Freshman Jordan Lyons has keyed the Chief attack.
(Photo by Michelle Perkins)
McIntosh hosted the East Coweta Indians on Saturday and squeaked out a 60-56 win in what turned out to be an intense, back and forth matchup. Freshman guard Jordan Lyons played like a senior, racking up 22 points and seemingly hitting a shot every time ECHS started to build momentum. The game was tight start to finish, and McIntosh made just enough key plays in the final minutes to pull it out.
The Chiefs had the look of a prepared, well coached team early on in the game. Their swarming zone defense mostly forced East Coweta to settle for long jumpers, and the moment a shot clanked off the rim, McIntosh players were hustling down the floor to make a play in transition. The Chiefs got a slew of easy buckets from running the floor, and repeatedly beat the Indians' full court press with ease to get layups.
Despite the success on offense and a mostly effective zone defense, McIntosh only held a 29-28 lead at half, thanks to some sweet shooting from Indians' lefty Jeremy Farmer, who sank four three-pointers in the first half. McIntosh coach Jason Eisele told his players at intermission that the next player to allow Farmer to hit a shot would be yanked from the game. Farmer did hit one long range bomb in the second half, but that was it, as McIntosh shifted its attention toward him. He finished with 16 points after putting up 13 in the first half.
"We know East Coweta likes to fill it up from outside and they've always got good shooters," coach Eisele said. The hot hand of Farmer in particular prompted a change in defensive focus in the second half.
"We really focused on getting out on shooters. We switched our zone up a little bit midway through the second half and that gave them a little bit of trouble I think and threw them off a little bit," Eisele said.
With Farmer's scoring slowed, East Coweta needed someone else to makes some plays, and they got that from point guard Zhakeer Jervey, who took over after starter Rodney Craig was knocked out of the game with an injury in the first quarter. Jervey was huge in the second half, hitting pull up jumpers and taking it to the hoop on his way to 15 points for the game. His play, plus good offensive rebounding and cranked up defensive pressure, kept East Coweta in the game and set up the exciting final few minutes.
The score was knotted up 47-47 with five minutes to go following a Jervey lay up. As he had all night, McIntosh's Lyons immediately threw the brakes on East Coweta's momentum by draining a three-pointer, then intercepting a pass and cruising in for a layup to give the Chiefs a quick five point advantage, 52-47.
As the clock ticked closer to zero East Coweta cranked up its defensive pressure and started turning the Chiefs over. Two quick McIntosh turnovers with two minutes left led to easy buckets, giving the Indians a 56-55 lead.
With a 56-55 lead and only a minute to go, it looked like the Indians would go home with a win. Instead, McIntosh made a string of clutch plays, starting with a steal of an ECHS inbounds pass, which led to a McIntosh bucket and a 57-56 advantage. The Chiefs then got what was maybe the play of the game from their other talented freshman, Will Washington. As East Coweta worked the ball around the perimeter looking for the go ahead shot, Washington darted in to steal a pass along the sideline, then managed to jump, spin, and whip the ball off of an East Coweta player who had fallen to the ground. It was an incredibly athletic and savvy play, and it ended up sealing the game as the Indians were forced to foul and the Chiefs hit their free throws.
That clutch pay aside, Washington brought energy all night, scoring 10 points. He and Lyons really led the team with a poise beyond their years.
"Both of them really make us go, and as freshmen go what makes them so good is they've got the skills, but they've got the court I.Q. too, and that makes them special players. I'm looking forward to having them here three more years," coach Eisele said.
These two teams will have a rematch on Jan. 26, this time on East Coweta's floor.