The way things went at the start of Friday's District 5-A high school basketball game at Grace Academy, the Golden Eagles' Stephen Record appeared to be on, well, a record-setting scoring pace.
As it turned out, he didn't even end up his team's leading scorer, but his overall play was largely instrumental in Grace Academy improving its record to a district-leading 3-0 with a 57-44 victory over Arts & Sciences.
Grace (7-6) hosts Copper Basin on Tuesday, then must play the other district teams again.
"The first time with everybody are all home games," Grace coach Jon Mattheiss said. "That's why it's important we hold serve at home. We've got to go visit everybody now."
CSAS fell to 5-9 but was 3-0 in the district entering Friday's game. Grace's 15-1 start, after the Patriots scored first, was most damaging.
"Our mental and physical effort wasn't there from the start," CSAS coach Mark Dragoo said. "You don't get down 15-1 and something be right. You dig a hole like that, it's hard to get out of. If you do get out, staying out of it's hard. Our decisions offensively and defensively weren't good. That's why we're practicing at 11 o'clock in the morning."
The Patriots' defensive effort on Record improved some as the game went on, but it about had to. The senior guard had two of Grace's three 3-point goals in the quick start, and by the time he made a layup with 1:29 left in the first quarter, the Golden Eagles owned a 23-7 lead and he had 16 of their points.
"What I felt good about was we had some other kids noticing and they made the extra pass," Mattheiss said.
With a 12-point lead a little past the midway point of the second quarter, Mattheiss had his team change to a more methodical type of offense with Record running the point. After making his fifth and final 3 at the 5:37 mark of the second quarter, Record's only other points, giving him 21, were two free throws with 30.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
"That's really more of his role," Mattheiss said of Record directing the offense. "But because he was feeling it in the first half, that was fun. He shot the ball like he's capable of shooting it.
"Not to be pessimistic, but you can't always count on somebody continuing that kind of hot streak."
Corey Nelson, who leads the Golden Eagles in scoring on the season, had 16 of his 23 points in the second half and Grace led by double digits that entire time. The senior forward was honored before the game for surpassing the 1,000-point mark in his career last month.
Jonathan Kurtz paced CSAS with 13 points. Frank Brogden's 10 were all after halftime.
Grace made 12 of 16 free throws. The Patriots, who did manage to get within six points twice after their slow start, made 10 of 20.
"We have not shot free throws well this year," Dragoo said. "We've tried some new ways of practicing them. You hope they're out there practicing them on their own, but you don't know."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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