Jeremiah Vrudny dropped 29 points for Starr\'s Mill.
(Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)
They did it again. Starr's Mill and McIntosh staged another thrilling edition in the Battle of the Bubble. For the fifth time in seven meetings, the game was settled by three points or less. This time the Panthers came out on top, holding on for the win after the Chiefs three attempt at the buzzer was unsuccessful.
It was just the latest game in a great rivalry. The teams match up well. They bring out the best in each other. There's a respect between the foes.
"We knew we had a battle on our hands coming in here," said Starr's Mill coach Brandon Hutchins. "You've gotta give (McIntosh) credit. They're a great team. Coach (Jason) Eisele is a great coach."
At times it looked like Starr's Mill would pull away and cruise to victory. At the half, the Panthers led by eight. Late in the third quarter it was a nine point margin. Somehow you just knew it would end that way. It didn't. McIntosh made a furious charge in the fourth quarter, spurred by four huge three pointers by Alex Cervantes. The second triple by Cervantes would give the Chiefs a 51-50 lead with 4:30 left.
Starr's Mill clawed right back in front. Jeremiah Vrudny did what he did all night and got clutch buckets. Vrudny staked his team to a 66-63 lead with just four seconds left.
McIntosh had the last gasp chance to tie the game up, and they got a good look, but the shot was tipped away. Another great end in the rivalry.
"Any kind of rivalry games, especially this one, always comes down to close ones. I tip my hat to Starr's Mill. They played really well tonight," said McIntosh coach Jason Eisele. "We knew we had some matchup problems going in with their size. I think my guys played hard tonight. We've got to trust each other and trust the coach and make sure we put ourselves in the best position to win."
As always, the crowd, particularly the students from both schools, helped bring the game to the next level.
"As a high school athlete you couldn't ask to play in a better atmosphere than this," Hutchins said of the crowd. "What a great game."
The finish was set up by a big McIntosh rally that started at the tail end of the third quarter. Trailing 45-36, Dishon Lowery sent his Chiefs into the fourth on a high note. Lowery hit his first throw, then grabbed his own rebound on his missed second shot. Lowery drew a foul and sank the ensuing two free throws to cut the deficit to six points heading into the final frame.
The ending would be a wild back and forth of monster shot after monster shot from both sides.
Cervantes opened the fourth his with first three pointer to make it a three point game. Will Washington kept the crowd rocking with a huge dunk off the baseline to make it a one point game at 47-46. Vrudny popped in a hook shot, but Jordan Lyons answered with a bank shot. Cervantes put his Chiefs ahead 51-50. Ryan Avidano put the Panthers back ahead on a jumper and Vrudny added to the lead with some handy work around the rim. Cervantes tied it right up at 54-54 on another long ball. David Watson and Vrudny put in buckets and Avidano sank two key free throws for a 61-55 lead with a minute to play.
McIntosh kept up the pressure as Terrance Gaines hit a three. Vrudny got behind the defense on a long pass and dunked it for a 63-58 lead with 25 seconds left. Cervates drained another trey to cut it back down to two points with 18 to go.
Vrudny and Lyons each traded a pair of freebies to make it 65-63 with five seconds left. Vrudny made one more free throw for a three point with four seconds left. McIntosh was able to get the ball up court and get a decent look for the tying shot, but the Panthers tipped it away.
Starr's Mill stormed the court in celebration of the thrilling victory. It was their first over McIntosh since a another wild ending saw them win 37-35 back in 2011.
Jeremiah Vrudny led the way for Starr's Mill with a monster 29 point performance, including a quartet of dunks. Ryan Avidano dropped in 12 while David Watson added 11.
Will Washington led the Chiefs with 17 points. Alex Cervantes scored 14, 12 of them on his four big threes in the final frame. Jordan Lyons added 13.
Another great finish will only up the stakes when the two teams meet again, this time at Starr's Mill, on Tuesday, February 4. Don't miss the next great game.
The Starr's Mill Lady Panthers used a strong fourth quarter push to beat McIntosh 43-31 in the early game.
Starr's Mill held a narrow two point lead heading into the final frame, but big plays by Katie Wilson helped the Panthers claw out a win. Wilson hit two huge three pointers, a pair of clutch free throws, and snatched a steal at the end to help ice the game.
"We played our hearts out. I'm so proud of them," said Starr's Mill coach Shane Ratliff. "Katie Wilson really stepped up in the fourth quarter. She stepped up and made some big shots."
The two teams locked into a defensive battle for most of the evening. An 11-8 Starr's Mill lead after one quarter turned into a 17-17 tie at the half.
McIntosh would briefly grab the lead, at 24-23, when Cassidy Williams sank a three with a defender in her face. The Panthers would lock back in and hold a 26-24 lead going into the fourth.
"We went out and said we were going to play some tough defense on them," Ratliff said. "We tried to throw some different things at them."
The Panther defense held the normally explosive Williams to eight points. Christine Cerezola and Madison O'Rourke each had nine for the Chiefs.
Katie Wilson notched 13 for Starr's Mill with Katie Buck adding nine.