The South Pike Eagles haven’t played many games so far this year due to scheduling conflicts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, nearly all of the six games the Eagles played in entering their annual Christmas Tournament were shootouts.
Their latest was no exception as South Pike had to fend off a very competitive Jim Hill team before pulling out a 61-58 win Monday night in their tournament opener.
“It was huge for us. It was the first game at home and these kids came out and played team ball,” South Pike head coach Hilton Harrell said after the game. “Everyone thought that we were a one man show with Jaborri McGhee but he was finding people under the basket and that was a plus. We played team defense and got after it when we needed to.”
McGhee led the charge once again for the Eagles (5-2) with 22 points. But in addition to McGhee’s well-rounded game, South Pike also got big contributions from Garrett Preston, who had 14 points and MarQuis Brown,who had 10.
“This is our first time playing Jim Hill since 2014, I think,” McGhee said. “That is when they were really good and I remember the last time Jim Hill came here, they won. So by them trying to upset us, it was a big game.”
McGhee admits that even though his team pulled out the win, the Eagles hit a few rough patches in the game.
“We made a lot of mistakes on offense but by them (Jim Hill) pressing, we just kind of took over the press and we beat the pace and changed the momentum each quarter,” he said.
Both McGhee and Preston got off to strong starts in the first quarter. While McGhee scored from all three facets with a free throw, a basket and a 3-pointer, Preston complemented with his long-range ability, knocking down a pair of shots from beyond the 3-point line helping to set the tone.
However, the Tigers hung around, relying on their free throw shooting to stay in the contest.
Late in the second quarter, the Eagles went on a 9-0 run to pull away, but the Tigers answered right back with a 7-0 run to pull within two at 31-29 at the half.
Brown stepped up his game in the third with three key baskets in the paint. On most of his makes in the game, Brown was open after the Eagles displayed stellar ball distribution skills, keeping the Tigers guessing on defense. Zavion Williams added five points for South Pike who maintained their lead against Jim Hill entering the fourth quarter.
From there key makes at the free throw line from Yajari Jackson, McGhee and Lachristopher Gardner combined with stellar defensive stops, slowing down a late Tiger surge, preserved the win for the Eagles.
S. Pike girls drop Jim Hill
Like the boys, the South Pike girls did not have much playing time entering Monday’s opener in their annual Christmas tournament.
But didn’t seem to matter to the Eagles who had little trouble defeating Jim Hill, 42-23.
“Our girls played really smart and hard,” said Harrell who also coaches the girls team. “We made some shots and we have a couple of players who are improving like Symiahya Jackson who did a really good job rebounding around the basket.”
Jackson finished with eight points as she was faced with the tough task of defending Jim Hill’s post players who had a height advantage. While Jackson handled the inside, the guard play — led by Shayla Johnson — worked to expose the Tigers’ flaws on defense. The junior team captain finished with a team-high 14 points in the win.
“I feel like our shots were falling tonight,” she said. “We got a lot of shots that were falling and even just driving and drawing the fouls and knocking down the free throws, that worked for us.”
The Eagles (5-1) got over some early miscues and rust on offense to put up eight first quarter points to take an early lead over the Tigers.
In the second quarter, the Eagles began to pull away getting positive play on both sides of the floor.
Johnson and Bre’Miya Cameron nailed 3-pointers to pace the offense, but it was the defense that made arguably a bigger impact. South Pike held Jim Hill to just two second quarter points.
The final two quarters saw the Eagles continue to impose their will on offense as they pulled away for the win.