Knights fall to Flyers in Sectional final
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By Anthony Jones
The winningest season in Triad basketball history came to a close on Mar. 3, as the Knights lost 53-38 to the East St. Louis Flyers. With the loss, Triad finishes the season with a 28-7 record.
The Knights held their own in the opening minutes, staying within 10-9 of the Flyers. A subsequent 10-0 in their favor, with five points from both Aydin Hitt and McGrady Noyes, put some early fear in the Flyers.
“We wanted to attack them early and catch them off guard. We were hitting shots we needed because we knew they’d make a run,” Coach Jeff Guidry discussed his team’s 19-10 start.
East St. Louis ramped up their pressure and quickly received dividends with an 11-0 run going into the half. Their momentum continued into the third quarter as they took a 31-19 lead.
The Knights would trail by as many as 17, but cut their deficit down to 42-34 following a rally that featured consecutive triples from Jake Stewart. This would be as close as their rally would get before they ultimately lost 53-38.
Noyes and Hitt led their scoring efforts with 10 points each. Stewart added on eight more in the loss.
While Coach Guidry was not ready for his team’s season to end, he spoke on the impact the season will have on his program.
“I think it’s tremendous. We kind of had a vision four years ago of where we wanted to get to and we’ve done some winning along the way. I think our program’s in great shape, we’re losing some great seniors, but don’t think we’re going anywhere,” the fourth year coach remarked about the Regional and Mississippi Valley Conference championship campaign.
Guidry also added about the five seniors that helped lead much of the season’s success, “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. They’re all going to go out and be very successful people and hopefully they got a piece of something out of this that can help them along the way.”
To reach the sectional final, the Knights knocked off Mt. Vernon 51-34 earlier in the week. Sophomore Drew Winslow led all scorers with 20 points in the Mar. 1 matchup.
Many of Winslow’s points came in the opening quarter, which he finished with eight. Triad led by as many as seven in the opening period, but finished with a 16-10 advantage.
The early lead was the type of start Coach Guidry hoped for after slow starts earlier in their postseason.
“Last week, we struggled big time to hit shots. I told the guys before the game, ‘Confidence is the most dangerous thing in basketball’ and if you come out early with confidence, you take away the other team’s confidence,” he remarked.
The physicality of the contest ramped up in the second quarter, as the scoreboard slowly moved to 20-14. Winslow hit a subsequent layup, sparking an avalanche of Triad points.
Aydin Hitt and McGrady Noyes followed the sophomore’s bucket with made shots, pushing the Knights ahead 27-14. In the waning seconds of the half, AJ Mills added to the avalanche of points with a triple to earn a 30-14 lead at the break.
The first basket out of the half went to none other than Winslow, matching Mt. Vernon’s total of 14 points. A 6-6 tie throughout the third period served to keep Triad’s lead at 36-20 with eight minutes to play.
Mt. Vernon would trail by as many as 19 and as few as 10 in the fourth, but ultimately lost 51-34.
Mills finished second in scoring for the victors with 9 points, including four late free throws that helped solidify the Knight’s lead that had dwindled down to 10 points. Hitt finished with 8 points and Noyes scored 6 more to go with a team leading seven rebounds.