ALBANY -- It's been a long time coming, but this is the game Archie Chatmon has been looking for, the one he has been waiting for -- the one that may just define his Albany Indians.
"I've been waiting to see this for two years,'' said Chatmon after he watched Tim Pierce and Larry Sanford drop in 19 points each to lead Albany to a 65-52 win against Manchester on the opening day of the U-Save-It Basketball Classic at the AHS gym Saturday afternoon. "This is how I envisioned those two players playing on the first day they came here as freshmen. That's who they are, if that's who they want to be. That's who they were (on Saturday).''
Pierce and Sanford are both juniors and they have grown up a lot since that first day with Chatmon, who felt they might have taken their biggest step Saturday.
Albany, meanwhile, is growing up, too.
Don't look now, but the Indians have won three in a row, and after playing in tight games every night to start the season, they finally blew a team off the court. Pierce and Sanford left the game with more than two minutes left with Albany (3-3) in charge with a 20-point lead.
Chatmon has a long-standing policy and doesn't permit his players to speak to the media, but he praised his two guards, patted his entire team on the back and talked about just what this win means.
"It was nice to see it,'' Chatmon said. "I hope to see that kind of effort in our next game. We've had so many close games it was nice not to have to go down to the end.''
Pierce started early, tossing in 12 points in the first half alone to give Albany a 33-26 lead and the Indians, who won a nailbiter (50-46) on Friday night against previously unbeaten Mitchell County, just pulled away for their easiest win of the season.
A technical foul for an illegal substitution helped Albany put this one away in the third quarter when Jontavious Morris hit a free throw, then Pierce bagged the two technical foul free throws and followed those with a 3-pointer -- his third of the game -- to lift Albany to a 48-33 lead with two minutes left in the third.
Pierce, who led Albany Friday night with 17 points and five rebounds, finished the game with 19 points, six rebounds and five steals.
"They seem to build everything around him,'' said Manchester coach Curtis Noble, whose team (5-3) was led by Saiquan Terry's six points. "He's a good player and he does a lot for them.''
Chatmon wants to see even more.
"He is a reluctant superstar,'' Chatmon said of Pierce. "It embarrasses him.''
Chatmon also got a big game from his football players, Morris and Roscoe Byrd, a couple of 6-foot-2 offensive lineman-turned-post players who banged inside all night.
"I love my roly-poly's in the paint,'' Chatmon said. "They are just blue-collar players. They get down there and bang around. They don't care about who scores the points. I could watch them all night They just play. They are the key to our defense (because they will take a charge).
"The whole team played well, and it was nice to see us win a game like this. Now they can see what it feels like to put somebody away.''
The Classic has an off day today, but will resume Monday at Albany High, although the Indians won't play until Tuesday against Mt. Zion at 4 p.m.