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Georgia Tech team camp analysis

I made it out to Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Here are the camp’s biggest takeaways.

The Return of the Messiah

Messiah Thompson was one of the top performers at camp. The 5-foot-9 2019 point guard started his career at North Atlanta before transferring to Pebblebrook for his sophomore season. Now back home at North Atlanta, Thompson resumes the role as lead dog. Thompson plays with a chip on his shoulder and is the unquestioned engine for the Warriors. He posted 18 points, five assists and three steals in a blowout win over Harrison and followed up with a 17-point showing against Dacula. Thompson has a good feel for the game and court vision which allows him to make his teammates better. He scored from beyond the arc and when attacking the basket.

North Atlanta should be much improved from their 7-18 mark not just because of the return of Thompson, but the addition of fellow Pebblebrook transfer Andrew Robinson, who brings energy at 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-4 junior Joshua Johnson who was mightily impressive in his first impression. Josh is extremely active and athletic which helps him finish around the basket and rebound. He had 11 points and eight rebounds against Harrison. The nucleus of 2019 players could have North Atlanta competing in Region 7-AAAAAA sooner rather than later.

Fitting In

Quincy Ademokoya suited up for Dacula after recently transferring in as a highly touted 2020 prospect from Illinois, but it was easy to see that Ademokoya is not yet a finished product, though he showed flashes of a solid skillset. He was passive in Dacula’s 54-53 win over North Atlanta. The 6-foot-6 wing finished with three points, seven rebounds and two assists. Both Dacula and Ademokoya are still in the feeling out process as to where he best fits in. Once he finds his role and synergy with his new teammates, Ademokoya should be able to gel. He is in good hands with Dr. Russ Triaga and an established core of Falcons.

Arusha Hunter

One player who had no trouble taking charge was 2018 shooting guard Arusha Hunter. Hunter has continued to rise his game to the next level. After averaging just 4.2 points per game as a sophomore, Hunter turned in 17.3 a night his junior season leading to Class AAAAAA Most Improved honors. Against North Atlanta the 6-foot-2 scorer poured in 26 points, assaulting the basket. Hunter went 16-of-18 from the foul line, crafting his way into the paint at will. With Mekhail Bethea sidelined with a leg injury, Hunter shined and got buckets when needed.

See Ya Seniors
Coach Eugene Brown addressing the Panthers after a win over St. Pius

Four seniors with major experience and a combined 29.8 points per game between them have left the Southwest DeKalb program. The mass exodus is quite ponderous, but Southwest has more than enough to be competitive with talent dripping from the Class of 2020.

Point guard KD Johnson is a fierce competitor that makes all the plays down the stretch. Johnson seemingly has a magnetic pull to the rim, always finding a way to slice and dice his way to the cup and finish strong. Johnson has the chance to be one of Georgia’s best finishers by the time he’s a senior. While he is a respectable three-point shooter, if he can improve his stroke even more, it will be tough to stop him.

Eugene Brown III is still a gazelle on the floor and looks taller every time I see him. Brown is about 6-foot-3 and has a chance to squeeze at least two more inches out of his frame. Brown can handle the ball in transition and covers ground quickly with his long strides. Playing key minutes as a freshman alongside Johnson will bode extremely well over the course of the twosome’s career.

6-foot-6 rising junior James Glisson III showed promise in the Panthers’ 47-44 comeback victory over St. Pius. Glisson finished with 13 points and six rebounds. Senior Demarion Johnson will be asked to provide leadership on a young team. He was active against St. Pius, using his 6-foot-3 build to snag nine points and five rebounds.

Same old St. Pius

With nearly everyone back from last year’s Class AAAA state runner-up roster, St. Pius is still one of Georgia’s most efficient offenses that maneuver with precision cuts and passes. Everett Lane looks ready to grab ahold of the No. 1 option title if there is one in St. Pius’ balanced attack. Lane has thrust his way into the discussion as one of the best shooters in the Class of 2018.

