Kaufman, Daly lead hyper-efficient Agape Christian past Meridian
Led by a consistent senior and a crew of talented underclassmen, Agape Christian is off to a hot start in a rapidly moving season.
The Knights visited Meridian, a school it had never defeated and pulled out a dominant 89-64 victory on Saturday to move to 5-1 on the season.
“It’s very nice to have a shooting guard like Nick (Ucci) or a big post man like Nathan (Kaufman),” Agape Christian senior Johnathon Daly said. “They’re very efficient. We just kind of analyze teams and we just see how strong they are in the paint or their guards.”
“We are very young and it gives us a lot of hope for the future,” assistant coach Clayton Reed said. “We’re efficient because we feed off each other and our pace is getting a lot better.”
- Daly used his smooth jumper and ability to get to the free-throw line to score 29 points, going 7-of-14 from the floor with a trio of three-pointers. He also had seven assists. Kaufman and Daly work well off one another, feeding each other for several of their buckets. Kaufman posted a line of 21 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks.
For context, Bucky Dent at The Southern in Carbondale had this to say about Agape Christian coming into this season.
“The Knights should be decent, returning two good starters off a 14-12 team. The marquee name is 5-11 junior Johnathan Daly, who pumped in 15 points per game while finding time to grab five rebounds. Six-three sophomore Nathan Kaufman averaged a double-double (12 ppg, 11 rebounds) and also rejected 1.5 shots per game.
One thing to watch is that Agape Christian is one of four conference schools with a new coach at the helm in Danny Stevens. Can they get used to him, and vice-versa, in a mini-season like this one?”
- Agape Christian stretched its lead to 31-18 before the Bobcats got going in transition for some easy baskets. The Knights’ offensive efficiency kept Meridian from getting out on the break for much of the second quarter.
“They have a full-court press that’s pretty tough to beat,” Daly said. “But once you slow down the pace more you can control the game. A team like Meridian… they’re very athletic, very fast-paced. They want to control the game. If you can control that pace you can throw them off. We got some layups on some nice back-cuts.”
- Meridian’s athleticism and relentlessness yielded some second-chance points to keep things close. The Bobcats’ aggressiveness on the defensive end also put several of its players in foul trouble in the second quarter, allowing Agape Christian to stretch its lead out from its 15-14 advantage after a quarter. “We’ve got a couple really good shooters and you know how it is,” Reed said. “Anytime you start hitting threes or you start hitting any kind of jumper it keeps rolling and your momentum goes up. Nick Ucci will hit a three, but as soon as he hits a three, it goes to Johnathan Daly. These guys are getting their rhythm down and they feed off each other.”
- Kaufman, who recently scored 50 points in a win over Crab Orchard, was lauded by Reed for his attitude and potential. “His potential is through the roof. We’ve seen that. Even in junior high, he was dominant. We competed in the state championship down here and he’s just a really good player. He has a really really good head on his shoulders and he’s a play-hard dude. He wants to win.” That 50-point outburst tied a school record set by 2019 graduate and current Knights assistant Matthew Keller, who also played with Reed. Daly noted that he learned a lot from those players when he was a freshman, and now with them as coaches and wants to share small lessons with his younger teammates.
- Cameron Davis, after dealing with foul trouble in the second quarter, scored the first two buckets of the second half, showcasing his quickness and finesse in the process. But foul trouble plagued him as he finished with 9 points. Roderick Gatewood scored 10 of his 13 points in the first half for the Bobcats.
- Freshman Anthony Ucci played like a prototypical glue guy throughout the night, using his bigger frame to his advantage around the hoop, scoring six points and grabbing rebounds. His brother Nick, also a freshman, scored 19 and added 5 rebounds. Issac Goldman contributed 10 points.
- Meridian’s Te’Kevon Williford (13 points) and Tristen Mackins (team-high 14 points) looked like the best players on the floor in brief flashes, but it wasn’t sustained for the Bobcats. Meridian was at its best attacking the hoop, especially after Agape Christian misses. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, the Knights were efficient Saturday, scoring 27 in the second quarter, 21 in the third and 26 in the fourth. Tim Weaver was previously the coach for the Knights, who Reed played for. Reed is the JV coach and is coaching under Danny Stevens, who is in his frst year at the helm of the Knights.