By Maurice Patton
MT. PLEASANT – Brad Slaughter’s Santa Fe boys basketball team hadn’t faced many zone defenses through the early portion of the season.
The Wildcats knew what to do when they did, though.
Against Mt. Pleasant’s 1-3-1 alignment Tuesday night, six different shooters combined for 13 3-pointers as Santa Fe opened District 10-A play with a 70-47 road victory – winning for the second time in as many visits to the W.C. Johnson Gymnasium.
“We were fired up,” Slaughter said after his son, junior guard Andy Slaughter, led the way with five treys and a game-high 26 points. “We came in 1-4, and we’d lost by four, three, five and three (points). This was the first game of district play, and we felt like it was a good chance to hit ‘reset’.
“It’s always tough here; you have to be fired up because it’s a tough place to play.”
That didn’t appear to be the case from the onset, as Santa Fe scored eight straight points to open the game and steadily extended the lead – often from long distance, with seven 3s falling in the first quarter as the Wildcats went up 23-9.
“We’d seen nothing but ‘man’ (defense),” the coach said. “We’ve got shooters. They hadn’t shot it well, but they fell (Tuesday).”
Despite the scouting report and Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Carney’s repeated reminders, the Tigers (5-4, 0-1) were unable to consistently get Santa Fe’s shooters off the 3-point arc. By halftime, the Wildcats had converted 10 treys and led 39-19, and while Demarkus Brown responded with three 3s of his own coming out of the break, the hosts weren’t able to make much of a dent in the deficit.
“That’s what they do,” Carney said. “We knew they were a good 3-point shooting team. That was something we’d talked about. They’ve got some guys that shoot it well and some streaky shooters. You’ve got to make them uncomfortable and run them off the line. We didn’t do that.”
Besides Slaughter, the visitors got multiple treys from Josh Martin (13 points, three 3s), Westin McClanahan (10 points, two 3s) and Landon Evans (six points, two 3s).
“It’s what was there for us,” said the younger Slaughter, who entered the game averaging 28.4 points. “It was kind of our flow.
“We needed that game badly, just to give us a little boost.”
Brown finished with 17 points to lead Mt. Pleasant offensively, with Kentra Frierson adding nine.
“We hadn’t played in almost a month,” Frierson said. “We knew we’d be a little rusty. We’ve just got to come in every day and try to work to get better.”
Streak snapped: In the girls contest, Mt. Pleasant ended a string of 20 consecutive District 10-A losses with a 59-52 homecourt victory.
“It’s been three years since we had a district win and four years since we beat Santa Fe, so 1-0 feels good,” Lady Tigers coach Amy Odom said after her team improved to 4-8 overall with the league-opening decision.
Santa Fe (0-5) seized an early lead behind three Emmy Bates 3s, the last of which put the Lady ‘Cats ahead 12-7 five minutes into the game. But after a Bates free throw, Mt. Pleasant closed the quarter on a 10-0 run and went ahead 18-13.
From there, the hosts never trailed – despite struggling to score at times, particularly during a 4½-minute stretch in the final period during which they only got one free throw.
“We went a couple of minutes at a time when we didn’t score,” Odom said. “We were getting shots, they just didn’t fall.”
Mt. Pleasant also overcame some foul trouble, as both Baleigh Gray – who scored a game-high 22 points – and Kielee Bradley (seven points) fouled out.
“We get frustrated. We’ve got to learn to keep our cool,” Odom said. “The first half wouldn’t have been close if we hadn’t given them so many free throws.”
Aniston Slaughter scored 16 points to lead Santa Fe, with Bates adding 13.
“I feel like we’re not in game shape, and I think that affected our shot,” Santa Fe coach Jonathon Slaughter said. “Our legs left us a little. But that was the first game we’ve had our starting five, and it was our first competitive game. We’ve got to continue to work and try to get better.”
Next up: With Spring Hill’s boys basketball team in quarantine, Mt. Pleasant will skip Thursday’s scheduled doubleheader against the Raiders and Lady Raiders, instead resuming play Friday at neighboring District 10-A rival Hampshire. Santa Fe will host Richland on Friday.
Santa Fe boys 70, Mt. Pleasant 47
SF 23 16 10 21 – 70
MP 9 10 17 11 – 47
Santa Fe (70) – Colton Steward 6, Westin McClanahan 10, Josh Martin 13, Logan Wilkins 1, Andy Slaughter 26, Will Monhollen 3, Landon Evans 6, Auden Slaughter 5
Mt. Pleasant (47) – Kentra Frierson 9, Tip Marlow 5, Chris Andrews 3, Demarkus Brown 17, Chandler Hughes 4, Gavin Alderson 2, Bennett Hughes 4, Quinn Johnson 3
3-pointers – Santa Fe 14 (Steward, McClanahan 2, Martin 3, An. Slaughter 5, Monhollen, Evans 2), Mt. Pleasant 7 (Frierson 2, Brown 4, Johnson)
Mt. Pleasant girls 59, Santa Fe 52
SF 13 17 10 12 – 52
MP 18 15 13 18 – 59
Santa Fe (52) – Gracie Mills 4, Elise Adkison 10, Emmy Bates 13, Aniston Slaughter 16, Hattie Hedrick 9
Mt. Pleasant (59) – Ayanna Jones 5, Kielee Bradley 7, Emily Crossman 8, Baleigh Gray 22, Addison Workman 15, Caleigh Chalk 2
3-pointers – Santa Fe 6 (Bates 4, Slaughter 2), Mt. Pleasant 2 (Crossman, Gray)