Floor general Matt Gonzalo enters his junior season and continues to orchestrate the offense at a high clip and handle opposing ball pressure. He is the type of player who won’t wow you with big numbers, but if you see him in person you will truly be able to appreciate what he brings to the table.

The Golden Lion forwards had a nice weekend. Zach Ranson played above the rim and finished around the hoop. Rising junior Patrick Snipes caught my eye with his work out of the post, facing up and using his quickness to get by defenders and create advantages.

Milton Maturing
Donaven Hairston

Milton is looking to restore their momentum after an interesting season resulted in just a 14-14 record, but good enough to steal a Region 5 title away from Lambert. Gone is Duke-signee Alex O’Connell, meaning the keys to the car officially belong to rising sophomore point guard Christian Wright. Wright had just six points against St. Pius, but he showed he could turn the corner and get in the lane when he felt like it. Teams will surely key in on slowing him down this year meaning Donaven Hairston will have to step up. The 2019 point guard is slight of frame but still can sneak past defenders and score in traffic. He turned it on in the second half against St. Pius, scoring 17 of his game-high 18 in the frame.

Cherokee County’s Finest
Adrian Cohen lines up a foul shot

Etowah is now the team to beat in Cherokee County after peaking at the right time and capturing a Region 4-AAAAAAA championship and a Sweet 16 berth. Coach Jason Dasinger takes over as head coach and will look to continue to ride the momentum that Milton head man Allen Whitehart put in motion. Dasinger inherits a very good group headed by Jaxon Etter, Adrian Cohen and Julian Baldwin.

Etter, a late blooming 2019 who really came out of nowhere last year, is a steady 6-foot-3 guard with deceptive quickness. He works all levels of the floor and can score the ball. Etter uses controlled dribbles, backdowns and head fakes to ensure he gets clean looks. He poured in 23 points and five rebounds in a 52-51 loss vs. Tri-Cities.

Cohen is a 6-foot-5 wing that has been putting it all together and has a chance to stamp himself as a Low Major prospect with a good senior season. His three-point shot is now a weapon after diversifying his game from just being a slasher.

Baldwin was not in attendance at camp meaning Carter Ingersoll took his minutes. The rising senior is an old school post that uses positioning and body control to score inside. He takes his time and is methodical while working the pivot and showcases some nifty post moves. He finished with 11 points and nine rebounds against Tri-Cities.

Tri-Cities Impresses
Jon Young

Tri-Cities can shoot the ball when they are on. The surprise Class AAAAAA quarterfinalist used a difficult Region 5 to prepare themselves for the state tourney. The Bulldogs have some firepower coming back and see some new faces join the roster as well.

DaMarcus Johnson is a microwave scorer at point guard. The 2019 shooter can catch fire from deep. He is 6-foot on a good day but makes the most out of his size with his quick burst and ability to create his own shot. To play at the next level, Johnson will need to continue to work on making his teammates better.

One teammate who should easily benefit is 6-foot-4 senior Eli Lawrence. The lanky lefty is lights out when he gets going. He dropped in 15 points in a win over Etowah. Lawrence will be joined by Jon Young, who was fabulous in the first half, scoring 16 of his 18 points. Young was on fire, drilling threes and scoring off the bounce. He will benefit from Johnson and Lawrence’s scoring threat. Young is now on his third school entering his senior year. He began at Westlake and bounced to New Manchester for his junior season before coming to Tri-Cities.

6-foot-7 Zachary Morgan brings an interesting dynamic to the Bulldogs. He is a grown man inside strapped with muscle. He didn’t get many opportunities to score the ball, but he showed he could face up and attack the hoop. Defensively, he can alter shots and clean the glass.

