Last night (2/19/20), the McEachern Indians hosted two games in the second round of the 7A state basketball tournament. The Indian Girls took on the Parkview Panthers, and the Boys squared off against the South Forsyth War Eagles. A trip to the Elite 8 quarterfinal round of the tournament was on the line.
The girls got things started, lining up across the court from the Region 7 Panthers for a 6PM tipoff. Parkview showed strong early, taking a 5-point lead at one point in the first quarter. The Panther shooters were getting more of their shots to drop than the Indians, and the high-scoring first period ended with the Indians down by four, 18-14.
The Indian girls weren’t down for long though. They battled back in the second quarter, scoring 12 points. The Indian defense held the Panther offense to a mere 8 points, making the halftime score a tie, 26-26. Junior point guard Denim Deshields was the leading Indian scorer for the half, dropping 10 points. Caelan Ellis and Daelyn Craig contributed 7 and 6, respectively.
The McEachern girls continued their momentum in the second half, outscoring the Panthers 4-12 in the third quarter. A couple of three-point shots and free-throw opportunities coupled with clean defensive play gave the Indians the clear advantage on the scoreboard. Parkview tried to battle back in the fourth, but desperate play resulted in more free throws for McEachern and the game ended with a foul-line shooting contest. The Indian girls came out on top, 51-57, and will move on to the state quarterfinals.
Head Coach Phyllis Arthur was proud of her team: “We played with heart tonight,” she said, “we played to win. There are several things we will need to work on, but thank God we see another day to try and fix them.” The girls will travel to Collins Hill next for the quarterfinals. Asked how she will prepare, Coach Arthur was honest: “They are a really good team, and big. We will prepare mentally as well as physically for them. Fear is not an option.”
With the girls’ win getting the crowd amped up, Lovinggood Arena was rocking when it came time for the boys to take centerstage. The reigning state-champ Indians were ready for their chance to give the home crowd a show. And the Region 5 War Eagles were the only thing standing in their way.
The game got underway with the Indians owning the boards and the lanes. An early pressure defense threw a wrinkle into the War Eagle offense. The first quarter was all Indians and they had a 10-point lead at the end of the first period, 6-16.
The second quarter was similar, but the Indians couldn’t get shots to drop. Despite being down by 15 in the middle of the quarter, the War Eagles battled back to end the half down by only 6 points, 22-28. Sharife Cooper was the point leader for Indians with 10.
The second half was a bit of a concern for the home crowd, as they watched their Indians struggle to stay ahead. While McEachern never actually relinquished the lead, they allowed South Forsyth to stay in the game. Just when it looked like the Indians were putting the game away, the War Eagles would battle back. They even cut the lead to three points several times in the fourth quarter.
But Head Coach Mike Thompson kept his team on track, calling timeouts and giving gut checks as necessary to keep his team focused. A mid-court steal and score by Cooper provided the lightning rod that re-energized the crowd and the rest of Indian offense to finish the game strong. McEachern would go on to close out the game up by six, 53-59. Cooper scored more than half of the Indian points himself, posting a 30-point game.
The Indian Girls team will travel to Collins Hill in the quarterfinals and the boys will face the winner of the East Coweta and North Gwinnett game. Good luck, Indians!