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JOHNS CREEK (GA) – The Mount Pisgah Christian Patriots have endured their share of struggles against St. Francis for some time but that continued to change this season.
Already with a long-awaited win earlier this season over the Knights, the Patriots defeated their rival once again but this time for the Region 6-A (Private) tournament title following a 65-46 home victory on February 20.
“We have eight seniors and St. Francis has had the upper hand the first three years of their career,” Mount Pisgah Christian coach Matt Hixenbaugh said. “They finished our season last year in the Final Four and they beat us in the region tournament final last year so it was nice to be able to get the upper hand on them today.”
JoJo Peterson fueled Mount Pisgah’s offense and filled the stat sheet with 18 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks while fellow senior Nate Gordon locked down the paint, collecting eight blocks along with eight points and nine rebounds.
“JoJo is our leader,” Hixenbaugh said. “When the ball is in his hands good things happen. In the first half, he was really good and kept us in the game and in the second half, he showed steady leadership and kept the ball moving. He defends so well and he made Jusaun [Holt] work really hard to score. On offense, he didn’t turn it over and got the ball where it needed to be so he was great today.”
The two shots Peterson emphatically blocked went sailing out of bounds while many of Gordon’s rejections went back to his opponent or into the hands of his teammates to start a fast break going the other way. Gordon also altered many other shot attempts in the lane by St. Francis.
“Nate is a beast. He does the dirty work for us,” Hixenbaugh said. “He defended the rim, rebounded like crazy and really our defense is built around him where we can kind of be a little more aggressive knowing he is behind us. He did a great job today.”
Kasheem Grady contributed on offense as well, scoring 12 points while fellow junior MJ Winter and senior Garrett Sutherland both added 10 points apiece for the Patriots, who remained undefeated at The Drum.
After a tightly contested game in the first half, Mount Pisgah took over in the third quarter, outscoring St. Francis 22-7. During the decisive run, Grady and Peterson converted back-to-back layups for a 45-33 edge and a double-digit margin that continued the rest of the way. Later in the frame, Peterson found Gordon for a hook shot and Winter for a 3-pointer, resulting in a 19-point lead. Then Grady added a jumper and Peterson closed the quarter with a layup for a 56-35 score after Gordon rejected consecutive shots by senior Kai Simmons (15 points).
“I thought we defended real well and rebounded in the third quarter,” Hixenbaugh said. “They didn’t get any second shots. In the first half, they had a few second-chance opportunities that kept them in the game. We got out in transition a little bit and got to the rim but I thought we defended real well and made it hard for them to score.”
Holt led the Knights with 18 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Unfortunately while trying to turn a steal into two points on the other end early in the second quarter, junior Seth Hubbard appeared to severely injure his elbow after hitting the floor and didn’t return.
“I feel so awful for him,” said Hixenbaugh of Hubbard. “Our prayers go out to him and his family and that definitely changed the tone of the game for sure.”
In the first round of the 2021 GHSA Class A-Private playoffs, St. Francis (13-9) will host Walker (13-9) and Mount Pisgah (22-6) will host North Cobb Christian (11-10).