Georgia Tech camp Team Reviews Part 1

By Trent Markwith (@TMarkwith14)

Southwest DeKalb

Coach Eugene Brown addressing the Panthers after a win over St. Pius

With the departure of some 2018 players, SWD sported a very young team at GT this weekend. Even with this youth, SWD looked pretty good and had nice wins over Milton and St. Pius. SWD looks to be led by KD Johnson, who has been making some noise with the GA Stars on the travel circuit. Johnson is a fiery competitor and exceptional athlete who gets to the basket whenever he wants, he is a prospect to keep an eye on in Georgia’s 2020 class. Along with Johnson in the backcourt is Eugene Brown III, another 2020 guard. Brown is a long, wiry player who displayed a nice offensive skill set with solid ball-handling and finishing in transition, and an effective jumper. SWD also has two productive forwards in James Glisson and Demarion Johnson. Glisson provides a big body down low, has a soft touch around the basket, and stays active on the glass on both ends. Johnson is a tough player who plays with a lot of energy and excels in his role on this team as someone who doesn’t demand the ball much but defends, rebounds, and finishes inside. This SWD team could definitely have a successful year as their young players continue to develop and mature.

Milton

Donaven Hairston

This weekend, Milton was led by three different players who all had impressive moments throughout the camp. Christian Wright, Ulyric Linton, and Donaven Hairston all look ready to have solid seasons for the Eagles. Wright (2020) and Hairston (2019) share ball-handling responsibilities in the backcourt and are both confident with the ball. Wright has a crafty handle and mature body for a 2020 player, which he uses to get inside for either fancy finishes or kick-outs when the defense collapses. Hairston is a speedy guard that can score in bunches with finesse inside and perimeter shots off both the dribble and catch. Linton (2018) was aggressive the entire weekend; the strong, left-handed wing was consistently looking to get inside and finish through contact in each of Milton’s games. Others who saw a lot of time were Evan Hurst, Vince Graves, and Brady O’Connell. Hurst, a 2020 guard, has a smooth game and provided some scoring for the Eagles. Graves and O’Connell both give good length and athleticism to the team; look for new coach Allen Whitehart to get more out of them in terms of activity and intensity. Milton definitely missed the production and energy of JP McGhee this weekend but expect Coach Whitehart to have this squad prepared for 2017-18 as they become more disciplined and find their identity.

St. Pius X

The Golden Lions played like you would expect from a state runner-up at Tech. Pius is one of the most well-rounded, fundamental teams that you will see in Georgia and that was on display this weekend. Highlighted by crisp ball movement and unselfishness on offense, Pius was able to get quality looks throughout the camp. They also played suffocating full-court defense that you might not expect from a team in early June, this pressure surprised teams and forced them into frequent turnovers. It seems like this team will be led by scorer Everett Lane and facilitating PG Matt Gonzalo, but there are many other capable players on the Pius team that will give quality minutes. Zach Ranson, Brian Gonzalo, Troy Stephens, Niko Broadway, and Patrick Snipes will all produce for the Golden Lions as well. I was most impressed with the energy and chemistry that Pius plays with. There aren’t any players with their own agenda on this team, things flow smoothly because it doesn’t matter who scores and each player wants to see the others do well. The entire team, whether on the bench or in the game, is loud and you can sense energy being given off from one player to another. These traits keep Pius intense and locked in the whole game, it easy to see why they have been one of the better programs in Georgia for a while now.

Etowah

Adrian Cohen lines up a foul shot

Coming off a region championship and Sweet 16 appearance, Etowah is looking to follow up with success again this season and showed the potential to do so over the weekend. New coach Jason Dasinger is one of the most intense coaches you’ll see and he has his guys playing with great effort. The Eagles were led by versatile backcourt players Jaxon Etter and Adrian Cohen, both are bigger guards that can handle the ball. Etter is fearless going to the basket and gets there with ease due to his combination of speed and strength. Etter has also improved as a shooter since I saw him in the spring, hitting multiple mid-range shots and threes. Cohen is a well-built slasher who excels in transition and is starting to develop a reliable outside shot. In the frontcourt, Julian Baldwin is a long, athletic player who rebounds well and finishes with ease off of put-backs and drop-offs. With Baldwin gone on Sunday, Carter Ingersoll picked up his play and had a good day. Ingersoll showed good post moves and footwork inside, to go along with a nice short corner jumper. Ingersoll may be somewhat undersized for a post player but he is an excellent rebounder and understands how to score down low. Etowah’s offensive skill paired with their defensive energy should have this Eagles team poised to make a run at another region championship.

