Starr’s Mill evens the score

Panthers avenge earlier loss to cross-town rival

Multiple Panther players celebrate with the student section. The large crowd inside the Panther Pit celebrated the Panthers’ avenging their Dec. 5 loss to the Chiefs.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

Over a month ago, the McIntosh Chiefs hosted the Starr’s Mill Panthers and defeated their biggest rival by 10 points. For the Chiefs, the 64-54 win was a crucial victory to open region play. For the Mill, it was the first of four straight losses.

They threw punches, but we could take them.”

— junior Julian Lynch

As both teams’ seasons trended in different directions, the Panthers circled the Jan. 19 rematch on their schedule. This contest was their chance to get revenge and prove themselves to their other region opponents.

“We fought. We fought really hard,” junior guard Julian Lynch said. “They threw punches, but we could take them.”

Starr’s Mill made sure this matchup wasn’t a missed opportunity. Coming off of three straight wins, the momentum carried the Panthers to a 58-48 victory in front of their home crowd. After McIntosh opened the scoring with a three-pointer from former Panther, senior Zach Pina, Starr’s Mill captured the lead and never looked back.

“We came out and showed that we have the opportunity to be one of the best teams in the region,” head coach Brandon Hutchins said. “I’m just proud of our guys. It was a total team effort.”

Lynch, who scored 22 points in the first game against McIntosh, totaled 17 points and eight rebounds on the night. Junior forward Nate Allison scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds, and blocked two shots. Senior forward Drew Hudson knocked down eight of nine free throws en route to a 16-point performance. The Panthers made 17 of 33 shots as a team, and finished 24 of 30 from the free throw line.

McIntosh was without their leading scorer Chaz Hardin. The senior guard averages 13.8 points per game and 4.7 assists per game. Without their point man, McIntosh put up their second lowest point total of the season. The Panthers were pests on defense and applied constant pressure to the Chief ball handlers.

“We put so much work and time into this, and it finally paid off,” Hudson said.

McIntosh won the tip-off and Pina opened the game with a quick three-pointer for the Chiefs. The Panthers, working against a full-court press, missed their first couple of shots before finally getting on the board. A layup was the result of fluid ball movement, and multiple free throws put Starr’s Mill up 5-3. Both teams battled for the remainder of the quarter, and the Panthers led 10-7 after the first eight minutes.

When we get the ball inside, and attack with our size, we’re pretty hard to guard.”

— head coach Brandon Hutchins

The Mill opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run to increase their lead to 18-7. Following the quick run, neither team scored for the next three minutes. McIntosh didn’t score until the 2:28 mark in the second quarter, but outscored the Panthers 7-4 over the final two minutes. The rivals went into the break with the Mill up 22-14.

“When we get the ball inside, and attack with our size, we’re pretty hard to guard,” Hutchins said. “We’re not a three-point shooting team, and we know that.”

The Panthers used the third quarter to distance themselves from the Chiefs. Their swift passing and constant motion on offense wore out the McIntosh defense, resulting in easy layups for Starr’s Mill. On defense, the Mill came up with multiple steals and scored in transition. The home team went into the final quarter with a comfortable 41-24 lead.

Our shot selection was good, and that’s why we won the game.”

— junior Nate Allison

As the fourth quarter progressed, the full-court press of McIntosh began to tire the Panther players. Starr’s Mill turned the ball over several times, allowing the Chiefs to crawl back into the game. With 33 seconds left, McIntosh had closed the gap to 52-46. However, bad shot selection from the Chiefs and clutch free throws from the Mill put the game out of reach. Hudson knocked down the final two free throws to put the Panthers up 58-48, and as the few remaining seconds ticked off of the clock, the celebrations began.

“Our shot selection was good, and that’s why we won the game,” Allison said. “I thought we finished really well and didn’t let them back into the game.”

The win improved the Panthers’ record to 12-7 overall and 5-2 in the region. After starting 1-2 in their first three region games, the Panthers have won four in a row to put them in a tie for first in the region. Their next opponent is Whitewater, who fell to Starr’s Mill 55-37 in the teams’ first matchup of the year. The Wildcats are 1-4 in region play, but are hungry for an upset on the road.

The junior varsity and ninth grade boys’ teams traveled to McIntosh for cross-town matchups of their own.  Both squads suffered losses with JV losing 56-44 and ninth grade falling to the Chiefs 49-38.  

All five Starr’s Mill basketball teams are back in action on Jan. 20 as part of a day filled with Starr’s Mill vs. Whitewater games beginning with the ninth grade game at 10 a.m. and ending with girls’ and boys’ varsity games at 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.