Predators hold own in tournament play
The holiday season brought tournament play to the Fox Creek boys basketball team.
The Predators (8-3, 2-0 Region 4-A) went toe-to-toe with foes far larger than themselves – at least in terms of enrollment. The first test came against the host team of the Monterrey’s Christmas Tournament, Evans, Ga. on Thursday.
The back-and-forth game saw Fox Creek go toe-to-toe with the AAAAA Knights, and the Predators led going into the half, 32-24. However, the Knights stormed back in the third quarter, outscoring the Predators 26-6 in the frame, and went on to take the victory 61-58. In the loss the dynamic duo of Marques Sumner and Brandyn Quiller led the Predators with 16 points apiece. Ikel El also contributed 12 points in the loss.
“I feel like this was a great tournament for us,” Andrew Peckham, the team’s head coach, said. “We were able to play some stiffer competition with these bigger schools that I think will help us going into region play in January. It showed some of my guys some things we need to work on. A big thing we are focusing on is rebounding the basketball on both sides of the floor. That’s something we got exposed on in the tournament. I think it’s going to make these guys hungrier to get after it in practice as the New Year starts.”
The Predators didn’t have long to think about their second loss of the year, as they turned around and played Warren County the next day. In that game the Predators demolished the winless Screaming Devils, 73-49. Once again it was Sumner and Quiller leading the way, with the former dropping 30 points and the latter having 23. Corrin Cannon was the team’s next highest scorer with eight points.
“The tourney play was very different. We played against some bigger schools who were very tough,” Cannon said. “The refs really let us play this tournament. Also the tournaments were a lot more physical, and the defense was way more quicker compared to what we’re used to in region games.”
Cannon, who has been a consistent fourth option for the team behind Sumner, Quiller and El, is the definition of an unselfish player, who contributes when called upon. The sophomore said he would rather score 10 points and win instead of scoring 30 in a loss.
“People don’t really notice the little things I do,” he said. “But I feel like I’m a very smart player. I don’t shoot they ball a lot, but hey, it’s not all about scoring. Being a sophomore I feel like I’m more ready and more mature than I was my freshman year. I love stepping up and being called on in big games.”
In the third place game of the tournament, the Predators played their third game in three days. This time it was against the Academy of Richmond County. The Predators stumbled in the first frame, falling behind the Musketeers 14-4, and were unable to recover, losing 70-53. Quiller and Caleb Veihman led the team with 11 points each, and Sumner and El followed with 10 points each.
“The thing about it is, even with the losses, it gives some confidence to my guys,” Peckham said. “They can take from those games that ‘Hey, we can go out there and play toe-to-toe with anyone we go up against.’ You don’t look at the enrollments of the schools, but in my opinion we have the work ethic and skill to compete with anybody. Even with a couple of losses it was big for the guys as far as confidence and knowing we can be a pretty good basketball team.”
For his efforts Quiller was named to the All-Tournament team and was the only representative from Fox Creek.
“He’s a guy that, many times, can be a pass-first player,” Peckham said. “However, he knows that we need him to score as well. He can really shoot the basketball – he leads the team in 3-point field goals (Quiller has 21, and Sumner is second with 10). He can really light it up at any point or time.”
Coming up the Predators will have two home contests, and both are currently scheduled to be at Sweetwater Baptist Church. The first will be on Saturday against Westminster – a team Fox Creek beat 48-41 on the road on Dec. 14. The second, which may be moved to another location due to crowd size, will be against Silver Bluff. The Predators beat the Bulldogs in their season opener, 60-40, but it was a game where Silver Bluff was missing a number of players who were in the state championship game for football.
“We beat them last time by 20, but they were without their football players, so that should be a pretty good game. Everybody has been waiting for it,” Cannon said.
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at the North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since January 2013 after previously working at the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter @NAStarRodgers.