Panthers’ comeback falls short at Day 1 of the Peach State Classic

No. 4 Fayette County 64, No. 6 Southwest DeKalb 56

Class AAAAA contenders collided at Day 1 of the Peach State Classic held at Clayton State University and hosted by Revelle Williams. No. 4 Fayette County and No. 6 Southwest DeKalb both had a chance to make a statement and shakeup the poll with a strong performance.

Darius Hogan got the Panthers off to a good start with back-to-back threes, but Fayette County didn’t blink and played an exciting brand of basketball led by Furman-signee Noah Gurley at the backend of the defense. The long and lean 6-foot-8 forward swatted away three shots in the opening period as the Tigers held a 12-9 lead heading into the second quarter.

Fayette County ran out to a 10-2 run to open the second quarter and led 22-11 following an Austin Nesmith alley-oop to Gurley. Sophomore Josh Dupree got loose in the quarter and scored nine of his 11 points, slicing to the basket and showing a deft jumper. The Tigers led 37-22 at the half using a balanced scoring attack.

Midway through the third quarter, Fayette County continued to extend its lead going up 40-24. Josh Archer and Mandarius Dickerson struck life into the Panthers and helped Southwest DeKalb close on a 15-4 run.

Nesmith drove to the basket late and didn’t get a foul call and barked at the referee which resulted in a technical with 1.2 seconds left. Hogan sank both free throws cutting the Tigers lead to 44-39 entering the fourth.

Southwest DeKalb’s steady climb back into the game rolled on. At the 4:51 mark, it looked like Gurley got a clean block on Eugene Brown III, but instead a goaltend was called and the lead was trimmed to 46-45.

The Panthers finally took their first lead of the second half off Kadarius Johnson’s offensive rebound and put-back with 4:10 left at 47-46, but the lead was short lived as Phillip Young sank a pair of free throws. Nesmith made it a three point game with 2:50 remaining on a floater.

Jaylen Holloway added on an And-1 layup, but missed the free throw, keeping it at 54-49, but Dickerson came down and drilled a three to make it a one possession game with 2:17 to play. Just six seconds later, the Panthers suffered a huge blow as Dickerson, their leading scorer, fouled out with a team-high 15 points.

With 59 ticks left after weaving around the defense and running some clock, Nesmith tossed another alley-oop to Gurley to extend the lead to 58-52.

Quincy Carter added a layup with 23.9 seconds remaining to make it 60-56 and Archer got a steal, but he missed the frontend of a 1-and-1 with 17.2 seconds left and Gurley grabbed the board and dished ahead to Young who was fouled and drained both free throws. The Tigers iced the game at the line, going 14-of-15 in the fourth quarter and 25-of-29 for the game.


My Take

This felt like an Elite Eight matchup; maybe even deeper. The Tigers look seriously poised to make a deep run at state this year with their bevy of seniors. The only question will be their depth if they get into foul trouble. Noah Gurley was dynamic defensively, blocking seven shots and flirting with a double-double. Four guys scored in double-figures for a balanced offense. Phillip Young is an active and willing rebounder from his guard position and his 12 points and 11 rebounds prove that. The lefty did a good job at getting to the foul line and converted when he was there, going 8-for-8. Fayette County’s excellent free throw shooting as a team will bode well come tournament time. Sophomore Josh Dupree was impressive with his explosiveness and jumper. He put on the quickest and tightest crossover I’ve seen all year in the first half. I would have liked to see him make more of an impact in the second half however as he was shutout over the final 16 minutes. Austin Nesmith is a clean ball handler while Jaylen Holloway brought some energy and toughness off the bench.

