Deerfield’s Christian Wallace splits a pair of Southland defenders during Friday night’s game at W.T. Henry Gymnasium. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — It was a tight contest Friday night as the Deerfield-Windsor Knights and the Southland Academy Raiders opened GISA Region 3-AAA play, but it was the host Knights who pulled out the 70-59 victory.
The win improved Deerfield’s record to 11-4 overall and extended its winning streak to seven. The loss dropped Southland’s record to 10-3 and snapped the Raiders’ eight-game winning streak.
It was an anticipated matchup between two of the top teams in the region, and it was a night that lived up to its billing.
“It was a good win,” Deerfield coach Gordy Gruhl said. “We had to hold serve on our home court. We know they are going to be really tough at their home.”
Despite being behind most of the contest, the Knights fought hard to come back in the fourth behind a 19-8 run.
The Raiders got off to a solid start, pulling ahead early in the first period to take an 11-6 lead behind solid defensive pressure and great shooting from Michael Volley and Keyon Stone, who both made their presence felt throughout the contest.
Meanwhile Deerfield seemed to have a hard time finding the bottom of the basket from long range and had difficulty getting to the basket thanks to Southland’s defense.
The second period saw the Knights adjust to Southland’s pressure and claw their back into the contest thanks to their signature ball pressure and uptempo offense, finishing the second half down only four points 36-32.
Both teams came out hungry in the second half with Deerfield continuing to close the gap, finally tying the game 36-36 halfway through the period. Both teams again traded baskets until Deerfield got it’s first lead at 40-38 since leading 2-0.
Just as it seemed the Knights might have pulled ahead for good, Southland went on a run of its own to tie the game at 51-51 heading into the final quarter.
Perhaps sensing the danger of loosing to a long-time rival on their home court, the Knights buckled down defensively and began to find their shooting touch.
Thanks to timely baskets from Ryan Toole, Justin Eady and Chap Ivey, the Knights were able to pull away, finishing off the Raiders by 11 points.
Guard Dee Barber led the scoring for Knights, putting up 18 points as he continually penetrated and drove to the hoop.
Toole had a solid game, especially late, hitting some long-range shots, including a 3-pointer and an 3-point play down the stretch as part of his 15 points.
With 13 points of his own, Eady had a strong night offensively despite missing some shots early. Ivey also had a hard time hitting anything deep early but battled back as the game went on to score 10 points of his own. Jay Barber added eight points and Christian Wallace had six to round out the scoring for the Knights.
Eady and Wallace also made their presence felt on the boards, grabbing seven rebounds apiece, while Toole and Austin Fallaw both added four. Overall the Knights pulled down 36 boards, which helped turn the tide late.
“It was a great game,”Gruhl said. “I thought we did a great job executing our offense.”
Gruhl said he was concerned early as the team seemed to lack patience while also missing 6 of 14 free throws.
“We’re usually a good free throw shooting team,” he said. “We just couldn’t seem to hit them early, but we did late and that was a big difference maker for us.”
Meanwhile the Deerfield Lady Knights pulled out a tough one, beating the Lady Raiders 46-32 earlier in the night.
Both teams traded baskets early with neither taking charge offensively, ending the first half with Deerfield up 19-16.
The second half was the difference for Deerfield as it never relinquished the lead and finished the third period up 10 points.
Taking the 35-25 lead into the final period, the Lady Knights slowed the tempo and used ball control to stretch out the final minutes, finally pulling out the 14-point victory.
Gabby Burt nearly had a double-double as she led the Lady Knights in both scoring with 13 points and rebounding with nine boards. She added four assists to round out her solid night.
Kelsey King added 12 points, also pulling down three rebounds and garnering five steals. Nyla Perry again made major contributions with eight points, eight rebounds and three steals.