalry between the two schools.
“It just played out that way,” said Sweeney.
After Lally and Hudson with 13 apiece, Ryanne King followed with 8 points, Hester with 7, Mako Suga with 3, Megan Blanchard and Kara Dial with 2, and Addie McDaniel with 1.
McIntosh was led in the scoring by Kourtlin Grant, Madison Howard, and Zara Vaughan with 4 points apiece, Becca Lobl with 3, and Olivia Henders and Bella Duiser with 2 each.