On Friday, Carlisle sophomore center Thon Maker was held to 17 points in a 60-55 loss to Oak Hill Academy at Franklin County High School.
On Wednesday, Maker more than doubled his point production by scoring 36 points on top of adding 12 rebounds and seven blocks in an 83-64 win over Genesis Academy at the Carlisle School in Martinsville. The Chiefs (3-1) used a strong second half performance to open up the game after a slow start kept things a one-possession game at the half.
The game featured an extremely fast pace from the start that clearly favored Genesis Academy from the opening tip.
Genesis Academy held at one point a 10-point lead in the first half, built by constant on-ball pressure which forced Carlisle out of its half-court sets. It resulted in the Chiefs committing 10 turnovers in the opening half, many of which led to easy transition buckets for Genesis Academy.
“We had a very slow start,” Niblett said. “It all starts with our guard play. If they come out slow, then the rest of the team is going to follow.”
It was clear that Carlisle was in a funk early.
The Chiefs slowly trimmed the deficit at the free throw line by attacking the basket and getting to the line. Carlisle capitalized on those opportunities going 13-for-18 at the charity stripe, eventually taking a 34-32 lead at the break. The Chiefs finished 18-for-29 at the line for the game.
Niblett made a number of adjustments at halftime. He changed his defense to a multiple zone set, and had the offense become more patient in order to create more of a flow and rhythm.
“I told them in the locker room we have to slow the ball down,” Niblett said. “Don’t try to make the play, try to make the right play.”
The Chiefs’ unselfish play on offense sprung the team to life as Carlisle outscored Genesis Academy 50-32 in the second half.
While the Chiefs offense caught fire in the final 16 minutes, their defense played just as well, forcing Genesis Academy to take 15 3-point attempts in the second half — making five of them. It finished 6-of-24 from behind-the-arc for the game.
Genesis Academy head coach James Simpkins cited his team’s youth as one of the main reasons for the second-half downfall.
Made up of mostly freshman and sophomores, the mental mistakes forced Genesis Academy into eight second-half turnovers which Carlisle took full advantage of.
“They did a real good job of coming out in the second half and being really physical with us,” Simpkins said. “They hit us in the mouth real early and went on a run. We kind of just lost it mentally and couldn’t get back.”
Simpkins said the game was a learning lesson for all of his players who were notably frustrated at times in the second half. The coach became unhappy with how his team operated on offense as it became clear that they started playing “one-on-one” basketball rather than team basketball.
“They got a little rushed and went away from running our offense,” Simpkins said. “They kind of wanted to isolate themselves and played a little selfish.”
The rest of the team’s frustration came from guarding Maker who Simpkins gave a ton of praise to after the game.
“Thon is an unbelievable specimen,” Simpkins said. “He can score on you from all three levels. He has legitimately earned the ranking of No. 1 player in the country. It was a privilege to coach against him and it was hard to coach against him, but it was a privilege.”
As Simpkins said, Maker attacked Genesis Academy from every scoring phase possible.
Maker connected on eight 2-point field goals from the floor — two of which were dunks, and one that almost brought the gym down at the end of the third quarter.
He also hit three 3-pointers — all in the fourth quarter — when it was clear that he was feeling his shot.
“Our team got him involved and Thon got his teammates involved,” Niblett said. “Tonight was his night and I tell you, he is a heck of a player.”
Lastly, he knocked down nine free throws.
Carlisle’s Eric Johnson and Kaleb Johnson were the two other players in double figures in scoring for the Chiefs. Each scored 12 points.
Genesis Academy was led by Armani Branch with 14 points and Josh Hall with 13.