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Last week didn’t start so well for the Eminence Warriors, as they fell 64-53 to Gallatin County at home.
But the Warriors rebounded from the loss, and drummed two of their next three opponents scoring more than 90 points.
By Saturday night, when they hosted the Portland Christian Eagles, the Warriors were cruising
But the Warriors had their hands full with the Eagles’ prolific scorer Trenton Scroggy. The athletic guard torched Eminence for 52 points, but the Warriors had more firepower in the end and came out with the 5-point victory.
The game started fast and furious as Portland Christian won the tip and scored a quick layup. Eminence answered with 5 straight points on a Daishon Moore putback and Brooklyn Rucker 3-pointer. It would be that kind of night as both teams quickly transitioned for easy buckets.
Defensively, both teams had trouble shutting down the other’s best scorer or, in the case of Eminence, scorers. While Scroggy had 52 points for the Eagles, Jalen Dixie led the Warriors with 31 and Brandon Mitchell chipped in 17. Trent Overall nailed three 3-pointers on his way to 11 points.
After one period the Warriors led 21-12, but Scroggy had not yet warmed up as he went for only 6 points in the period. In the second quarter he showed why everyone was talking about him before the game started. Scroggy went for 18 in the second quarter and helped the Eagles narrow the gap on the Warriors.
Portland Christian eventually tied the score at 36 and had the ball for the last possession of the first half. Scroggy took the ball at the top of the key with everyone in the gym expecting him to take the last shot, but he drove the lane, drew the defense to him and dished underneath for an assist as the Eagles took the lead for the first time since the opening basket.
It was a galling end to the half for the Warriors faithful, but what seemed even more troublesome was the 12 points that the Eagles scored on put-backs in the half against the normally strong rebounding Warriors.
As the second half began it was clear that the Warriors got a quick refresher course in rebounding during halftime as the Warriors came out and dominated the glass during the opening minutes. Eminence scored the opening basket off a steal and layup by Dixie and went on to stretch the lead to 8 points at 54-46 on an Overall 3-pointer.
At that point the high intensity of the game was clear, as both teams received warnings from the officials to tone down the verbal interchanges and rough play. Scroggy had already received a technical and several rough fouls had been committed by both teams.
“Things got a little chippy, and I had to call a timeout to regain our composure,” Nethery said. “We lost momentum and it took a while to get it back.”
The warning from the referees helped the players refocus on basketball but it also signaled the beginning of an Eagles’ comeback. Portland Christian scored the last 9 points of the quarter including a 3-pointer at the buzzer to take the lead at 55-54.
Portland Christian built the lead to six-points at 60-54 as Scroggy hit a layup and a 3-pointer to open the final period.
But from there the Warriors righted the ship and began to dig their way out of trouble. The Warriors went on a 9-2 run to retake the lead before Scroggy hit a 3-pointer to give the lead back to the Eagles.
Dixie had an answer, too, as he nailed another three and was fouled to convert a 4-point play. The play energized the crowd and the players. Brandon Mitchell began to boss the defensive paint and had 3 blocks on Scroggy drives during the deciding stretch of the game in which the Warriors rebuilt their lead to seven points at 72-65.
On the next Warrior possession the team did something unusual –they ran their offense patiently and made the Eagles chase them before finally springing Dixie for a wide-open layup to build the lead to 9 with 1:02 remaining in the game.
It was the backbreaker play that forced the Eagles into fouling. The Warriors knocked down enough free throws from there to maintain the lead and win the game.
“We are learning to deal with adversity and have shown the ability to come back when we are down,” Nethery said.
EHS 92 Heritage Academy 71
The night before the win over Portland Christian, the Warriors hosted Heritage Academy in their second blowout win of the week, a 92-71 romp.
The Warriors got out in transition early and often to rack up 28 points in the first quarter.
“We shot a lot of layups, because we beat them in transition a lot,” Nethery said. “We jumped on them early but then we subbed a lot from the first period on. It was another good game for getting everybody some playing time.”
But the Warriors also were hot from 3-point range as 14 bombs found their mark on the night; led by Trent Overall with five and Jalen Dixie with four. “We had a lot of success coming off screens… especially Jalen and Trent,” Nethery said.
The Warriors led by more than 15 in the opening period before emptying the bench. They led 28-17 after one period. The Warriors offense did not slow down in the second period, as they added 27 to the Eagles’ 13 for 55-30 halftime lead.
In the second half the Warriors scored 20 points and appeared in range for triple digits before playing their youngest players for most of the fourth period. The starters did not play any in the final stanza as Heritage outscored the Warriors 25-17.
“It was a good learning experience for our younger players,” Nethery said. “They saw how the speed of play is so much quicker on the varsity level.