I feel like Southwest DeKalb is at its best when they are pressing. They used it on and off and it helped them get back into the game in the second half as they sped up the Tigers. Mandarius Dickerson played very well before fouling out. He was aggressive and it was the best I’ve seen him play in a Panther uniform. Coach Eugene Brown’s depth is fun to watch. He can throw flanks of men out there and each can contribute in their own way. Eight different players scored tonight. Tabais Long didn’t get in, but when he’s available he brings a nice physical presence to the low post. Southwest DeKalb’s aggressive defense led to 15 steals paced by four apiece from Darius Hogan and Kadarius Johnson. Offensively, I liked how the Panthers swung the ball around the perimeter which often led to open shots, even though Southwest only hit two threes outside of Hogan’s opening two from distance. The Panthers could have rolled over and took a beating when they were down 15 at the half but Coach Brown and staff does a great job of keeping them focused and not letting them give in. They fought back and took a lead in the fourth quarter, which is all you can ask for after a large early deficit.

Top Performers

Fayette County
Noah Gurley – 18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 7 blocks
Phillip Young – 12 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Austin Nesmith – 12 points, 3 assists, 2 steals
Josh Dupree – 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Jaylen Holloway – 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals

Southwest DeKalb
Mandarius Dickerson – 15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Josh Archer – 11 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals
Kadarius Johnson – 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals
Darius Hogan – 8 points, 2 rebounds, 4 steals
Quincy Carter- 6 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals

Heritage rallies from 15 down to stun Southwest DeKalb

No. 6 Heritage 51, No. 8 Southwest DeKalb 47

Down 15 at the half in a hot gym on a late night, Class AAAAAA No. 6 Heritage-Conyers could have easily folded and called it a night. With both Isaiah Banks and Byron Abrams not 100%, no one would have blamed the Patriots for a season opening loss at Southwest DeKalb Showdown III against host Class AAAAA No. 8 Southwest DeKalb. But instead, a team with seemingly no pulse heading into the fourth quarter, found life and stunned the home crowd, 51-47, using a 20-5 run to end the night.

Southwest DeKalb held a 9-6 lead after the first quarter and used an aggressive press to disrupt Heritage. While the Patriots’ veteran guards searched for answers, the Panthers pounced using a deep bench. Jalen Lee entered in the second quarter and brought instant energy as a 6-foot-6 forward. He scored all seven of his points in the frame highlighted by a jam that got the crowd involved and pushed the Panther lead to 21-12 with 1:43 left to play in the half.

Quincy Carter ended the second quarter with a buzzer beater giving Southwest DeKalb a commanding halftime lead, 30-15.

Heritage’s big three, senior guards Isaiah Banks, Byron Abrams and Jordan Thomas combined for just nine points, the Southwest press clearly effecting them as there were chippy moments throughout the game when Heritage tried to advance the ball against the Panther defense.

Eight different players scored for Southwest DeKalb in the first half as the Panthers entered the break 16 minutes away from a quality season opening win.

Any thoughts of an easy rout were thrown out the window as the Patriots tore off a quick 7-0 run to open the third quarter and draw to within 30-22. Josh Archer and Eugene Brown III stemmed the tide however with Archer hanging for a tough bucket in the lane and Brown, the freshman, adding a right wing three to push the lead back to 35-25 at the 3:09 mark of the third quarter and leading to a 39-31 advantage heading into the fourth.

Up 42-31 with 6:37 remaining, Southwest DeKalb took its foot off the gas and called off the press. The result was Heritage’s big three breaking through. Banks hit a three-pointer and soon after Thomas put in an And-1, cutting the lead to 44-39 with 4:13 to play.

Banks then struck again for two more buckets, bringing the score to 44-43, Southwest DeKalb throwing the press back on to try and regain momentum.

Thomas was fouled and sent to the line where he made both free throws, but had his first waved off due to a violation resulting in a tie game and a 13-2 run. With 1:18 remaining, it was Abrams’ turn to hit a free throw giving the Patriots their first second half lead at 45-44.

Banks knocked down two more free throws to go up three. Carter drove the lane for a layup but couldn’t connect with 26.7 seconds left forcing Southwest to begin fouling. Banks, Abrams and Thomas combined to net 19 of Heritage’s 20 fourth quarter points, Banks leading the way with nine of his game-high 19 points in the final eight minutes.

My Take

Heritage did not look good at all in the first half. Southwest DeKalb’s defense frustrated them and a few of the Patriots’ younger players looked like deer in headlights. 6-foot-7 junior JaQuez Hicks was active in the first quarter with two early buckets. He looks like he will be an important piece bringing length into the paint replacing Makyle Wilkerson. The Patriots looked dead in the water heading into the fourth quarter with the Panthers maintaining a steady 10-point lead, but once the press was called off, Heritage gained a full head of steam and their senior guards took over. Isaiah Banks was the catalyst with his rim attacking mentality and his three-pointer at the 6:23 mark ignited the 20-5 run to close. The Patriots’ trio of combo guards are all big and physical. The lack of a true pass-first and ball handling point guard was evident however. Heritage tallied just two assists as a team. Once everyone is healthy and fits into their roles, Heritage is going to be a handful.

Southwest DeKalb has a nice blend of youth and experience. Their press gave Heritage fits. If they kept their foot on the pedal pressing non-stop, I’m not sure Heritage would have been able to string together as many stops and scores as they did. Nine players scored for the Panthers. They won’t be as reliant on a handful of go-to guys like they were with Keith Gilmore and TiQuan Lewis last season. A scoring by committee approach will benefit them for the most part, but down the stretch when they went cold and saw Heritage surge ahead, it would have been nice to have a true No. 1 option. Darius Hogan and Mandarius Dickerson are two guys that should be among the team’s leading scorers this year and both were kept in check with six points apiece. Add those two with Quincy Carter and Josh Archer and the Panthers have a deep backcourt. Eugene Brown III is only a freshman, but I think he will play a big role off the bench for his father. He’s a good shooter and looks like he has high IQ.

 

Top Performers

Heritage
Isaiah Banks – 19 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Byron Abrams – 10 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
Jordan Thomas – 8 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal
JaQuez Hicks – 7 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Avante Lederer – 3 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

Southwest DeKalb
Josh Archer – 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal
Quincy Carter – 8 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 3 steals
Jalen Lee – 7 points, 1 rebound
Mandarius Dickerson – 6 points, 3 rebounds
Darius Hogan – 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal
Eugene Brown III – 5 points, 4 rebounds
Tabais Long – 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks

All-American Alterique Gilbert’s fourth quarter stops No. 9 Southwest DeKalb comeback

No. 1 Miller Grove 53, No. 9 Southwest DeKalb 45

 IMG_8572

A 15-5 run had No. 1 Miller Grove seemingly on the ropes after taking its largest lead of the game 43-30 entering the fourth, but when the Wolverines needed a hoop, they turned to none other than McDonalds All-American and UConn signee Alterique Gilbert to answer the call as Miller Grove held off host No. 9 Southwest DeKalb in front of a capacity crowd, 53-45.

Southwest DeKalb looked to establish 6-foot-6, 245-pound senior TiQuan Lewis early on. The Washington County transfer posed problems inside for the slighter Wolverines in their first meeting, posting 19 points and 12 rebounds in a 76-69 loss. On Tuesday, the big man scored the Panthers’ first seven points of the game but was held to two points the rest of the way as Miller Grove began digging down and harassing Lewis with active hands.

While Lewis got Southwest DeKalb off to a quick start, Aaron Augustin began his own scoring spree, slashing to the basket and showing off his outside shot to finish with seven of his 10 points in the first quarter, giving the Wolverines a 15-10 lead after one.

Augustin sank his final basket of the night, a three-pointer at the 4:06 mark of the second quarter to push the Wolverine lead out to 21-14. Southwest DeKalb leading scorer Keith Gilmore scored just one point in the first quarter but began to find the bottom of the net while it looked like the Panthers were about to lose distance with the Wolverines. The senior scored nine of his team-high 16 points in the second period, but the Panthers still entered the half trailing Miller Grove 34-22.

To open the second half, Southwest DeKalb made sure to not stray away from the inside game, feeding it to Lewis early on, but Miller Grove caused him to fumble away a few opportunities with its pressure defense.  He and Gilmore combined for 17 of the Panthers’ 22 first half points meaning someone else had to step up. While Southwest searched for a third option in the third quarter, Miller Grove slowly began to pull away.

