Panthers take down Chiefs for first region championship


Shelby Foster

The Panthers celebrate their first ever region championship. Starr’s Mill had lost their past three region championship games, but beat McIntosh 37-33 to bring the trophy to the Mill.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

When the Starr’s Mill boys’ basketball team walked onto the floor before their game against McIntosh, the school had never won a region championship. Being 0-3 in games of that sort, Starr’s Mill was ready to make history in what has already been a redefining season for the program.

We were down in the third quarter, but we battled back and got the win.”

— senior forward Drew Hudson

The contest with the Chiefs lived up to the hype, as the two teams battled back and forth for 32 minutes. When the final buzzer sounded, the Panthers charged the floor to celebrate their first ever region championship.

“It feels outstanding,” head coach Brandon Hutchins said. “I’m happy for our basketball program.”

Not many points were scored in the Panthers’ 37-33 win over the Chiefs, but senior forward Drew Hudson still managed to score for the Mill. Hudson tallied 16 points and three rebounds while also knocking down all four of his free throw attempts. Junior Julian Lynch scored nine points and added three steals and a crucial block late in the game. Senior Jake Bishop scored all six of his points in the fourth quarter, while dishing out four assists.

McIntosh was led by senior Zach Pina, who scored nine points on 3 of 3 shooting from behind the arc. The Chiefs pressured the Starr’s Mill offense and forced multiple turnovers, but failed to take advantage of the extra possessions.

“We played as a team and never gave up,” Hudson said. “We were down in the third quarter, but we battled back and got the win.”

The Panthers hot start propelled them to an early 11-3 lead over the Chiefs. Hudson scored six early points, while McIntosh struggled with turnovers. The Chiefs quickly changed their defense to put more pressure on Starr’s Mill. As a result, the Panthers began to turn the ball over, but McIntosh also struggled to control the ball. The game was slowed for the rest of the first quarter, and the Panthers led 11-6 going into the second.

To begin the second quarter, McIntosh scored four quick points to come within one of the Mill. However, both teams’ turnover issues continued. Throughout the quarter, baskets were hard to come by but the Panthers never gave up the lead. At the end of the half, Starr’s Mill led 16-15.

Shelby Foster
A Panther player shoots over a Chief defender. For the second year in a row, the Panthers will play host for their first round matchup of the AAAAA GHSA State Playoffs.

“We held our composure and just kept battling like we’ve done all year,” Hutchins said.

The Chiefs gained their first lead of the game early in the third quarter, but didn’t pull away. Both teams traded baskets and fought back and forth throughout the eight-minute stretch. Turnovers continued to plague either side, but Starr’s Mill was able to take a 29-25 lead into the final quarter.

McIntosh opened the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run to take a 31-29 lead over the Panthers. After a short offensive drought from the two rivals, Starr’s Mill attained a 33-31 lead from baskets by Hudson and Bishop. Late in the game, McIntosh found an easy layup under the basket, but the shot was rejected by Lynch. After the block, the Chiefs were forced to foul. Hudson and Bishop knocked down their free throws to bury McIntosh 37-33.

“They were guarding [Hudson] and [Lynch], so someone had to step up,” Bishop said. “The opportunities were there so I went after it.”

The Panthers are now 18-7 on the year and ride a 10-game win streak into the state playoffs. They will enter the tournament as the No. 8 team in the state for AAAAA, according to Their first round matchup is against Woodland (Stockbridge). The Wolfpack are 18-8 this season, and 13-3 in Region 4-AAAAA. The contest is on Feb. 16 in the Panther Pit with tip off at 7:30 p.m.