“Jake McKinley, a freshman, had a really good game handling the ball. He is going to be a special player. Cornelius had a good game. He shot the ball well.”
EHS 90 Berea 59
The day after the Warriors fell in a gritty 11-point loss to Gallatin County, they picked up the pieces, making their trip to Berea a successful one.
The Warriors took control of the game in the first quarter and then put the hammer down in the second half to cruise to a 31-point victory.
The Warriors got out to a 7-point lead after one quarter. Brandon Mitchell and Dixie scored all of the Warriors 18 points in the quarter with both hitting two 3-pointers on their way to scoring eight and 10 points respectively. The Warriors played tough defense in the quarter, allowing the Pirates only 11 points.
According to Nethery the Warriors were able to answer every strategy that the Pirates threw at them. “They tried a lot of different defenses and we did well against all of them,” he said. “Offensively, they had a big guy inside who went about 6’7” and 320 pounds, and they tried to pound it inside to him all night. He (Daniel Hubbard) had 13 points, which, considering how much they went to him, was not that many points.
“Daishon Moore picked up two quick fouls trying to guard him and I was looking for someone to guard him and Cornelius Sanford stepped up and took the assignment. You couldn’t ask for a better defensive effort from a 5’10” kid guarding the post. They were trying to pound it inside and we did a good job as a team of shutting it down.”
The Warriors stretched the lead to 34-25 at halftime as the red-hot Dixie continued to rain 3-pointers down on the Pirates. Dixie had 11 of the Warriors 16 points in the quarter on three 3-pointers and one two-point field goal. By halftime Dixie had a decent score line of 21 points including five 3-pointers. But the Warrior point guard wasn’t done.
A night after he was held to just three free throws, by Gallatin County, Dixie poured in 12 third-quarter points as the Warriors blew the Pirates out. Mitchell added 7 points in the quarter as the Warriors outscored the Pirates 27-13.
Dixie played only the opening minute of the 4th quarter before going to the bench to root on his younger teammates who got a lot of varsity game time in the lopsided contest. He added four more points before Nethery got him out of the game and finished with a career-high 37 points.
“I can’t say enough about how well Jalen played,” Nethery said. “They tried every kind of defense but he was just hot. They couldn’t stop him.”
Mitchell also had his second consecutive strong offensive performance after starting the season slowly. He finished with 19 points and was credited by Nethery with playing excellent defense.
The only negative aspect of the game was that freshman DeMarcus Bailey, who has been adding big offensive and rebounding contributions to the team, sprained his ankle about 20 seconds into the game.
Nethery thought the key to the game was the Warriors ability to handle the Pirates’ press.
“We really hurt them by finishing against the press,” he said. “I don’t think they got any points off of their press all night.”
Nethery saw maturity in the way his team responded to what could have been tough circumstances. “I was impressed with our boys,” he said. “We played a tough game against Gallatin and then had to travel all the way to Berea on a bus. The heater went out on the bus, so it was cold the whole way. Then DeMarcus gets hurt in the opening minute of the game. It would have been easy to lose focus, but our kids responded well.”
Gallatin County 64, EHS 53
On Dec. 10 the Warriors hosted district rival Gallatin County and fell by 11 points to the Wildcats.
Nethery was not disappointed with his team’s effort. “I feel like this was our best game,” he said. “We had more people step up as opposed to one or two players.”
The game was tight in the opening period as Gallatin led by one point at 15-14. Brandon Mitchell, who had struggled offensively in the early season, led the Warriors with 6 points in the quarter and would go on to lead the team on the night with 20 points.
“Brandon played a really good game. He had 20 points, 15 rebounds and 7 blocks,” Nethery said. “Five of those were against Kristian Morgan who is their best player.”
Netehry was pleased with the team’s defense as a whole and especially the job done on Morgan, considered by many local coaches to be one of the best offensive players in the district if not the region.
“Defensively, we took them out of a lot of what they want to do and we held Morgan to 17 points,” Nethery said.
But the Warriors fell behind in the second quarter by 8 points and had to play catch up the rest of the night.
The Warriors, who have shown a penchant for coming back from early deficits did just that. In the third quarter the Warriors managed to edge in front of the Wildcats briefly.
But they trailed by 8 going into the final period, and were forced into playing catch up. “We were trapping and playing more physical and that led to a lot of free throw opportunities for them and they hit enough to beat us.
The Wildcats were 13 of 19 from the line in the fourth quarter but scored only one 2-point field goal. The free throws proved to be enough as the Warriors struggled to find enough points of their own to make the comeback. The Warriors had only 12 points in the period, which gave the Wildcats the 11-point victory.
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