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Maker makes huge impact
Carlisle freshman dominant in home debut
Carlisle’s Thon Maker slams home two of his 19 points Thursday at Carlisle School. Maker, a freshman, added 17 rebounds and seven blocks as Chiefs beat North Cross 53-50 in front of a standing room-only crowd to see the 7-foot Australian’s home debut. (Bulletin photo) by Mike Wray)
Carlisle School freshman Thon Maker made his presence known immediately this season by dropping 49 points in the Chiefs’ season opening win over Covenant.
And while his double-double average in points and rebounds through the first four games this season has been impressive, the 7-foot forward displayed a little of everything in his home debut Thursday night against Virginia Independent Conference rival North Cross.
Maker came within three blocked shots of a triple-double in Carlisle’s 53-50 victory, recording season highs in rebounds and blocks with 17 and seven, respectively.
“No question was that a sign of the type of athleticism he has,” Carlisle head coach Jason Niblett said. “I’ve coached a lot of kids at the Division I level, and at this stage, it’s scary.”
It was Maker’s final block of the night that helped seal the win.
The Raiders (5-3, 2-1) refused to go away, trailing by six with little more than a minute remaining. With a chance to ice the game at the foul line, the Chiefs (5-0, 2-0) could not convert the front end of a one and one to make it a two possession game. Off the rebound, North Cross hit one of its perimeter shooters with an outlet pass, but Maker was there in transition to block Keith Oddo’s 3-point attempt, which would’ve sent the game to overtime.
“We beat a really good team tonight,” Niblett said. “They’re a well coached team and we just happened to make a few more plays at the end. The defense was huge. We knew we had to rely on our defense because we’re still learning each other. We have to use our defense to help score points.”
The lanky freshman forced North Cross to beat Carlisle from the outside, as the Raiders had a difficult time penetrating the Chiefs’ 2-3 zone defense. While the rivals from Roanoke had a variety of open looks, they failed to consistently knock down shots from behind the arc, except for a 4-for-6 spurt in the second quarter.
“They haven’t played any man defense all year. And I’m not sure if they were capable of manning us,” North Cross head coach Bill Hodges said. “They manned us three times, and all three times we scored. It’s not easy playing against their zone though, because you know once you penetrate it and try to score (Maker) will block it. You just have to penetrate and dump and keep shooting. He’s pretty good at defending the basket.
“I told someone the other day that when Kevin Garnett was a sophomore and living in South Carolina, I saw him at the Bob Gibbons camp. This kid reminds me so much like Garnett, except he shoots better.”
The Raiders finished 6-for-23 from 3-point range and were just 2-for-12 in the second half.
Having had only two full practices with his current roster, Niblett has strayed away from his normal man-to-man defense at the start. He said the zone look is something easy to work with until the team starts to gel.
“We’re grateful that some of those shots didn’t fall, but we just kept plugging away with our zone defense and forced them to jack it up from the outside,” he said. “I’m a man-to-man coach, but for right now our 2-3 zone is our bread and butter.”
Carlisle led for most of the game and closed the first quarter on a 10-2 run to take a 12-5 lead after eight minutes. North Cross then put together a quick 8-2 run in the span of two and a half minutes to make it 20-19, but the Chiefs scored five of the final seven points of the half, including one of Maker’s two 3-pointers to hold a 25-21 lead at halftime.
The Raiders then had their best stretch of the game in the third quarter, going on an 11-4 run over a five minute interval to take their biggest lead of the game at 35-31 with 2:42 left. Peter Agba, who dealt with foul trouble in the first half, came alive in the quarter with five rebounds and seven points.
Carlisle responded with an 11-4 run of its own to close the period, fueled by a couple of key blocks by Maker and five points from Eric Johnson, who scored seven in the quarter.
“We had to start getting out on their shooters, because we knew coming in they could shoot very well. They really put the petal to the meddle in the third quarter,” said Johnson, who scored 10 of his 16 points in the second half and added six assists. “Once we got our defense going, it helped get us some easy baskets.
“It’s pretty good playing with Thon,” Johnson added. “It almost spoils you though, because if you put it anywhere near the rim he catches it and finishes. He blocks a lot of shots, and we needed every one tonight.”
Hodges said he felt a few calls went against them, which aided Carlisle’s game-changing run.
“They got two questionable goaltending no-calls, which led to two baskets and that was an eight-point swing right there,” he said.
The Chiefs matched their biggest lead of the game early in the fourth quarter at 48-41. The Raiders then pulled to within three with 50 seconds remaining on a Bennett Holley 3-pointer. Maker’s second dunk of the night nearly sealed the victory until Holley’s offensive rebound and putback provided the final score with nine seconds left.
Holley led North Cross with 15 points. Agba added a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Carlisle is back in action at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Fishburne Military.
North Cross 50
North Cross 5 16 18 11 — 50
Carlisle 12 13 17 11 — 53
CS: Thon Maker, 19; Eric Johnson, 16; Kevin Cuesta, 5; Malcom N’diaye, 5; Cole Dickerson 4; Yesid Mosquera, 4. NC: Bennett Holley, 15; Peter Agba, 11; Tay Calloway, 10; Keith Oddo, 8; Matt Doughty, 6.