Cougars beat Knights in battle of Top 10 teams

By Zach Shugan

ROSWELL, Ga. — The Chattahoochee boys basketball team looked every bit like the defending 6A state champions Tuesday night, as it rolled past Centennial in a matchup of two teams ranked in the top 10 of their classification.

The No. 4 Cougars defeated the No. 7 Knights by 20 points, 87-67, to remain perfect in region play and send a message to the rest of the state: The Cougars might have lost some key pieces from last year’s championship group, but they remain a force to be reckoned with.

“They showed up,” Chattahoochee head coach Chris Short said. “They rose to the challenge. It was good to get a quality win on the road.”

Chattahoochee senior guard A.J. White scored a game-high 23 points and junior Tomiwa Adetosoye finished with a double-double of 22 points and 12 rebounds. In addition, two other Cougars scored in double digits.

“I really thought it was a complete game,” Short said. “They shared the ball. I thought we rebounded well. I thought that was about as complete as we’ve played to this point.”

Centennial senior Julian Nixon prepares to shoot a free throw during the Jan. 12 game between the Cougars and Knights. (Zach Shugan)

While the score shows a 20-point victory for Chattahoochee, it wasn’t smooth sailing the whole way. It wasn’t until the second half the Cougars started to put serious pressure on the Knights and separate themselves on the scoreboard.

Chattahoochee led 21-13 over Centennial after one quarter even though it took the Cougars four minutes to make their first shot from the field.

Centennial put a small dent in Chattahoochee’s lead in the second quarter behind a balanced attack on offense, led by senior Logan Turner with 10 points. Seven different players appeared in the first half for the Knights, and all seven scored.

A three-pointer at the halftime buzzer by Chattahoochee senior Keith Murray gave the Cougars a 38-35 lead over the Knights.

What was a close game entering the second half quickly became a game Chattahoochee controlled. The Cougars’ lead grew to 11 points by the halfway point of the third quarter. By the end of the quarter, the Cougars led by 13 points, 62-49.

The fourth quarter saw much of the same. With White flying around the court running the offense, Adetosoye grabbing rebounds and finishing near the basket, and players like Murray, Jordan Brown and Gil Matondo providing more offense, the Cougars were too much to handle for the Knights this time around.

Chattahoochee senior A.J. White, who has scored over 2,100 points in his high school career, brings the ball up the court against Centennial on Jan. 12. (Zach Shugan)

With the win, Chattahoochee improved to 10-1 overall and 5-0 in region play. The Cougars also earned payback for their final loss of the 2020 season, which happened to be the last time the two teams played at Centennial.

The Cougars didn’t forget this, and they weren’t unaware of the implications of this matchup with the Knights.

“I know A.J., for example, really had this game circled on his calendar,” Short said. “He wanted to perform better here. Our guys were keyed in obviously for the impact it had from a region-standings standpoint but also not wanting to lose to your crosstown rival. It definitely was high on their list.”

The Cougars play Jan. 15 at home against Creekview (8-6, 4-2).

The Knights were led in scoring by seniors K.J. Spooney (13 points) and Turner (12 points) and sophomore Mansir Williamson (11 points). Senior Julian Nixon, a Tennessee football commit, added 10 points and five rebounds.

Centennial dropped to 9-3 overall and 4-1 in region play with the loss to Chattahoochee. The Knights will have another shot to take down the Cougars on Feb. 5 at their place. For now, they’ll look ahead to a Jan. 15 home game against a team close behind in the Reg. 7-6A standings, River Ridge (10-6, 3-2).

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