Greenforest Christian Academy whipped Pace Academy 74-30 on Friday as UAB signee Tosin Mehinti had 18 points and 12 rebounds and Ugo Celestine added 14 and 12, but the No. 6-ranked Eagles’ fourth straight win wasn’t what you think.
This game was a reversal of form.
David Jones has done a lot of different things over the decades on the way to winning more than 700 games, but the Greenforest coach hasn’t often deployed a zone defense. He’s used them much less frequently against much smaller teams. He did Friday.
There was no question about who had the heighth advantage as Greenforest started a lineup that went 6-feet-9 (Mehinti), 6-7 (Celestine), 6-6, 6-4 and 6-3 against Pace’s 6-5, 6-4, 6-2, 5-11 and 5-9.
Nevermind the coaching manual. Jones was going bananas at halftime, when his team led just 33-24 largely because the shortest guy on the court was carving. Pace point guard Aaron Simon kept slipping through the Eagles like a knife through butter to create shots for his teammates.
Although the Knights took far fewer shots than the much bigger Eagles in the first half, most of them were good – especially for senior D.J. Diakite. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the second quarter, including three 3-pointers on kickouts.
So, in the second half, Greenforest (18-4, 8-1 Region 5-A) zoned up after Simon had been such a menace in the first half as an inside-out passer for Pace (11-9, 4-3).
“Their point guard was killing us,” Jones said. “No matter who we put on him in the first half, he took their driver’s license, their MARTA card, whatever. They were very well prepared. That little point guard destroyed us, made us look bad. I’m a guy too critical. I want perfection. I appreciate my kids putting up with me.”
The third quarter was slow to start as Pace struggled to figure out the Greenforest zone, and the Eagles pulled away as six players scored in the period for a 48-30 lead.
Greenforest scored the last seven points of the quarter, and all 26 points in the fourth as the Knights were worn out trying to solve the Eagles’ athleticism and strategy.
That halftime speech by Jones apparently resonated.
“He’s just trying to make us better, and I understand because it’s going to be like that at the next level,” Mehinti said. “We play man every time, but we practice zone. The point guard was kicking it out. But you can’t dribble-penetrate into a zone.”
Greenforest Christian Academy (74) – Faisal Abdulamik 7; Marco Bennett 2; Adam Ellis 3; Rashad Ellis 9; Precious Ayah 4; John Ogwuche 11; Justin Ravenel 4; Ugo Ulestine 14; Jonathan Manigo; Tosin Mehinti 18; William Turner 2.
Pace Academy (30) – D.J. Diakite 13; Aaron Simon 2; Carter Draughon; John King 1; Jordan Harris 6; Kenny Selmon 3; Will Rucker; Elijah Sheft; Zach Kaminsky 4; Waide Swain; Alexander Reckford; Mick Assaf. Halftime: Greeforest 33, Pace Academy 24.