Talented recruits battle in overtime thriller


Shelby Foster

Junior Panther Jamaine Mann defends senior Patriot T.J. Bickerstaff. Mann, ranked 97th in the nation in the class of 2020 according to 247sports.com, scored 25 points while going head-to-head with Bickerstaff, who is a Drexel commit and nephew of NBA head coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

The Panther Pit was filled with talent when the Sandy Creek Patriots traveled to Fayetteville to take on the Starr’s Mill Panthers. Senior Patriot T.J. Bickerstaff, Drexel commit and nephew of Memphis Grizzlies’ head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, led Sandy Creek into a contest against senior Nate Allison, Navy commit, and junior Jamaine Mann, ranked 97th nationally for the class of 2020 according to 247sports.com.

I can’t ask the team for anything else…The guys laid it on the line. It was a great effort.”

— head coach Charlemagne Gibbons

The two talent-filled rosters competed in a match that resulted in some free basketball for the fans, as it took an overtime for Sandy Creek to grind out a 66-57 win over the Mill.

“I can’t ask the team for anything else,” head coach Charlemagne Gibbons said. “The guys laid it on the line. It was a great effort.”

Mann carried the load on offense for Starr’s Mill, totaling 25 points on 6-for-11 shooting. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and rejected three shots. Allison recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and junior Reese Clevinger scored 11 points off the bench. Starr’s Mill played well all around, but missed free throws allowed Sandy Creek to hang in for overtime, where they used a 7-0 run to distance themselves from the Panthers.

Bickerstaff faced a combination of Mann and Allison, and the two Panthers held him to 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting. However, senior Julian Alexander stepped up and scored 26 points for the Patriots, including six three-pointers. Junior Keith Williams also added 13 points for Sandy Creek.

“It was great to be challenged by a good team,” Allison said. “That will get us more prepared for the rest of the season.”

Shelby Foster
Senior Panther Nate Allison throws down a dunk against Sandy Creek. Allison, a Navy commit recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds but it wasn’t enough as Starr’s Mill fell to Sandy Creek 66-57 in overtime.

Sandy Creek came out firing and knocked down multiple threes to open the game. Starr’s Mill kept up, however, and prevented the Patriots from building a big lead. The teams played a fast-paced game, resulting in many turnovers from both sides. After one quarter, Sandy Creek led 19-14.

The Panthers kept the game close in the second quarter, and Mann kept them within striking distance. Allison’s rebounding was crucial in preventing second chance opportunities for the Patriots. The teams were very evenly matched, but the Mill outscored Sandy Creek 11-10 in the quarter. However, they still trailed 29-25 going into halftime.

“My gameplan is the same every night,” Mann said. “I want to help my team win and just be consistent.”

Senior Julian Lynch came alive in the third quarter as he drove to the basket and finished multiple layups through traffic. Lynch also inspired the Panthers on defense as he forced turnover after turnover. Starr’s Mill scored 19 points in the quarter compared to the Patriots’ 15. The quarter ended with the score tied at 44.

Mann and Alexander battled throughout the fourth, and Sandy Creek held a 55-54 lead late in the game. Mann drove to the basket and was fouled with 3.6 seconds left in regulation. He missed one of the two, forcing an overtime between the evenly matched foes.

The Patriots opened the extra period on a 7-0 run due to big shots from Alexander. After the four minutes were up, Starr’s Mill had only scored two points to Sandy Creek’s 11 giving the visiting team the 66-57 win.

The Panthers used all their energy to force overtime, and looked tired during the extra time. Mann’s missed free throw, and the team’s free throw shooting as a whole, resulted in a narrow loss to their county opponent.

“Sometimes what happens when you go into overtime is you hang onto the miss at the end of the game,” Gibbons said. “Then it takes us two or three minutes to recover while the other team is full of life.”

Sandy Creek defeated Carrollton 86-61 the following day and now boasts a 6-1 record. Their next matchup is at home against East Coweta. The Indians will visit for the contest at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 11.

Starr’s Mill now sits at 1-6, but will look to turn it around as they start region play this week. Their first region matchup is cross-town rival McIntosh. The Chiefs are 1-3 this year and lost their region opener to Whitewater 66-46. They will visit Starr’s Mill at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 4 in the Panther Pit.

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