Starr’s Mill head coach Charlemagne Gibbons described his halftime speech to his team as a “Coming to Jesus” moment. He wasn’t pleased with the effort the Panthers gave in the first half of Tuesday’s rivalry game against McIntosh.
The Panthers sauntered into halftime tied at 28 with the Chiefs. Gibbons wasn’t happy his team played too relaxed. He noticed the aggressive mentality wasn’t there from the jump and he let his players hear about it in the locker room.
“I told them is that we better defend with some more energy,” Gibbons said. “That was the main part of it.”
The message was heard loud and clear.
In the second half, Starr’s Mill locked down McIntosh on both ends of the court. They outscored the Chiefs by 20 points to run away with a 69-49 victory. Senior forward Nate Allison led the way with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Junior guard Jamaine Mann added 18 points and sophomore Brandon Allison chipped in 7 points off the bench.
“It feels great beating McIntosh and it’s always a good feeling,” Nate Allison said. “We played well as a team.”
Starr’s Mill improved to 2-6 overall and picked up its first victory in region play. McIntosh fell to 1-4 after suffering back-to-back region losses.
“We have trouble staying focused through a full game,” McIntosh head coach Jason Eisele said. “I thought we came out in the first quarter hot and executed our game plan pretty well. This is the third game in a row where we didn’t execute in the second half. It’s something we have to work on.”
The Chiefs hung tough in the first half. Bruce Carpenter paced the offense early with 11 of his 22 points coming in the first half. The senior guard broke down the Panthers’ defense and got to the rim at ease. His performance was highlighted by a one-handed dunk over Panther guard Zac Cerniglia that got the crowd hype.
McIntosh fed off Carpenter’s energy to hold a 15-14 lead after the first period. Both teams traded baskets in the second quarter. Then, Starr’s Mill went on a run. Junior guard Daryl Rice keyed the scoring outburst with a nice assist to senior Julian Lynch for a two-handed slam.
The Panthers held a 28-21 lead when McIntosh senior Keenan Brown responded with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Two plays later, senior Camerin Lyons forced a steal and hit Naj Ashley-Emory for an easy bucket.
Ashley-Emory finished with 11 points and Lyons poured in 6 points.
After halftime, the Panthers took control. Mann came alive in the third quarter with 8 points, and Brandon Allison hit a crucial 3-pointer that sparked an 11-2 run to open the fourth. In that run, Cerniglia got some payback with a big three that forced McIntosh to call a timeout.
“We were looking for some energy,” Gibbons said. “Brandon is young and going to be a good basketball player. He had his best practice of the season on Monday. We told him that if he practices that way, he will play well in games… He had a great run out there and I was proud of him.”
McIntosh tried to create one last rally. However, the Panthers forced them into foul trouble late and took care of business at the free-throw line.
After the game, Eisele felt his team needed to execute better to win. He plans on finding a solution in practice.
“Until we execute and work as a team, we aren’t going to put points on the board,” Eisele said. “Defensively, it is the same thing. We got to play as a team and trust each other. We just aren’t there yet.”
McIntosh is back in action against Troup County on Friday. They look for revenge after losing on November 27. As for Starr’s Mill, they hit the road to face Whitewater in an important region matchup.
Lady Panthers roll past McIntosh
Starr’s Mill junior guard Alice Anne Hudson recognized the play right away.
As McIntosh freshman guard Carrie Consolino drove left, Hudson knew this was her chance. As she shifted her momentum, Hudson planted her right foot and stepped in front of the intended pass.
The ball went careening towards the sideline. In a dead sprint, Hudson gathered the loose ball and scored an easy layup. As she came up the court, she winked at Starr’s Mill head coach Emily Sweeney.
After the game, Hudson shared she recognized the play due to extra film work she put in on Sunday afternoon.
“We watched film on them against Landmark and I studied how she drives to the basket,” Hudson said. “She is quicker than everyone else. Once I studied, it got in my head, and I knew how to guard her.”
The preparation came in handy for the Starr’s Mill. All night, the Lady Panthers seemed one step ahead of the Lady Chiefs. Hudson led all players with 17 points. Junior guard Ashtyn Lally and freshman Jaclyn Hester added 11 points as the Panthers cruised to a 44-29 victory.
The Panthers improved to 2-4 overall and earned their first region victory. McIntosh fell to 5-1 after starting the season undefeated.
“It felt really nice to be honest (beating McIntosh),” Hudson said. “But, we are trying to get in the region championship again. We are focusing on that and being our best against every team.”
Both teams struggled to find their shot in the first half. Fouls marred the action and caused for some uneven gameplay. As a result, both teams mustered just 28 total points in the first 16 minutes. Starr’s Mill held the lead 17-11 at halftime.
The Panthers quickly found a rhythm in the third quarter. They went on a 15-2 run, jumping out to a 32-13 lead. Hudson sparked the run with 6 consecutive points. With 4:30 left in the frame, the Chiefs were forced to call a timeout after Hester, Lally, and Hudson hit three straight 3-pointers.
“It was really nice as we have been struggling a little bit,” Sweeney said. “For it to finally start clicking, it was nice to watch.”
After the timeout, McIntosh head coach Rick Fontaine went to a full-court press. The strategy didn’t slow down the Panthers. Starr’s Mill finished the quarter with 21 points and held a 20-point lead.
“The third quarter I knew that I needed to step it up,” Hudson said. “It was a really close game and if we didn’t start putting pressure on them, it was going to be a close game until the end.”
McIntosh made a run in the fourth quarter. They scored 10 points, in the frame, behind 5 points from Consolino. She finished with 14 points to lead the team.
The Chiefs will be back in action Friday night against Troup County. The Panthers have Whitewater on the road. Both games will be a chance to create momentum as the schedule expands into December.
“We can be pretty good I think, and that is the hope,” Sweeney said. “We always want to be better than last year.”
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