Winder-Barrow (4-5) completed the sweep over Apalachee (2-6), making it five consecutive wins dating back to the 2019-2020 season.
The win came behind Winder-Barrow outsourcing Apalachee 18-9 in the third quarter to pull away. The Bulldoggs never looked back from there.
“This year through our first seven games, the third quarter has been our nemesis,” Winder-Barrow head coach Travis McDaniel reflected. “Typically in this matchup, Apalachee has dominated the third quarter; they've made runs in every third quarter we play them.”
As a result, McDaniel had a specific, but significant message for his players going into halftime.
“I told the guys, ‘Man, you got to be laser focused. I can't communicate to you, because you're on the other end now. You got to communicate to yourself and get a couple of stops,’” McDaniel said.
The first matchup this season between the two Barrow County rivals was more lopsided, but the Wildcats came into Friday with a fire to make it a game.
“In this kind of game, you don't really have to encourage them as much,” Apalachee head coach Tyler Rowland said. “In a rivalry game, they're going to come out and want to win this game so badly. So, I know that effort was gonna be there. It was just trying to direct it in the right way. And I even said this to coach McDaniel that, if we had the same plan going into the rematch, nothing's gonna change. We're gonna lose by 21 again, and it's gonna be the same game. so we had to do something differently.”
The biggest point of change for Apalachee was a change in their defensive scheme. They came out with a defensive set up meant to take Winder-Barrow senior Jeremiah Holloway out of the scoring attack.
“We felt like that was a way that would get them out of their comfort zone and the stuff they'd like to run in man and getting down hill,” Rowland said. “They're great getting to the rim in transition and in the half court, so our goal was kind of slow them up and make them move it around a little bit more.”
As a result, Holloway couldn’t gain a rhythm in scoring and struggled in his scoring. Still, he was able to impact the court in different ways, filling up the stat sheet with 10 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and three steals in the win.
“Jerry's a great player, and the thing that he can do is, not only score, but he facilitates well,” Rowland said. “Out of the two, if I'm gonna pick and choose, I'd rather him facilitate than him get to the rim and get his 25-35 points. Make him facilitate and make other guys make shots.”
This caused Winder-Barrow to spread the wealth more in the game. Five of Winder-Barrow’s eight scorers were in double digits. Senior big men Justice Billings and Conyer Smith had 11 each and senior wing Dominique Jones, freshman wing Jerrin Samuel and Holloway each had 10.
“We were hoping that that wouldn't happen,” Rowland said. “We were hoping we hold Holloway to eight to 10, and other guys don't play well. But they all stepped up in that position. I commend them for the way that all those kids stepped up and knew that they had to work the ball a lot to get good shots and then ended up making them.”
The Wildcats had a prolific scorer of their own in the loss, as junior guard Alex Savage scored a game-high 20 points with three 3-pointers.
“He is no doubt about it the hardest worker I've been around in my five years at Apalachee,” Rowland said. “He lives and breathes it and not just basketball. He lives and breathes conditioning. He lives and breathes the weight room.”
Winder-Barrow begins region play Friday night on the road against Heritage, while Apalachee hosts Monroe Area Friday night.
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