Thursday, December 12, 2013
It didn’t take long for new Fox Creek head coach Andrew Peckham to lead his team to a championship.
Peckham and the Predators (4-1) won the Garden City Classic hosted by Augusta Prep, defeating Dominion Christian 72-58, Augusta Prep Day 65-59 and Curtis Baptist 72-66 in the championship.
“We had good effort on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor,” Peckham said. “Our guys really wanted this win, they wanted to win this tournament. They were on a mission, and they finished it off.”
In the Garden City Classic, Fox Creek was led by the play of Marques Sumner, the leading returning scorer from a year ago, and Ikel El, a standout football player who now stars in the paint for the Predators.
“Ikel El really came on strong for us,” Peckham said. “That’s something we haven’t seen in our early games, before the tournament, but he was a force to be reckoned with in this one. In our first game he had 20 points and eight rebounds, which was big.”
Named to the All-Tournament team at the Garden City Classic were El and Sumner, with Sumner picking up Most Valuable Player honors.
“I was able to lead my team to the championship,” Sumner said. “Coach told me that the win was basically going to be on me, because I’m the point guard and I have to tell everybody where to be. So, that’s what I did.”
Peckham used the guard combination of Brandyn Quiller and Sumner to force pressure on Curtis Baptist in the championship game. The ramped-up defense allowed for more turnovers and fast-break chances for Fox Creek.
“We added some full-court pressure,” he said. “We want to get the game more up-and-down, which helps us. We were able to turn teams over and run a little bit more. In the half court, our communication is much improved. We’ve been talking more, telling where screens are and making sure we know what everyone is doing. It’s helped a lot.”
The guard combination is also lethal on offense, when Quiller and Sumner can make teams pay for any defense thrown at them.
“With Quiller and Sumner, they’re two of the best guards in this area,” Peckham said. “They’re tough to stop off the dribble, and if you give them too much room, they’ll knock down shots. That’s what happened against Curtis (Baptist). They tried to do some different things to stop them and really weren’t able to do it because they’re too deadly and have too many weapons offensively.”
The Predators will next face a region foe in Wagener-Salley, a team that is expected to challenge for the region crown.
“Wagener-Salley is going to be a good, tough test for our guys,” Peckham said. “They’re a good team and it’s a road game, so we’ve got to be prepared for that one. Luckily, that’s our only game of the week, so we have some time to get ready.”
Sumner, who is leading Fox Creek in scoring with 20.8 points per game, is expecting a hostile crowd to greet Fox Creek when they travel to play the Eagles.
“They always have a rowdy crowd, but I don’t let that get to me,” he said. “I’m looking to focus on defense and run them out of the gym. Nobody can really run with us, I heard they’re a good team, actually, and they gave us a tough time last year, so I’m looking to beat them. They’ll probably be our hardest team in the region.”
The expectations of the Predator team, which is to replicate the success of a season ago, is not lost on Sumner. He is working to lead his team to a state title, through his play and leadership.
“I’m just trying to be a leader on and off the court, especially at practice,” he said. “I want to make sure we do what we need to do to get to the state championship, but I know we have to take it one game at a time.”
Fox Creek will next play Wagener-Sally on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for the North Augusta Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.