Throughout the early season, Sutton Smith had been trying to find himself as the point guard on Denmark High School’s boys basketball team.
As the director of the offense, Smith himself had been struggling to get shots to fall, including during the Danes’ Saturday win against Forsyth Central — his first game of the season where he hit a three.
But Smith was certainly feeling it on Tuesday night, as the sophomore scored 27 points to lead Denmark to its first-ever region basketball win on Tuesday, a 76-57 result against Chestatee.
"I think you just keep playing your game,” Smith said. "I’ve been working and it was going to end up coming out eventually. My teammates fed me all night long, and I just found open shots."
Chestatee got the game started with a three and took advantage of a Denmark turnover to score another bucket, quickly putting the Danes in an early 5-0 hole in the first quarter.
The Danes quickly dug out of it, though, with Trevor Byrk giving his team the lead after fighting pressure in the lane and spinning for an open shot to give Denmark a 7-6 lead.
Smith padded the slim lead with his first three of the night, and a few minutes later, he added another one and took a steal in for a layup to fuel a 13-2 run for the Danes. After Smith drained his third of six threes for the night, Denmark held a comfortable 20-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“Anytime you get to see a few shots go in, it kind of helps and you just get your rhythm going,” Smith said. “I got great looks all night. We fed the post and I was able to kick it back down and get shots.”
The lead just continued to grow in the second quarter, with Ze'Vian Capers joining in for seven points during the frame. The War Eagles had a hard time climbing back in, with Denmark's size advantage being a big factor in their defensive gameplan. To head coach Tyler Whitlock, it's a strength that his team will need to continue to utilize going forward.
"I think that’s where we’re going to give people problems," he said. "When you play a team like Chestatee and they shoot the ball as well as they do, it can get frustrating. They can light it up, and they can get back in the game really quick."
Denmark took a 38-22 lead into halftime after Chestatee hit a buzzer-beating three to end the first half. However, the War Eagles could not get back within striking distance, and the Danes cruised through the second half for the win.
With defending Region 7-4A champion Blessed Trinity next on the schedule, Denmark will have a tough task to face. But by starting their first-ever region slate with a win, the positivity is certainly there.
"I feel like when our guys play the way that they’re supposed to, we should be pretty good," Whitlock said. "Tonight, I don’t know if we were as focused as we needed to be but it’s always good to win. It’s good to come out with a win and start out 1-0."
Adonnis Easton-Tolbert ended his night with 16 points. Capers finished with 11.
Chestatee girls 61, Denmark 37
The Danes kept up with the visiting War Eagles for the first few minutes of play, but midway through the first, Chestatee began to pull away with a 12-3 run. The War Eagles led Denmark 40-18 at the halfway point.
That lead stayed intact in the second half, with Chestatee holding at least a 20-point advantage throughout the rest of the game.
Tyana Green scored 12 points for Denmark in the first half alone, and finished with a team-leading 13. Jessie Denardo ended her night with 12.