Lynch, Hudson lead Panthers to top seed

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Lynch, Hudson lead Panthers to top seed

A Panther forward drives past a Griffin defender. The Panthers shot an impressive 21 of 26 from the free throw line in their 27-point blowout of Griffin.

A Panther forward drives past a Griffin defender. The Panthers shot an impressive 21 of 26 from the free throw line in their 27-point blowout of Griffin.

Katie Linkner

A Panther forward drives past a Griffin defender. The Panthers shot an impressive 21 of 26 from the free throw line in their 27-point blowout of Griffin.

Katie Linkner

Katie Linkner

A Panther forward drives past a Griffin defender. The Panthers shot an impressive 21 of 26 from the free throw line in their 27-point blowout of Griffin.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

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Despite breaking three school records in their recent win over Riverdale, the Panthers weren’t satisfied with what they accomplished. They followed up their historic win over Riverdale with a 62-35 demolition of Griffin on senior night. In doing so, they finished the season with a 10-2 region record. McIntosh suffered a 68-64 loss to Morrow, which gave Starr’s Mill the No. 1 seed in the region for the upcoming tournament.

Katie Linkner
A Panther guard shoots over a Bear defender. Starr’s Mill used a 17-0 third quarter run to separate themselves from the visiting Griffin Bears.

“Our basketball program hasn’t had much success over the years,” head coach Brandon Hutchins said. “This is unprecedented territory for us, but we’re just beginning.”

Senior forward Drew Hudson, who broke the boys’ career scoring record against Riverdale, played another great game against Griffin. Hudson tallied 22 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks. Junior guard Julian Lynch added another 20 points, while shooting 8 of 11 from the free throw line. The duo led the Panthers to their ninth straight win despite missing their starting forward, junior Nate Allison.

Griffin struggled offensively throughout the whole game, with zero players scoring double-digit points. The team only made 11 total field goals and shot 13 of 17 from the free throw line. Turnovers plagued them throughout the entire game, and the loss dropped them to 6-18 on the year, and 1-11 in the region.

“We shared the ball well,” Lynch said. “We had some dumb turnovers, but we picked it up in the second half.”

The Panther passing display earned them easy points right from the tip-off. Starr’s Mill was patient on offense and moved the ball until they got an easy shot. On defense they forced turnovers and turned those into fast break points. Hudson scored eight points in the opening quarter, and the Panthers led 19-10 going into the second quarter.

Both offenses slowed down in the second quarter as turnovers hurt both sides. The Panthers didn’t score for the first five minutes of the quarter, but still held their lead. The Bears out-scored Starr’s Mill 11-9 in the quarter, but still trailed 27-21 at halftime.

[T]he third quarter is our quarter.”

— head coach Brandon Hutchins

“The second quarter is our worst quarter,” Hutchins said. “For some reason the third quarter is our quarter.”

The third quarter was indeed owned by Starr’s Mill. Griffin scored the first four points of the half to bring the score to 27-25, but the Panthers responded in a big way. Consistent ball movement and constant hustle resulted in a 17-0 run for the Mill, increasing the lead to 44-25. Each team scored once more in the quarter, and the Panthers led 46-27 going into the fourth.

More turnovers from the Bears and more easy baskets for Starr’s Mill helped the Panthers hold on for their 17th win on the season. Griffin’s scoring drought in the third proved to be too much to overcome, and they fell to the Mill 62-35. The victory at home concluded the Panthers’ perfect season on their home court, while also gifting them their ninth win in a row.

“We have a lot of momentum right now,” Hudson said. “We just have to keep playing as a team and playing hard.”

Over their win streak, the Panthers average margin of victory is 14.7 points, with seven double-digit victories. They look to carry that momentum into the region tournament at Riverdale. The Panthers may be the top seed, but Starr’s Mill has never won the tournament, and is 0-3 in championship games. The tournament starts on Feb. 6 and concludes on Feb. 9. All games will be played at Riverdale High School.