The holiday break ended with a bang as McIntosh and Whitewater tangled in the early season’s best doubleheader to date. The Chiefs rallied late in the boys game with a 68-63 overtime win, while the Lady Wildcats won 37-35 on a last-second shot in the opener.
The McIntosh boys may have come into the game with the hype, but it was Whitewater who played like a top team for most of the game. After the Chiefs led 1-0, the Wildcats would take the lead and hold it until late in the third quarter. Their advantage would even reach double digits.
“You can’t come out flat in a rivalry game,” said McIntosh coach Jason Eisele. “Whitewater did a great job. Coach (Fred West) did an awesome job. Hopefully we learned something. From here on out, we’ve got to work on putting 32 minutes together every night.”
Whitewater gave the Chiefs a stiff test, something they better get used to as they seek to build on their 13-0 start.
“We keep finding a way to win, which I’m happy about, but we’ve still got a long ways to go,” said Eisele. “We’re not trying to go 25-0, we’re trying to go 1-0 25 times. We want to win each game and take each game seriously. We’ve got a target on our back, so we’ve got to be prepared to play every time we step out there.”
Whitewater jumped out to an early lead with some hot shooting as Phil Garner and Garrett Watkins hit from downtown. Jordan Lyons answered back for the Chiefs, erasing a six-point deficit by himself with a three-point play and then a traditional trey to make it 11-11. Garner was fouled on a three-point attempt and sank all three freebies to put his Wildcats back up 14-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Garner and Zach Yeager hit from deep as the lead ballooned to seven early in the second. McIntosh kept pressing, including a dish from Chase Walter to Jemal Ahmed to keep it within reach. Watkins, who did a tremendous job all night guarding Lyons, scored the half’s final points on a bomb as Whitewater grabbed a 29-20 advantage.
McIntosh came out of the locker rooms fired up. Will Washington started with a drive to the hoop and ensuing free throw, then Ulysses Brown fired from three. Garner added a pair of treys and Phillip Venson hit from behind the arc for McIntosh as the margin hovered at five points.
Dishon Lowery showed impressive footwork in the paint all night, including a nice spin to get to the rim and slice the deficit to 39-38. Jordan Wright’s three gave Whitewater a little cushion before the Chiefs struck back. Two Venson free throws and a three-point play from Lowery gave McIntosh its first lead since 1-0 at 44-42 heading into the final frame.
Whitewater was able to get back in front, their lead peaking at 56-50 in the middle of the fourth. McIntosh geared up and limited the Cats to just one more point the rest of regulation. Lyons continued getting to the hoop and Venson went three-of-four on free throws down the stretch as the Chiefs tied the score at 57-57, a mark that would hold through the final buzzer as the game headed to overtime.
Garner continued his tremendous game with two early buckets. Ridge Perkins added two free throws as Whitewater led 63-61, but they would be shut out the rest of the way, hurt by Garner fouling out. Lyons made sure no one could keep him from the basket, sinking two freebies and a jumper to make it a 63-63 tie. Washington came through with a big steal, then converted one of his free throws to put the Chiefs back up by one.
Lowery followed with a clutch block on the defensive end to snuff out a good look. After the inbounds, Washington swiped the ball free and Lyons corralled it and drew a foul. Lyons hit both free throws and repeated the trick after rebounding Whitewater’s errant tying three-pointer attempt. His four late points iced the 68-63 victory.
Despite facing air-tight defense, Lyons lit up the scoreboard with 27 points. He was at his best when the Chiefs needed him most, sinking 10 of 13 free throws and scoring eight of the team’s 11 overtime points.
Will Washington followed with 13 points. Dishon Lowery posted a double-double with a dominant 12 point, 14 rebound performance.
Garner had his own huge night, leading the Wildcats with 26 points. Victor Ayuk added 12.
The girls game was an exceptional display of physicality and defensive intensity. Every possession was a battle from the opening tip until the final whistle. While the game was non-region, it will go a long way towards showing both teams that they can compete.
“It is always good to beat a county team. It was a great win for us. We start region play this week so it is always good to go into the next game winning the last one,” said Lady Wildcat coach Rashad Muhyee. “David (Dowse) does a great job at McIntosh. His players are always prepared and they play hard the entire game.”
Neither team gained much separation all night, the largest lead of the game a short-lived seven points. Whitewater started with a lead, but a Madison Emmet basket and three free throws from DeLayne Rotolo pulled the Chiefs in front. An 8-8 tie at the end of the first quarter would lead to a 17-17 halftime tie. Alexa Baumgartner fed Moriah Perkins as Whitewater stretched in front by seven, before Cassidy Williams heated up. Williams scored five points at the end of the half, sandwiching an Olivia Baker bucket, to even the score up heading into halftime.
The Chiefs did much of their third quarter scoring from beyond the arc as Williams, Rotolo, and Samantha Coffey each sank a three. Whitewater responded by upping the defensive pressure. Jordan Barnett and Madison Mueller both swiped a pair of steals and Jada Coggins notched the third quarter’s final points for a 29-26 lead.
“For us, defense is always the key,” said Muhyee. “When we play team defense, we can play with anyone. It was a great effort by the entire team on the defensive end.”
The Wildcats’ hot streak continued as they stretched their lead to five early in the fourth when Coggins stole the ball and fed Barnett for a layup and a 35-30 margin.
McIntosh responded with increased intensity on both ends, nearly shutting out Whitewater the rest of the game. They slowly chipped away at the deficit, pulling back within two points with two minutes to play. They suffered a big blow when Rotolo drove to the hoop and was tripped, hitting the court hard. She would have to leave the game and ended up needing stitches to close a gash on her forehead. Harley Obsitnik was put into a big spot, coming off the bench to shoot Rotolo’s shots. She came up huge, sinking both to tie the game at 35-35 with 31 seconds left.
Whitewater made their final points count, Jada Coggins working on the baseline and putting in the winning points with just four seconds left on the clock.
Coggins led the Wildcats with 16 points, followed by Barnett with 13.