No. 10 Etowah earns Cherokee County bragging rights on Senior Night against Creekview

No. 10 Etowah 60, Creekview 51

Good boys basketball in Cherokee County has been at a premium over the past decade. No. 10 Etowah (16-2) and Creekview (15-2) have tried to change that narrative this season. The Eagles, ranked in Class AAAAAAA, hosted the Grizzlies out of Region 6-AAAAAA, a team still on the search for a real resume building win, while Etowah already had scored wins over Southwest DeKalb, Peachtree Ridge and Lithonia. With their 15-game winning streak snapped last night in a 43-38 overtime trap game against Walton, the Eagles were focused on Saturday to make sure there were no lingering effects on Senior Night.

Etowah opened the game starting five seniors; regular starters Adrian Cohen (Tusculum), Carter Ingersoll (Claremont McKenna) and junior Jaxon Etter on the bench. Just 40 seconds into the game, Coach Jason Dasinger called timeout before the Eagles even had a chance to advance the ball into the frontcourt as the Grizzlies opened with a zone press.

Creekview took advantage of the situation and led 7-4 with 4:22 left in the first quarter before Dasinger subbed in his usual trio. Etter quickly hit Cohen for a corner three while 6-foot-7 Julian Baldwin had his way around the rim as Creekview’s 6-foot-6 James Wall watched from the stands, suspended after getting ejected for two technicals in Wednesday’s 74-71 win at Sequoyah. Baldwin was aggressive, knocking down two jumpers before attacking the basket and scoring 10 of his 16 points as the Eagles led 17-15 after eight minutes.

Dynamic scorer KJ Jenkins, the No. 4 ranked senior point guard in the GHSA, netted five points in the opening frame, but it was apparent that Etowah was committed to making someone else beat them. That someone else was nowhere to be found in the second quarter as the Eagles outscored the Grizzlies 16-3 in the frame.

Everyone got involved as things were clicking on both sides for the Eagles. Ingersoll knocked down a jumper to ignite a 16-1 run.

The Eagles forced countless turnovers and converted on the other end. Nick Nagy hit Za’ki Lowe for a late three to help Etowah carry a 33-18 lead into the half.

In the third quarter, it was more of the same. Etowah led by 22 at 43-21 at the 4:38 mark as Cohen bombed away from deep. The 6-foot-5 wing drilled two of his four three-pointers en route to eight of his game-high 18 points.

Creekview was on the verge of packing it in until a 39-second stretch changed the entire complexion of the game. Jenkins scored his first bucket of the second half with 39 seconds left. Grant Potts completed a 4-point play from deep. Then, after a wild inbounds, the Grizzlies came away with a Paxton Nayman steal which led to a Jenkins three at the buzzer, a 9-point spurt that turned a 23-point deficit into a manageable 50-36 hole heading into the fourth.

The madness continued in the fourth quarter as the celebratory home crowd grew quieter and quieter. Timmy Davis knocked down a corner three, followed by a Grayson Baker triple in the same spot. Baker scored nine of his team-high 12 points in the opening 3:43 of the final quarter, bringing the Grizzlies to within 52-48 with 4:17 remaining.

With flashbacks of the previous night coming all too true, the Eagles turned to Etter and Cohen to stem the tide. Etter and Cohen finished with back-to-back lay-ups to cushion the lead to 56-48 at the 2:38 mark.

With a 21-to-2 run now behind them, the Grizzlies ran out of firepower. Etowah responded with an 8-to-3 run to close a 60-51 victory, clinching their claim as the best team in Cherokee County.

My Take

The game played out how I thought it would – kind of. Etowah was the better team with more size and better wins. After paying homage to their seniors, the Eagles took off with their usual starters in the game. Julian Baldwin was at his best, attacking Creekview’s limited front line. Seeing two early jumpers fall through really gave the 6-foot-7 unsigned senior a boost of confidence. He set the tone in the first quarter and was Coach Dasinger’s cornerstone as they waited for the cavalry to arrive at the first substitution. Carter Ingersoll did what he does inside – the dirty work. I’m a fan of the 6-foot-6 post’s old school game. He collected 9 points and 7 rebounds and did it without the flash and frills. Adrian Cohen is major grab for Tusculum at the D-II level. Once primarily a slasher, Cohen has improved every season. He knocked down four three-pointers and picked up 7 rebounds. Jaxon Etter was quiet with 8 points, but he impacted the game where the scorebook doesn’t show. His steadiness played a big role in Etowah closing out the victory while it seemed everything was unraveling. He had four points in the fourth quarter, had a few nice passes and moved his feet well defensively, especially on top of the defense.

Coming into the game, I was concerned about who would be able to create their own shot outside of KJ Jenkins. Etowah locked down the potent scorer, holding him to a pair of threes, finishing with 10 points. Jenkins had no easy looks and no free passes to the basket. With deep range and the green light to pull, Jenkins tried to warm himself up with a couple tough, long threes that were contested. He was never able to get it going, which is why the Grizzlies were down big. Grayson Baker came to life in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t sustainable for the length of the game. Creekview’s most constant offense came from bruising Paxton Nayman inside. He had 11 points and 6 rebounds. For the Grizzlies to continue winning at a high clip, they will have to free up Jenkins more. If he’s not creating for himself, he must rely on finding spot up shooters. Creekview sank six threes on the night. Coach Casey Gramling’s offense is predicated on ball-movement as they just don’t have enough options that can consistently create their own shot outside of Jenkins.

Top Performers

Adrian Cohen – 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Julian Baldwin – 16 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Carter Ingersoll – 9 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
Jaxon Etter – 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block

Grayson Baker – 12 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Paxton Nayman – 11 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
KJ Jenkins – 10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal