SCOTIA — The Mekeel Christian Academy boys’ basketball team crossed off the last few items on its to-do list Saturday with a season-ending victory over independent rival Green Tech.
The Lions raced to a quick lead and never looked back in beating the Eagles 76-51 and completing a two-game season sweep of them. The win also kept the Lions unbeaten in an 11-game schedule.
“Every year we’ve gone back and forth with them,” Mekeel senior Al Barnhill said. “What was on my mind was to go undefeated against them, and for us to go undefeated on the season.”
Barnhill played a big role in the Lions accomplishing both of those things with a 31-point, 16-rebound, four-assist performance in the final varsity game of his four-year career. That effort included 11-for-12 free throw accuracy, four of Mekeel’s 15-pointers and a dunk after an alley-opp pass from Joe Roddy.
“Al has meant so much to our program over the years,” Mekeel coach Chad Bowman said of the 6-foot-6 Daily Gazette All-Area first-team all-star. “He put his head down and worked. I am extremely proud of him, and excited about his future.”
A key reserve on Mekeel’s state title-winning team as a freshman and the MVP of his team’s Section II Class A championship run as a junior, Barnhill appropriately began Saturday’s win with a three-point play and capped it with a foul shot.
“In the beginning, I was scared. In ninth grade we had so many good guys,” Barnhill said. “I started to play a lot in bigger games and I got more comfortable.”
Saturday’s game was one of the biggest in this abbreviated season for Mekeel, and the Lions wasted no time in taking charge with a 26-12 first-quarter run that featured seven 3s. The Lions were up at the half 43-24.
“We executed at both ends. It was a near-perfect half for us,” Bowman said. “To hold a team with that kind of talent to 23, that was great defense, and our offense was crisp and efficient.”
“Last week, they jumped on us. They were up 16-3,” said Barnhill, who had 18 points by the half. “We couldn’t let them do that again.”
“We couldn’t let No. 4 [Dayshaun Walton] and No. 34 [Tre Gifford] go off in the first half like they did the last time,” Mekeel junior Zahki Fallen said. “We played great defense and got a lot of turnovers, and we executed in the halfcourt. It was working out well.”
Mekeel beat Green Tech last Saturday 73-62 behind Barnhill’s 30-point, 11-rebound showing.
“They couldn’t do what our other teams did as far as going to the sectionals, but they put a feather in their cap with a sweep of Green Tech,” Bowman said. “The last four years we split with them.”
With only Barnhill, Roddy and Christian Jahnel back from last season’s main core of players, Mekeel was able to extend its win streak to 28 games.
“We lost some great players,” Bowman said. “These guys came in and really got after it. I am extremely impressed with their focus on detail.”
“Coming into the year, we were thinking with our [lack of] size we’ve got to be animals on defense, play smart and execute our plays,” Fallen said.
Mekeel won by double digits for the 10th time Saturday. Fallen had 16 points and five steals, and Roddy had nine points and five assists.
Walton scored 24 points for Green Tech, 16 coming in the second half.
Green Tech 12 12 8 19 — 51
Mekeel 26 17 14 19 — 76
Green Tech scoring: Carter 3-0-8, D. Walton 8-6-24, Williams 2-0-4, Turner 0-2-2, Gifford 2-1-6, Sotomayor 2-2-6, Z. Walton 0-1-1. Mekeel scoring: Skeeter 2-0-6, Roddy 3-0-9, Fallen 7-0-16, Jahnel 2-0-6, Barnhill 8-11-31, Barcelone 3-0-8. Scoring totals: Green Tech 17-12-51, Mekeel 25-11-76.