by Russell Cooks
The Sandy Creek Patriots issued the big payback beat down to the Bainbridge Bearcats on Saturday. The Patriots defeated the Bearcats by a score 85-71, marching on to the Elite 8 on the campus of the Fort Valley State University on Thursday.
The win was extra sweet for Sandy Creek after a bitter loss to Bainbridge in the football playoffs. The Patriots suffered a controversial 14-7 defeat to the Bearcats, aided by a 30 minute delay when the stadium lights shut off. The basketball Patriots, including multi-sport start Javon Jackson who felt the sting of defeat that night, left no doubt in their win, knocking the Bearcats’ lights out.
Keith Heard won the opening tip and Christian Turner opened up the scoring with a 3-pointer. Elias Harden hit a three, and Jackson added another to make it 9-5 Sandy Creek as both squads shot well.
You could tell early on that this was going to be a slugfest. Bainbridge scored on a layup, and Harden answered for Sandy Creek with another 3-pointer, then the Bearcats answered with a three of their own to make it 15-10 Sandy Creek.
Turner hit another three-ball and a driving layup, converting the and-one to give the Patriots a 21-10 lead.
Heard’s slam dunk off a Turner assist and an Evan Jester slashing layup made the score at the end of the first quarter 25-17 in Sandy Creek’s favor.
The second quarter pretty much followed the same script, punch and counter punch. AJ Freeman hit a three, then Bainbridge connected on one, and Christian Turner connected on his third 3-pointer of the game to give Sandy Creek a 31-22 lead.
Bainbridge made 1-of-2 free throws and Harden answered for Sandy Creek with a 15-foot jump shot. The Bearcats hit a three, and Javon Jackson returned the favor to give Sandy Creek a 36-30 lead at the 3:49 mark.
Jackson got a steal and went coast-to-coast for a layup as the lead grew to eight. Sandy Creek went into their ball control offense and it was Turner connecting with Jackson for an easy layup and the Patriots led 41-31 at the half.
Turner and Harden had 12 points each at the half, and Jackson scored 11.
The third quarter started off true to form. It was Turner making a precise pass to Jester for a layup. The Bearcats responded, then it was Heard with another slam dunk off a Jester pass. Back-to-back threes cut the lead to 45-41.
Sandy Creek refused to be outdone as Jester scored on a slam dunk with a Turner assist. Bainbridge hit another three, and Heard answered with a tip-in to keep in front by three.
Turner, Freeman, and Harden scored, but the Bearcats drilled back-to-back threes to cut the margin to 57-51 at the end of three.
In the fourth quarter, it was more Lob City South action as Jackson stole the ball and hit Harden for a slam dunk. Jester followed with a putback to build the lead back to 10 points.
Sandy Creek forced another turnover and slowed down into their ball control offense. Turner was fouled, and he connected on both free throws to make it 63-53 at the 5:57 mark. A Jester dunk padded it further.
Christian Turner said, “I feel that it was a great team effort tonight. We came out with defensive intensity that we talked about earlier. Offensively, we did a great job of moving without the ball. Evan Jester’s basketball IQ was at a whole another level tonight. He had a superb game.”
Each time the Bearcats tried to steal momentum, the Patriots shut them down. Heard made a tremendous block to stop a run by the Bearcats, then Jester made the save and Turner connected with Jackson on a long pass for a layup to give the Patriots a 71-62 lead. The play was the perfect example of true teamwork.
Sandy Creek connected on ten consecutive free throws to seal the game down the stretch with an 85-71 victory.
Javon Jackson said, “I feel like we played really hard. We played team defense, especially when it counted. Now, it is on to the next round, and we must maintain our defensive intensity.”
Already recognized for his Iron Man skills as the top two-way football player in the county, Jackson showed true grit on the basketball court. He played Saturday’s game after battling flu-like symptoms for three days, all while being responsible for guarding one of the top guards in state of Georgia, if not the nation, in Tyree Crump. Jackson had to the leave the game twice as the symptoms flared up, but each time he returned after a very short break and was right back in the grind.
This was clearly Sandy Creek’s most complete game of the season, as all five starters scored in double figures. Harden had 20 points, Turner scored 19, Jester scored 16, Jackson contributed 14, and Heard scored 11. Turner had another double-double as he added 11 assists.