By Matthew DeGeorge
The scouting report on Chichester, coming into a game and certainly in a do-or-die out-of-bounds play with 4.2 seconds left, usually has DaQuan Granberry’s name circled in bold ink, and for good reason.
But the evolving identity to which Chichester aspires, in Clyde Jones’ first season in charge, is to be much more than just one highpowered scorer. It showed when Granberry sat for a breather late in the third quarter against Sun Valley Tuesday night, only to watch the Eagles nudge their way back ahead.
And with Granberry marooned in the corner by Sun Valley’s defensive design late in regulation, someone had to step up. Amiri Stewart gladly obliged.
Stewart canned the gametying triple to send the game to overtime, then the Eagles outlasted Sun Valley in a sloppy extra session, 7271, for a nonleague win between two teams dreaming of inclusion in the District 1 Class 5A playoffs.
Granberry provided three of the Eagles’ four points in overtime from the line, two on offsetting technical fouls, befitting the contentiousness of the night. He finished with 20 points — leaving him three shy of 1,000 for his career — and 12 rebounds. While he hit a pair of fourth-quarter 3s to reply to Sun Valley’s bids to capture momentum, he wasn’t the default option in isolation situations as he was last year.
And at the biggest moment, Stewart showed no compunction of stepping to the fore.
“It’s pretty different because we usually get him the ball, and he was getting denied,” said the sophomore guard, who scored 12 points to go with five assists and three blocks. “So I was like, let me try to get my shot off. It was a gametying shot, a win-or-lose situation, and I took the shot and it went in.”
Another sophomore guard in Josh Smith kept the game from slipping away from Chi in the third. Sun Valley (2-1) was comfortably ahead for most of the frame, leading by as many as eight. A Vinny DeAngelo 3-point play with a minute to play in the quarter put Sun Valley up 46-39.
But Chi (2-1) scored the last eight points of the stanza to surge ahead. That run included two 3-pointers from Smith, the final one an off-balance, banked-in effort after he looked up with five seconds to play and the ball at his hip and hurried into shooting position.
“With DaQuan on the court, he’s the primary scorer,” Smith said. “Every team knows that. They’re going to double-team him, and it’s going to get me open for my shots. Taking the pressure off of DaQuan is big for me, because if they lock him down, then who else is going to score?”
“It gives everyone enthusiasm, that we’re still in this game,” Stewart said of Smith’s hot hand. “When we were down like 10, we were still in the game. We gave him the ball when he was wide open because he was hot, so we kept giving him the ball.”
Smith canned a trifecta to start the fourth, setting off a back-and-forth final eight minutes that featured five ties. Sun Valley took the lead on a blow-by from Isaac Kennon, then went up four, 67-63, before D’Nadre Morgan laid up and in off the glass on a pinpoint dime from Stewart with eight seconds to play.
DeAngelo had a chance to ice the game at the line but only made one of two while up two, allowing for Stewart’s heroics. The Eagles went coast to coast, Jamese Lundy-Byrd hitting Stewart on the left wing for the sophomore to take a dribble toward the top of the key, rise and fire.
Spirited as the rivalry tilt was, it didn’t exactly flatter on the stat sheet. The teams combined for 44 turnovers (23 for Sun Valley). The teams shot 55 3-pointers, with Sun Valley going 3-for-24 from beyond the arc. DeAngelo led all scorers with 29 points to go with 12 rebounds, but he was 0-for-5 from 3-point range and came up empty on three field goal attempts in overtime, including a shot at the buzzer off a side out with eight-tenths of a second left, the Vanguards’ third look at the rim on the possession.
Marvin Freeman scored 18 points before fouling out, but was just 2-for-12 from deep. Kennon filled the gaps with 14 points, plus eight rebounds, four steals and three assists.
“They weren’t playing help-side defense at all, so it was easy to get to the basket and try to get my teammates open,” Kennon said.
Smith finished with 17 points for Chichester. Stewart added 12 and James Hendricks 11 to go with six rebounds and four assists. For a young team, the Eagles also picked up a dose of confidence in a hostile environment that tested more than just their marquee scorer.
“It felt good, knowing that we can beat other (tough) teams,” Stewart said. “It’ll just be easier, and makes us feel better in loud gyms or with the crowd going against us. It’s just a good experience for us.”