Unfinished business

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The McIntosh Chiefs, led the by returning core of Will Washington, Dishon Lowery, Jordan Lyons, and Chase Walter have sky-high expectations for this season. After finishing 29-1 last year, anything less than a title will be a letdown in PTC. (Photos by Adam Hagy / www.adamhagyphotography.com)

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Dishon Lowery and company are hungry for a championship.

As talented as the McIntosh Chiefs boys basketball team is, they probably deserve a nickname like the Los Angeles Lakers were ‘Showtime’ and the Detroit Pistons were the ‘Bad Boys.’ The accolades are fun, but there’s only one title the team cares about: Champion.
At the core of the team is a foursome as fearsome as any you will find anywhere around the state. Point guard Will Washington keys the attack, and Jordan Lyons is one of Georgia’s premier shooters. In the paint, the Chiefs boast two towers of power in Dishon Lowery and Chase Walter.
They don’t make point guards any more pure than Washington. Capable of dominating the scoreboard if he needs to, he instead prefers to create for his crew. Washington finished first in the state in both assists per game at 9.3 and total assists with 119 last year.
“I used to be a scorer, but, with Jordan and the two big men, I love getting them involved,” says Washington.
Lyons seems to save his best for the biggest moments. Just look back at the region tournament when he posted a career-high 43 points in the title game, including six three-pointers in the third quarter. Lyons finished second in the state in points per game (24.7), first in free throw percentage (87 percent) and free throws made (203), first in three-pointers made (95), and third in three-point percentage (45 percent).
He also knows that his teammates take him to another level.
“Having Will is ridiculous. He’s just such a true point guard,” says Lyons. “I know he’s going to come to play every night, and he’s going to find the right people.”
The big men in the paint make life a lot easier for the guards.
“It’s good to know that Chase and Dishon are going to hold it down on the inside,” Lyons says. “I honestly don’t think there’s any other duo in the state that can hold them down. That’s a ridiculous duo. It’s a blessing.”
Lowery is a blend of power and athleticism in the post. Try to get him away from the rim and he’ll shoot over you. Play him soft and he’ll dunk in your face. And he takes pride in sharing space with the others, knowing that the sharpshooters keep pressure off him and he can pile up assists handing off to his fellow big man. Lowery finished third in the state in blocks (100) and rebounds (345) and fifth in rebounds and blocks per game (11.5 and 3.3).
Walter may not have the same extensive hoops background, but he’s got the production. He was a revelation last season when he was convinced to give basketball another try, with a nearly automatic double-double each and every night out. Walter finished tops in the state in field goal percentage at 69 percent, while also finishing tenth in rebounds per game at 8.9. As he reacclimated to the game, he knew he could lean on the others.
“They’re the ones that make me look good,” says Walter. “Without them, I would not have the success I had on the court.”
His production is even more remarkable considering that baseball is his favorite sport, and he’s signing with Spartanburg Methodist College to play on the diamond at the next level.
There’s a wealth of experience in the core, with Washington and Lyons as four-year starters and Lowery a three-year starter. Walter will make it two years starting in a row.
“We’ve got the leadership. We’ve got the experience. We’ve got the mature players. It’s nice not having to reinvent the wheel,” says coach Jason Eisele. “We can just hit the ground running and add stuff from where we left off last year.”
Those four are the headliners, but they’re just the start. Braxton Shaw is capable of getting scalding-hot from long range, something he used to silence opposing crowds in the region tournament. Teams hoping to get a break when Washington grabs a breather will be out of luck because Ulysses Brown is lightning-quick off the bench. Brendon Rowan and Ben Bryant are among the other role players with experience back in the fold. The Chiefs thought they would also be adding the talented Isaac Kellum via transfer as well, but GHSA has ruled him ineligible.
The variety of weapons on the squad is almost an embarrassment of wealth. It’s more than just about any team can handle.
“Our biggest plus, I think, is our balance,” says Eisele. “If they’re going to pack it in there to stop our inside game, then the guys on the outside just take over. We make them come out, then we start feeding the ball back inside. We’ll let teams pick their poison a little bit.”
Last year saw the Chiefs rewrite their record books with the first region title in program history and a 29-0 start. It all built up to a bitter end, though, one that has the team hungrier than ever. Holding a nine-point lead against M.L. King in the second round of the playoffs, it all unraveled when Washington was hacked on a dunk attempt, falling and breaking his wrist. The team would lose by one point.
“That loss last year really was heartbreaking. We expected to go a lot farther than we did, it just didn’t pan out for us,” says Lyons. “It adds more fuel to the fire. There’s a lot of things to motivate us, but that loss is definitely the starting point.”
“It sucked, but it prepared us for the future, and it’s going to work out this year,” Walter says. “It gave us extra motivation to go out and win.”
The Chiefs achieved a lot last year, but that did not satisfy.
“We’re definitely aiming high this year,” says Eisele. “Our goal was never to go undefeated (last year). We wanted to go 1-0 as many times as possible. We have to focus each night on the opponent in front of us and play up to our ability. We’re going to get everybody’s best shot each and every night. That’s going to make us stronger.”
He sums up their goal well: “We’re not worried about winning every game. We want to win the last game.”
When you’re hungry for a championship, you don’t want to fill up on cupcakes. That’s why the Chiefs say bring on your best. They relish playing every night with a bullseye on their back because each team wants to be the one to knock off the mighty Chiefs. Iron sharpens iron, so they know each hard-fought regular season game will make them a bit better for the postseason.
“I think that’s a good thing. I’m glad because we want to get as sharp as we can going into the region tournament and beyond,” says Eisele. “The tougher the matchups we see, it’s going to get us ready for where we want to go.”
“Every game, we have to play our best and give 110 percent,” says Washington. “We just have to do what we do.”
“It’s definitely tough because we know we’re going to get everyone’s best game every night, but it’s something we like because it makes us play how we’re supposed to play every game. We know we can’t take anybody lightly,” says Lyons. “We know when we get into state, there’s going to be tough teams and there are other teams that can really play.”
While this season is the end of their high school days, it won’t be the end for the foursome. Walter will be switching to baseball full-time at the next level, but the other three will be sticking to their hoop dreams. Lyons will be a Furman Palladin, and Lowery is set to become a Wofford Terrier. Washington hasn’t formally committed yet, but he’s leaning towards joining Lowery. It could make for a different dynamic as Furman and Wofford are conference rivals.
“We’re gonna give Jordan a run for his money,” jokes Lowery. “We’re gonna see what he can do against some real pressure.”
College can wait for now. The team is locked in on the regular season.
“We just know that we have go harder every day,” says Lyons. “We have to keep working and working until the grind is over. We can’t stop until it’s over.”
“For the three years I’ve been playing varsity, I thought we always had a chance,” says Lowery. “This year, it’s now or never.”
The Chiefs won’t feel fulfilled until they reach the state championship in Macon. A storybook season could be in the cards for this special team, but there’s only one way to have a happy ending.

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About

Christopher Dunn has been the sports editor for Fayette Newspapers since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Game Day magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.


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