Christian Turner led Sandy Creek in a hardfought loss to
Columbia in the quarterfinals.
(Staff Photo by Chris
By Jimmie Haywood
& Christopher Dunn
Fayette County’s last team standing in the GHSA AAAA basketball tournament fell after Sandy Creek was outmuscled by last year's state runner-up Columbia in a 63-44 quarterfinal loss Thursday.
“These are a great bunch of kids and they put everything they had into it,” Sandy Creek coach Willie Reese said about his team. “They worked extremely hard and I hate it for our seniors, but they have set a bar and hopefully we can match that bar and exceed it next year.”
Christian Turner led Sandy Creek in scoring with 10 points and did all he could to keep the Patriots in the game by constantly penetrating Columbia's defense.
Columbia got out to an early lead in the first quarter, but with a collective team effort Sandy Creek fought back to cut the deficit to one (12-11) after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Sandy Creek continued the momentum from the end of the first to take a 17-14 lead at the 6:35 mark. However, as its pedigree suggests, Columbia stormed back with a heightened defensive effort which resulted in a ten point swing that helped them go into halftime ahead 31-24.
“I thought in the first half it was a close game. We played aggressive,” Reese said. “But they did a really good job of offsetting our matchup zone, and we started making some adjustments going into the second half, but Columbia is a good team.”
The third quarter started poorly for the Patriots as Columbia went on a 7-2 run to take a 38-26 lead with 4:43 remaining in the frame. Overall, Columbia only outscored the Sandy Creek 16-10 in the quarter as the Patriots started a mini rally. IT was highlighted (and subsequently ended) after Turner was fouled hard on a layup attempt and remained down for a spell, which froze the Patriot momentum after they cut the deficit to five.
Trailing 47-34 entering the fourth quarter, the Patriots turned to Turner, Brandon Lindsey (8 points), and Javon Jackson (nine) who combined to score all 10 of Sandy Creek’s points in the quarter, as the Eagles once again raised their defensive intensity smothering the Patriots and helping them increase their lead.
Maurice Rivers finished with a game-high 19 points for Columbia and Nick Singleton followed up with 14 points.
Despite the loss, next year looks to be just as promising as this year was for Sandy Creek.
“I think it’s really bright,” Reese said about looking to next year. “We got some key guys coming back and this loss, although it hurts right now, lets us know where we want to be and how much we got to work to get there.”
The Patriots had to pull out a thriller to earn their shot at Columbia. They held on against a late rally by Johnson to win 83-80 in overtime in round two.
"The key to our victory was being able to stay calm and withstand the runs that we knew they were going to have," said Reese. "It's always special to see your team mature on the road in a hostile environment."
The Patriots led the whole game before Johnson was able to knot the game up late. Sandy Creek kept the pressure on after regulation to punch their ticket to the quarterfinals.
Christian Turner led the team in scoring with 17 points, while Javon Jackson added 16.
The Fayette County girls capped off another deep playoff run in the quarterfinals as they couldn't quite get past Redan in a 52-45 loss on Wednesday. The Lady Tigers got out to a strong start as they led 12-6 after one quarter. It was the second quarter when things came undone a bit as Redan went on a 19-6 run. The duo of Destini McClary (19 points) and Taylor Tucker (14 rebounds) gave Fayette fits.
The Fayette boys also fell to Columbia, their defeat coming in the second round 67-58. The Tigers looked like they had the game all but locked up as they road the three pointer to a late lead. Unfortunately, Columbia whittled away a nine point fourth quarter lead as they eliminated Fayette. A 27 point fourth quarter for the Eagles was the killer. It was a reverse for the Tigers as they had just capped off their own 24-7 run.
The Tigers finished the night with three scoring in double figures. Dante' Sterling and Clark Minnifield both finished with 15 points. Chaz Berry added 13.
For McIntosh, the buzzer was a bit too slow as they saw a late lead slip away in a 54-51 loss to Northside. In a cruel twist, Northside is the same school that knocked the Chiefs out of the football playoffs.
The Chiefs started hot, using a 9-0 run to help build up a 29-15 halftime lead. The lead was still eight points when the final frame started.
"We ran out of gas late," said McIntosh coach Jason Eisele. "I think my players know that they have the talent and that we are very close to being a dominant team. We will have a laser-like focus in the offseason as we try to correct our deficiencies."
A questionable lack of a foul didn't help matters. Jordan Lyons attempted what could have been the game-tying three at the buzzer. There was contact, but the officials kept their whistles in their pockets.
"I think this experience of playing for a region championship and advancing in the playoffs will pay huge dividends next season and beyond," Eisele added.
Lyons led the Chiefs with 18 points, followed by Alex Cervantes with 16 and Will Washington with 10.