Lost in all the buzz about Sagemont 6-6 star wing Egor Koulechov, who is playing with an edge that allows him to single-handedly take over games, is an overlooked defense that has shut down one big-name player after another.
While Koulechov will bring flair and star power when Sagemont (9-1, Source Hoops No. 2 in 3A) and Northeast (8-2, No. 6 in 7A) tangle at the Kreul Classic at the Coral Springs City Gymnasium at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sagemont’s defense will be looking to put the clamps on Northeast’s dynamic 1-2 punch of 6-9 center Malik Price-Martin and junior guard Hunter Osceola.
“Both Osceola and Price-Martin can hurt you,” Lions coach Adam Ross said. “Osceola is steady and has good size and strength. If you back off of him he can hit a three on you. We have to slow him down. Price-Martin is long and lacky and is a presence on the defensive end. We feel like we match up defensively pretty well against them.”
A Lions defense limiting opponents to 39.7 percent and 43.4 points per game will face two other stiff tests at the Kreul in Gainesville The Rock, led by Christian Benzon and Mitchell Wilbekin on Friday and American Heritage (8-2), led by 6-5 forward Kobe Eubanks on Saturday.
Ross believes the blueprint of a stout defense setting the tone for Koulechov (23.2 ppg on 62 percent shooting) to close out games, could go a long way toward a return trip to Lakeland and winning a state title that eluded them last season.
“Egor has the other team’s attention when it comes down to being in a tight spot,” Ross said. “A couple times this year when we needed a bucket to kill the other team’s momentum, we called a play to get the ball in his hands. He is so dynamic with the ball. He has that ability to pull up almost with no space or head fake and finish at the rim with a dunk or layup.”
In the Publix Challenge, Dillard (8-2, No. 4 in 5A) and 6-7 power forward Cedric Wright face Archbishop Carroll Thursday at 8:30 while Pines Charter and its 6-3 sophomore standout Prince Ali faces Campbell (Ga.).
Reigning Class 8A state champion Hialeah Gardens faces traditional national power Lexington Catholic (Ky.) on Thursday at 7 p.m.
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• St. Thomas 9, Piper 0: Jessica Hoyt 2 goals, 1 assist. Maggie Falter 2 goals. Dallas Do Rosy 1 goal. Bella Martinez 1 goal. Rachel Bogue 1 goal. Paige Andrews 1 goal. Shannon Mcallister 1 goal. StA 15-0.
• Chaminade-Madonna 7, Sagemont 2: Bridgett Callahan 2 goals. Dillon Villella 2 assist. Gabriella Wykle had two Bridgett Callahan 2 assists. Dillon Villella goal. Jacqui Koebel goal. Mary Budde goal.
• Archbishop McCarthy 1, Pines Charter 0: Nikki Sica goal. Gaby Maranges, Sabrina Sanon, Karly Zacharias, and Shannon Leighton anchored the defense that helped goal keeper Sara Bowden earn the shut out. AM 14-5.
• Hillel 5, Yeshiva 1: Ali Wolf had 2 goals, Carli Sheck, Alexandra Ohayon and Aileen Guenoun had one each. Denisse Gample had 11 saves and Susan Fischer had 4 saves in goal. Defensively Alice Serfati and Lauren Solomiany played very tough.