By James Butler
PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. — Last season the McIntosh boys basketball team took Class AAAAA by storm.
Returning its three-leading scorers from, and adding a double-double threat to, a 2013-14 state tournament team, the Indians won their first 29 games of the season before falling in its hunt for a state title to MLK in the second round of last season’s state tournament.
Now McIntosh, who returns all of those key players, finds itself in the category of the hunted.
“We have a target on our back,” McIntosh head coach Jason Eisele said. “Last year we got off to an incredible start to the season. Even last season our goal was never to go undefeated in the regular season. That was not our goal. We talked about not trying to win every game [and] go undefeated, [but] we wanted to go 1-0 as many times as possible.”
Eisele could tell that his program would serve as a litmus test for many a 2015-2016 opponent when the Chiefs took to the court this summer.
“I’ll probably say most of the games we played this summer we were trailing at halftime,” he said. “Then we’ll comeback, get our game face on in the second half, take control of the game, and end up pulling it out. So that’s something we’ll have to really focus on moving forward – play consistent throughout the 32 minutes of the game because I think we are going to get everybody’s best each and every night.”
McIntosh returns its top four scorers in shooting guard Jordan Lyons, point guard Will Washington, and interior players Dishon Lowery and Chase Walter. The 5-foot-10 Lyons, a Furman commit, pumped in 24.7 points per game last season. Still, he gives much of the credit to Washington, his running mate for the last four years, and he is amazed at the point guard’s numbers and what that production means to the team.
“He always has his head up,” Lyons said. “He’s always looking to make the right pass. He’s always looking to make the right play. He averaged 9.3 assists per game last year. That’s very impressive.”
Lowery, a Wofford commit, says he likes playing with Lyons, Washington, and Walter as well as the other members of McIntosh’s rotation.
“Playing with Jordan and Will, it makes my game easier because it’s always threats on the outside,” Lowery said. “Chase made the game so much easier for everybody. His first year playing high school basketball he averaged almost a double-double. Both of our three-men can shoot. We have shooters on the team.”
Eisele likes his team’s experience and balance as there are several capable scores. He sees this team as being improved over last season’s edition.
“Returning so many talented players, with a little bit of added depth, we’ll be able to take what we accomplished last year and just add new layers and make ourselves a little bit better,” he said.
A factor in the Chiefs’ lone loss last season was Washington breaking his wrist in the fourth quarter of the MLK game where McIntosh had a lead as large as 12 points. Early indications are that the point guard is better than ever.
“He’s not the same player he was last year,” Eisele said. “He’s way, way, way better. It’s amazing how quickly he battled back from that type of injury. It was a pretty nasty break. He’s a freak of nature.”
Lyons called the MLK loss “heartbreaking” and just wants the senior class to get redemption and go out with a bang by bagging a state title.
“This is our last year,” he said. “We got to do whatever we can. There are no more second chances. There are no more tomorrows.”