TiQuan Lewis is a big boy
TiQuan Lewis is a big boy

Aidan Saunders received a pass in transition and threw down a dunk, the first of the game, to extend the lead to 41-30. Seconds after the gym-rocking slam, the student sections of both teams began to get into it, causing a five-minute stop in the action while teachers and police went into the crowd to make sure nothing got out of hand. After the brief stoppage, Miller Grove added another hoop to give itself a 13-point cushion heading into the final eight minutes.

Instead of rolling over and letting the Wolverines blow them out of their own gym, the Panthers showed some bite of their own. A long and methodical comeback began to take place with Southwest using its helter skelter tempo and press to force Miller Grove into rushed shots and turnovers. Coach Eugene Brown finally found his third and fourth scoring options as Nathaniel Ambersley scored six of his 11 points in the fourth while Mandarius Dickerson added nine points in the game.

With 1:10 remaining, Gilmore caught a feed down low and went baseline to lay it up and claw the Panthers within 48-45. Seconds later at the 48.5 mark, Gilbert answered with an And-1 to make it 51-45 and stem the tide. The All-American poured in nine of Miller Grove’s 10 fourth quarter points and took over when Coach Sharman White needed him the most.

29.2 seconds remained when Coach White called a timeout. The Wolverines attempted to inbound the ball, but an offensive foul was called, giving the ball back to the Panthers still down six. Southwest DeKalb was unable to score, but forced a turnover with 15 seconds left. Gilmore had the ball on what looked like a 3-on-1 fast break, but instead of trying to get the bucket and play the fouling game, he elected to attempt a pull-up three which missed and resulted in a rebound and outlet for a Gilbert run-out dunk with seconds left to end the game.

Missed opportunities hurt the Panthers, especially as they entered the bonus with 5:26 left in the fourth, but made only 1-of-5 from the line and finished 8-of-16 for the game.

My Take: If you didn’t get to Southwest DeKalb by halftime of the girls’ game, you weren’t getting a seat. I strolled in right as the game was finishing up and there were no seats to be found. The action that ensued on the court warranted the crowd. Miller Grove looked like the top team in the state, coming away with a huge win in a wild environment. The Wolverines look to push the ball every chance they get and have some of the best spacing I’ve seen all year with shooters peppering the perimeter. Alterique Gilbert didn’t have his best game, missing some open threes, but he would not be denied when the game was on the line. Aaron Augustin had a big first half with 10 points but didn’t score in the second. He along with Gilbert were able to hit open men. The pair made everyone around them better tonight. The Wolverines are a very unselfish bunch and play for one another even with all the stars on their roster. They came away with 11 steals hounding the Southwest DeKalb guards, especially in the first half holding Darius Hogan, Mandarius Dickerson and Nathaniel Ambersley to five total first half points, with Hogan never cracking the scorebook on the night after scoring 12 against Miller Grove in their first meeting.

Southwest DeKalb showed a lot of heart, scrapping to get back into the game. TiQuan Lewis is a load inside and can punish smaller defenders. Keith Gilmore was the senior leader I expected him to be, finishing with 16 points and 12 rebounds. If Coach Brown can get guard production around those two, the Panthers will be a tough team in the state tournament. The glaring issue for the Panthers was a lack of pure shooting. They made just one three-pointer on the night and shot 50% from the foul line. Missed free throws and Hogan’s quiet game came back to bite Southwest. Hogan is the team’s best shooter from deep, averaging over two makes a game and hitting 40%.

Top Performers

Miller Grove
Alterique Gilbert – 17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
Aaron Augustin – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
Raylon Richardson – 7 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block
Aidan Saunders – 7 points
Joshua Jackmon – 5 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists
Tae Hardy – 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals

Southwest DeKalb
Keith Gilmore – 16 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist
Nathaniel Ambersley – 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
TiQuan Lewis – 9 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block
Mandarius Dickerson – 9 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks