In this case, Josh Taylor was length. While Decatur (Georgia) Columbia was annoying Science Hill with deflected passes, loose ball recoveries, blocked shots, and extra chances for tip-ins, Taylor was crafting a 13-point, 21-rebound, 7-block, 2-steal stat line for the ages.
The Eagles exploded late in the second quarter and eventually crushed it for a 74-44 win over the Hilltoppers in the opening round of the Arby’s Classic at Viking Hall on Tuesday.
“They are very impressive to say the least,” said Science Hill head coach Ken Cutlip. “That is probably an understatement. Their strengths they exposed on us.”
The game was played in front of a sold-out crowd — many of them anticipating Mac McClung and his Gate City team, which was scheduled to play Huntersville (N.C.) North Mecklenburg in a game set for tipoff three hours after the Science Hill game started.
Taylor certainly didn’t mind the crowd.
“I like it honestly,” said Taylor, a 6-foot-8 sophomore who already has Division I interest from schools like Georgia, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. “I really do like big crowds because it lets me show everybody what I’m capable of doing.”
Science Hill (9-5) lost its third straight game and will play Louisville (Ky.) Fern Creek at 9 a.m. on Thursday in the sixth-place bracket. Fern Creek suffered a 53-51 overtime loss to Knox Webb.
Science Hill came up with a steal, gaining a loose ball at midcourt in the fourth quarter. David Bryant went in for what appeared to be a breakaway layup, but from behind Taylor rejected the shot attempt off the glass. The ball bounced into the hands of a Science Hill player, who quickly put up a shot in the lane. However, Taylor was there again and he rejected the shot out of bounds.
Taylor said the Eagles have a specific view of the lane when they’re on defense.
“Just stay out,” Taylor said with a laugh. “This is our home. We live here. Just stay out of there.”
Columbia head coach Dr. Phil McCrary said Taylor is unique.
“Josh is a special kid who works hard at his craft,” said McCrary.
When things went awry
Science Hill did a nice job of hanging tight throughout the first quarter. The Eagles missed some scoring opportunities, and the Hilltoppers got to the rim couple of times. At the end of the first quarter, it was 15-13 in favor of Science Hill.
The contest stayed close until Columbia started converting on the offensive end. The Eagles opened up an eight-point lead and the closed the half with an exclamation point to take a 39-20 advantage into the locker room.
“I was really disappointed in our ability to handle the pressure,” said Cutlip.
For the Eagles, Lorenz McGhee totaled 15 points, five rebounds and three assists. Liron Thomas added 15 points, four assists and four steals.
For Science Hill, Bryant led the way with nine points and four rebounds.
“We didn’t really box out well,” said Bryant. “We put our body on somebody, but we didn’t push out to where they couldn’t get the rebound.”