Josh Fikkert got Chattanooga Christian off to a great start Monday night.
But the finish was a little shaky as the Chargers had to outscore visiting Sequatchie County 11-5 over the final 6 minutes and 28 seconds before posting a 45-39 District 7-2A high school basketball victory.
Fikkert, a 6-foot-8-inch senior post, scored the team’s first 10 points and finished with a game-high 18 in leading the Chargers (6-4, 2-1) to the hard-fought win.
“I got off to a fast start and they started to key on me and that left a lot of other guys open,” Fikkert said. “Ryan Rhodes started knocking down some shots, Nic Matthews made some shots. That got us through the first half and after that we just pulled it out.”
Fikkert scored only six points in the second half, but four came after the Indians had tied the game at 34-all on Barrett Lawson’s field goal with 6:50 left.
“I thought we were in for a dogfight,” Chargers coach Jim Arnold said. “We had to make some plays. We tried to go high-low to Fikkert and isolate him in the post quite a bit. (The Indians) were sagging off our guys and they made some shots.”
After Lawson’s bucket – all four of his points came in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter – Fikkert hit a layup, Matthews drained a 3 and Fikkert came back with another close-in shot and the Chargers had a 41-34 advantage with 4:07 on the clock.
“This year more than last a lot of guys are stepping up and hitting shots,” Fikkert said. “Last year Clark Marshall and I just fed the ball to each other inside and teams played a lot of zone (against us). This year we’re able to battle through that and we’re a lot more complete team, although we miss Clark a lot.”
The Indians pulled to within 42-39 on Tyler Grant’s second 3 of the game, but Ryan Rhodes made a free throw and Matthews, who finished with 12 points, hit 2 of 4 in the final 21.9 seconds to preserve the win.
While Fikkert was the Indians’ biggest nemesis, Arnold said Matthews’ play was crucial in the game’s outcome.
“To me,” he said, “the key to the game was Nic Matthews knocking down some of those 3s. He doesn’t shoot a lot of them, but he’s such a smart kid that he knew he had to. If they’re not going to guard him, you have to make them adjust.
“Nic knocked down three of six and that’s huge for us. There have been three or four games this year when we only had three or four guys score. To get that from Nic was really big and he made some foul shots down the stretch too.”
Fikkert and the Chargers came roaring out of the gate with the big guy scoring on three quick layups.
After Austin McGowan’s 3-pointer from the right wing – he was the only Indians player in double figures with 14 points – Fikkert hit a layup and then ran the baseline, caught a perfect lob pass from Matthews and slammed a one-handed dunk that brought the house down.
Fikkert had the Indians’ attention.
“We didn’t play with a lot of intensity in the first half,” Sequatchie County coach Jason Smith said. “We told our guys at the half that we had to play harder. We came out and did some things with our press, started making some outside shots and chiseled away and got back in it.
“But they went back to the big kid (Fikkert) down the stretch and he came through for them.”
Fikkert was going against Sequatchie County’s Ricky Dempsey, who matched Fikkert’s height but was a heavier than his counterpart. However, Dempsey got in foul trouble and scored only five points and missed some time after picking up his fourth foul with 1:13 left in the third quarter.
“We did a good job trapping their big kid (Dempsey) in the post and making him kick it back out,” Arnold said. “It wasn’t necessarily us getting steals out of it, but they weren’t getting what they wanted out of throwing the ball in there to him.
“This wasn’t out best performance, but it was good for us to gut out a district win at home.”
The Chargers’ third-quarter bugaboo raised its ugly head again Thursday.
Fikkert scored two points and Paul Fortmiller added four of his seven in the period and the Indians trailed 33-30 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We’ve had a habit of letting down in the third quarter,” Arnold said. “We did that the other night against Signal Mountain and they beat us. This third quarter was a tough one. It wasn’t our best performance, but it was good for us to gut out a district win at home.”
In the girls game, the Lady Indians staved off the gutsy Lady Chargers for a hard-fought 60-56 win that gave veteran coach Ron Davis his 954th all-time victory. Davis coached at Copper Basin eight years and Polk County for 34 before stepping aside after the 2010 season.
“At times we played really well,” said Davis, who rents an apartment and spends his weekdays in Dunlap rather than make the 180-mile, 3-hour round trip from Benton. “We did make a lot of mental mistakes, but made plays when we needed to. I’ve had trouble here (Chattanooga Christian) over the years and I’m just glad to get out with any kind of win.”
The Lady Indians (9-3, 3-0) held narrow leads throughout the game – they were 25-19 at halftime – and saw the Lady Chargers cut their deficit to 25-24 early in the third quarter.
When Kelly Frederick, the lone Sequatchie County senior, and freshman Ireland Burch hit field goals and junior Kaylee Smith drop in two free throws to offset a bucket by Chattanooga Christian senior Amanda Loyal, the Lady Indians were up 35-28.
The Lady Indians’ lead was 43-38 after three quarters.
Smith, who led all scorers with 23 points, including 18 in the second half, made a layup and Burch nailed a free throw and added two baskets as the Lady Indians outscored the Lady Chargers 7-2 to start the fourth period.
Sequatchie’s lead was 52-42 after Smith’s two free throws with 4:59 left. Smith scored eight points in the final quarter, all from the free-throw line on 12 attempts. She was 6 of 8 from the stripe in the final 3:01.
Frederick finished with 18 points and Burch had 11.
Only four Sequatchie players scored. Bailey Adams scored eight points and had the team’s only two 3s.
Joanna Smith paced the Lady Chargers (6-4, 1-2) with 16 points, 10 coming in a clutch fourth-quarter performance. Eight of Smith’s points came in the final 4:01 of the game.
Clara Dirkse scored 12 points and Hannah Henky added 11 for the Lady Chargers.
“The girls battled hard,” Chattanooga Christian coach Laura Cottrell said. “You can’t make mistakes against Sequatchie County and if you do they expose them. We made too many turnovers, weren’t good at boxing out, our defensive rotation wasn’t that good and that was the difference in the game.
“They found too many openings and made the shots.”
Sequatchie County 9 16 18 17 – 60
Chattanooga Christian 10 9 19 18 – 56
Sequatchie County (60) – Kelly Frederick 18, Kaylee Smith 23, Davenport, Adams 8, Ireland Burch 11.
Chattanooga Christian (56 – Hughes, Delashmitt 8, Hannah Henky 11, Loyal 9, R.Farlett, Joanna Smith 16, Clara Dirkse 12.
3-Point Goals: Sequatchie County 2 (Adams 2); Chattanooga Christian 3 (Delashmitt 2, Dirkse).
Sequatchie County 8 7 15 9 – 39
Chattanooga Christian 16 11 6 12 – 45
Sequatchie County (39) – Grant 8, Austin McGowan 14, Turner 2, Harmon 6, Dempsey 5, Lawson 4, Cordell.
Chattanooga Christian (45) – Nic Matthews 12, Rhodes 7, Jones 1, Card, Josh Fikkert 18, Fortmiller 7, Mansell.
3-Point Goals: Sequatchie County 6 (Grant 2, McGowan 2, Harmon 2); Chattanooga Christian 6 (Matthews 3, Rhodes 2, Fortmiller).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)