Intriguing region basketball games
Girls basketball tends to get overlooked and, most of the time, it is for good reasons. The games are sloppier, lower scoring and tend to be viewed as opening acts for faster-paced and higher flying boys games. That viewpoint is understandable but, as far as this season is concerned, it is wrong.
Right now, in sub-region 3-B AAAA, Starr’s Mill, McIntosh and Fayette County are all sitting in the sub-region standings with one loss. That will change by next week as all three teams face each other in the coming days and that’s what makes this slate of games and the upcoming region tournament very interesting.
Fayette County’s girls, the defending AAAA state champs, once again have high hopes for this season. They are ranked sixth in Class AAAA (PrepCountry.com Coaches Poll), have a wealth of talent and experience, know what it takes to go deep in the playoffs and a coach in John Strickland that is capable of getting them there. That being said, there are some issues for this team. They have a ton of height and athleticism (three players over 6’ and three players close to 6’), but they also seem to go through stretches of poor shooting. And, with all that height they should never get outrebounded or outhustled, but sometimes they do. It seems like nitpicking, and it probably is, after all every team is different from year to year, but in the few games I’ve seen Fayette County play, they lacked the killer instinct and that dominant player who can seemingly score at will.
Ultimately, I think Fayette probably has the best chance to win the region and go deepest in the AAAA playoffs, but they could also fall short if they aren’t playing their best ball at the end of the season.
McIntosh probably has the best player in the county in Gabby Seiler and the team appears to be getting better and more well-rounded with each game. Head coach David Dowse seems to know how to prepare and motivate the Lady Chiefs for each game. I also think he breaks things down to simplify the game for the team - i.e. win the battle on the boards, establish the pace of the game. McIntosh plays good defense and will typically never get outhustled. That’s how they win games and they too hope to make a playoff run similar to last year. I have seen them play several games this year and have found that sometimes they are almost too patient. I find myself wanting some of the players to shoot the ball more. However, I’m not a basketball coach and have never played outside of my backyard. I just call them like I see them.
Starr’s Mill is the surprise of the year and should continue to give opposing teams fits. Like McIntosh, they appear to thrive in a slower paced game where their defense can irritate an offense into mistakes. The Lady Panthers are doing an excellent job of capitalizing on those mistakes and then changing the pace into one that tends to leave opponents stunned. It will be interesting to see what happens to Starr’s Mill as they are now facing some of their toughest opponents for a second time. I think they have such a good track record of winning now that they know what it is going to take and won’t be dazzled or outplayed by anybody. That being said, less than perfect ball against their sub-region rivals and they could find themselves in a less than stellar position in the region tourney.
Whitewater, which also plays in region 3B-AAAA, is not having as much success in the sub-region, but they started the season strong and should pick up a few more wins before the tournament. Sandy Creek plays in Class AAA and is dominating in their region (8-1) but taking some tough losses outside of it (1-6).
The boys side features some talent and some interesting battles for seeding, but Fayette County (17-1 overall, 6-0 region), ranked second in AAAA, is far and away the best team in the sub-region. There are 10 seniors on the squad, which was a AAAA semi-finalist last year, with a lot of height, speed, talent and athleticism. They often have three or more players in double digits and any one of the starters can take over a game and lead the team on any given night. Ekene Anachebe, the 6’9” center, also appears to be turning on the offensive firepower and that will cause problems for a lot of teams.
Whitewater and McIntosh both sit at 5-2 in sub-region play. The Wildcats (12-7) overall could be 7-2 going into the final stretch that features Fayette County, McIntosh and Starr’s Mill in the span of a week. The team is made up of a good mix of seniors and underclassmen and they battle in all of their games. They present some size that is challenging for some teams to contend with (6’8” sophomore Philip Cofer and 6’4” sophomore Maurice Rivers) and they are as athletic as anybody (see seniors John Mark Rhodes, Tommy Chalkley, Trey Wofford).
McIntosh got off to a terrible start but has won six of their last eight games. The Chiefs (7-10 overall) have some great shooters and some strong senior leadership that should help them down the stretch (Alex Alvarez, Mike Williams, Biola Brinson, Eric Thomason).
Starr’s Mill (7-11, 3-5 region) has three big region games looming in their final five games, but they are playing well in 2012 (winners of three of their last four) and are getting some outstanding performances from players like Randon Ruff, Nathan Bates and several others. Starr’s Mill has a shocking upset in a region tournament in their history and could definitely be a dark horse team that will give somebody trouble in the region tournament and possibly beyond.
Sandy Creek’s boys (6-12, 4-6 region), playing in Class AAA, have lost six of their last seven games.
There are some great basketball games coming up in the next few weeks, but make sure you get there for the girls games as they should be as competitive and hard fought as any boys game you will see.
Jan. 20 - Fayette County vs. McIntosh - 7/8:30 p.m.
Jan. 24 - Fayette County vs. Starr’s Mill - 6/7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 - Fayette County @ Whitewater,
McIntosh vs. Starr’s Mill 7/8:30 p.m.
Jan. 31 - McIntosh vs. Whitewater - 6/7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 - Whitewater @ Starr’s Mill 7/8:30 p.m.