Wednesday’s boys hoops rivalry matchup between then 7-0 John Milledge and then 5-0 Gatewood was tied through two quarters, but the host Trojans pulled ahead in the second half to retain their unbeaten mantle.
GISA AAA school JMA turned its defense into offense throughout the third and fourth quarters to pull away and secure a 57-38 victory over the nearby AA program.
“Our best offense is our defense,” John Milledge head coach David Gallagher said after his team’s eighth win. “That kind of showed up in the second half when we really locked down and focused on our defensive positioning. We were a little quick on the trigger in the first half, offensively. We had some bad shooting percentages from the floor, and our shot selection was a big part of that. We were a little hyped up coming in because it was a rivalry game, so we tried to do a little too much everywhere by settling for the first shot instead of the best shot. We were a lot more patient in the halfcourt in the second half.”
The lead changed hands a few times late in the first period Wednesday before Gatewood took a one-point advantage into the second. The JMA boys continued to play from behind for a little while, but jumped ahead with a little over a minute left in the opening half when sophomore Banks Eady grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled on his putback attempt. His shot was good, and he completed the and-one play to put his team up 19-16. The visiting Gators, though, got an answer from Jackson Morris who splashed home his second of three three-pointers on the night to tie the ballgame up again heading into the locker room.
As JMA’s Coach Gallagher mentioned, his team picked things up defensively coming out of the break. That, and his players also finally started hitting from deep. Junior Marcus Prestwood hit the team’s first trey of the game one minute in the third. He had a big second half on his way to a game-high 20 points in the non-region contest. Senior Patrick McDonel had the second-highest output with his 11-point night down in the paint. Gatewood’s Morris, Jackson Warner and Charlie Rutherford all finished with nine points in the Gators’ first losing effort of the 2020-21 campaign.
With the condensed schedule, the Trojans are not currently slated to return the favor and travel to Eatonton to face Gatewood again this season. The two schools do currently have one another on call though as cancellations due to the pandemic are expected.
John Milledge has one game left Saturday before region competition begins Tuesday at Westminster. Gallagher gave his thoughts about where his team is at this point in the season.
“With how many games we’ve played and how many practices we’ve had, I feel like we’re ahead of where you’d expect us to be,” the seventh-year JMA head coach said. “But at the same time, we’re already in January with the short turnaround we had for this season. There’s still a lot of growth in front of us. I think the sky’s the limit for what we can accomplish, but I think we have to stay focused and have a growth mindset.”
The Trojans are scheduled to host Trinity Christian Saturday at 6 p.m. to finish off a full day of hoops action between the two schools.