In the latest Region Race episode, I mentioned the "internet fame" of Hammond's Seventh Woods (whom ESPN currently labels the 60th best junior in the country) and the anticipation for his visit to Augusta Christian for an important region contest. But Friday's biggest star was another player who is no stranger to fame, Xavier McDaniel. Only this “X-man” is not the one I grew up watching bully NBA guards and bury threes for the Seattle Supersonics. But the former NBA star’s son was a chip off the old block Friday in Hammond’s 57-55 win in the defending state champions’ gym.
The filled-to-capacity crowd no doubt expected big things from Woods. But he didn’t score a field goal Friday. However, McDaniel made shots from all angles, including behind the three point line, floating towards the basket, and above the rim. Many times. Every time Hammond needed a basket, he seemed to answer the call, including a jump shot from the free throw line that gave the Skyhawks a 55-53 lead with less than one minute remaining. Immediately afterwards, Augusta Christian’s Madison Williams tied the game with a reverse layup only to set up an anticlimactic finish. Woods was fouled 50 feet from the basket and sent to the line, where he made the game winning free throws with seconds remaining.
The home loss must sting after the Lions seemed to control much of the game. Junior Madison Williams played brilliantly, and the only times Augusta Christian seemed vulnerable were the moments he was forced to sit because of foul trouble. While on the court, he got where he wanted off the dribble and finished almost everything.
And the Lions’ attack was balanced as 6’9” senior center Calvin Taylor and 6’6” freshman forward got numerous attempts in the paint.
But coach John Harris’ team has a history of returning even stronger after setbacks. The Lions lost both regular season meetings versus Hammond last season before defeating the Skyhawks in the post season and eventually winning the state championship. Assuming Hammond is more talented than any SCISA team Augusta Christian will face, there is nothing about Friday’s game that suggests the Lions won’t be poised to make a serious run at repeating as SCISA’s champs in the next 60 days.