By Zach Shugan
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The No. 2-ranked Mount Pisgah boys basketball team stayed hot Monday and kept its region record unblemished with a blowout win over Fellowship Christian, 71-36.
“We had great energy from our guys,” Mount Pisgah head coach Matt Hixenbaugh said. “They have fun playing together. I think it shows. They demonstrate great joy out there, and this season I think we appreciate it more than other seasons.”
Twelve different players scored for the Patriots in a game they dominated from start to finish, led by seniors Garrett Sutherland (15 points) and Chase Tucker (13 points).
Mount Pisgah wasted no time applying pressure to Fellowship, building a double-digit lead in one quarter. The Patriots used their trap, full-court press defense early and often to suffocate the Paladins, causing multiple turnovers in the first half.
By halftime, the Patriots led the Paladins by nearly 30 points, 45-16.
“Over a game when you [press] every possession, the idea is that they’ll make a few mistakes we can capitalize on,” Hixenbaugh said. “Tonight we were fortunate to jump on them early in the game. The press benefited us a great deal.”
Junior Kasheem Grady led Mount Pisgah in first-half scoring with 11 points but didn’t score in the second half, as the Patriots’ starters were able to watch from the bench for most of the second half.
In addition to Sutherland’s 15, Tucker’s 13 and Grady’s 11, senior JoJo Peterson added nine points. Senior Nick Speros didn’t score but assisted on over half a dozen buckets.
“Every night it could be anyone to step up,” Hixenbaugh said. “Tonight, Garrett [Sutherland] was really good. Nick Speros had deflections, steals and was throwing it ahead in transition. Our guys believe in each other. They all know it’s a big puzzle, and every piece matters. They’re all important to our success.”
With the win, Mount Pisgah improved to 11-5 overall and 7-0 in region play. The Patriots shook a huge monkey of their backs earlier this season, as they defeated the defending state champion St. Francis after losing over 20 straight games to the Knights since the 2010-11 season.
As they near the halfway point of their region schedule, the Patriots stand alone in first place of the Reg. 6-A Private standings. The No. 2-ranked team in Class A-Private has upcoming games against Mt. Bethel and King’s Ridge before a Jan. 29 battle with St. Francis, currently ranked No. 8 in the class.
“We’ve lost a couple [games], but we’re really focused on the process of getting better, competing, and as crazy as this season is, just cherishing every time you get a chance to play,” Hixenbaugh said.
Fellowship fell to 3-5 overall and 2-4 in region play with the loss. The game against Mount Pisgah was the first of four games this week for the Paladins. They play region foes Weber and Pinecrest and close out their week with a non-region matchup with Athens Christian.