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

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


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

Week 10 Rankings


  1. Westlake (14-2)
  2. Norcross (17-2)
  3. Wheeler (15-5)
  4. Tift County (19-2)
  5. Newton (17-2)
  6. Pebblebrook (13-7)
  7. McEachern (16-3)
  8. Shiloh (14-4)
  9. Dacula (14-4)
  10. Grayson (16-3)


  1. Miller Grove (19-2)
  2. Allatoona (19-0)
  3. McIntosh (17-2)
  4. Gainesville (13-4)
  5. Cedar Shoals (20-2)
  6. Riverwood (20-1)
  7. South Paulding (16-3)
  8. Warner Robins (13-2)
  9. Southwest DeKalb (18-3)
  10. Effingham County (18-3)

 Class AAAA

  1. Jonesboro (17-3)
  2. Lithonia (15-4)
  3. St. Pius (17-3)
  4. Grady (18-2)
  5. Liberty County (17-1)
  6. Eagle’s Landing (19-1)
  7. Upson-Lee (16-3)
  8. Thomson (14-3)
  9. Worth County (15-3)
  10. Sandy Creek (14-5)

Class AAA

  1. Morgan County (15-4)
  2. South Atlanta (16-4)
  3. Calhoun (18-0)
  4. Laney (18-2)
  5. Jenkins (16-3)
  6. Central-Macon (18-2)
  7. Westminster (17-2)
  8. Callaway (11-3)
  9. Banks County (18-2)
  10. Johnson-Savannah (15-5)

Class AA

  1. Thomasville (20-1)
  2. Seminole County (15-4)
  3. Crawford County (17-2)
  4. Pace Academy (9-9)
  5. Vidalia (18-3)
  6. Lovett (13-4)
  7. Dublin (17-3)
  8. Chattooga (19-1)
  9. Holy Innocents’ (14-5)
  10. Swainsboro (12-6)

Class A-Private

  1. Greenforest (18-2)
  2. North Cobb Christian (15-3)
  3. SWAC (12-8)
  4. St. Francis (13-7)
  5. Whitefield Academy (13-7)
  6. Lakeview Academy (17-4)
  7. Our Lady of Mercy (14-3)
  8. Stratford Academy (13-4)
  9. King’s Ridge (12-5)
  10. Walker (12-5)

Class A-Public

  1. Hancock Central (13-4)
  2. Wilkinson County (14-5)
  3. Treutlen (16-2)
  4. Turner County (16-5)
  5. Taylor County (14-6)
  6. Atkinson County (15-4)
  7. Calhoun County (12-8)
  8. Randolph-Clay (15-7)
  9. Central-Talbotton (13-8)
  10. Lincoln County (11-5)

Snow and ice wrecked most of the week’s action, but that still didn’t stop Class AAAAAA from seeing some major changes. It had been over five years since No. 8 Shiloh had lost back-to-back region games before the Generals were shocked by Central Gwinnett 61-58 on Tuesday. They have now fallen six spots in the past two weeks. No. 5 Newton is the main beneficiary of the movement, as the Rams continue to rise. No. 4 Tift County suffered a major blow with leading scorer and rebounder Preston Horne tearing his ACL and now being out for the year. Fred Lloyd has stepped up in his absence. No. 2 Norcross caught a raw deal because of the weather, having to miss their own tournament the Peachtree Corners Invitational and see its field of games shrink from five games to two and have the tournament be held at St. Pius instead. The Blue Devils did however pick up a big win on Tuesday, surviving at home against Collins Hill (16-3), 50-48, in the process knocking the Eagles out of the top ten. Rayshaun Hammonds once again caused problems for Collins Hill, posting 20 points and 11 rebounds. Kenny Stanciel gave the Eagles a big lift with a career-high 20 points while TeShaun Hightower (3) and Kai Lambert (1) were held to a combined four points. Coming off a 76-74 win over Berkmar, No. 10 Grayson finds itself back in the poll.

Everything went chalk for the most part in AAAAA. No. 8 Warner Robins used a Jacolbey Owens three-pointer at the buzzer to knock off rival Northside-Warner Robins 60-57 and hand Coach Jamaal Garman his 100th career win. No. 10 Effingham County continued to make a statement in Region 3 with a 72-66 win over defending state champion Brunswick. The Pirates had won 9-straight before the loss. No. 3 McIntosh held off Morrow 68-63 behind Jordan Lyons’ 25 points. No. 1 Miller Grove’s DeKalb County rematch with 4ANo. 2 Lithonia was snowed out and will not be made up.

No. 7 Upson-Lee took care of business against Perry 72-62, to take a share of first-place in Region 2-AAAA and advance its winning streak to 10 games. Senior O’Qualon Harris (17.2 ppg) and sophomore Ty Fagan (17.9 ppg) have powered the Knights this season. No. 9 Worth County earned another good win against Westover, 70-63. Walnut Grove (17-3) slips out of the top ten after a two-game losing streak, the Warriors’ most recent loss coming to Henry County 84-68. Replacing them is No. 10 Sandy Creek, who defeated Woodward Academy 70-54 last week.

AAA saw a state title contender emerge as No. 2 South Atlanta led wire-to-wire against 1A-PrivateNo. 1 Greenforest at the Blue Collar Basketball MLK Showcase, earning a 62-57 win. Jenkins falls three spots to No. 5 following a 66-59 loss to Johnson-Savannah, who debuts in the polls at No. 10. No. 4 Laney moves up a spot with an 80-60 beat down of Westside-Augusta, who now tumbles out of the top ten.

Class AA’s most dynamic player, Jordan Harris (UGA) of No. 2 Seminole County, went off for 47 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, 3 blocks and six three-pointers and six dunks in a 86-62 win over Berrien. Without teammate Anfernee King suited up to play, Harris had no problem taking full control of the game. No. 5 Vidalia lost 62-58 to new No. 10 Swainsboro and falls two slots. Pace Academy now holds the No. 4 ranking and is .500, but has won 7 of 8 games. GAC just misses staying in the top ten following a 42-39 loss to Pace. No. 7 Dublin has quietly worked its way up the rankings and has won 10-straight.

If there were ever a chance for a team to unseat No. 1 Greenforest in Class A-Private, it would have been after the Eagles loss to South Atlanta, but that did not happen. No. 5 Whitefield Academy finally slayed the dragon that is their arch-nemesis No. 4 St. Francis, 75-73. Isaiah Hart and Brendon Myles had monster games for the Wolf Pack. Hart finished with 37 points, five assists and two blocks while Myles went for 25 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. St. Anne-Pacelli (13-7) finally slips out of the top ten after holding strong the first nine weeks. Losses to Marion County 76-64 and Central-Talbotton 88-79 did the Vikings in. Both they and Hebron (14-6) fall out. The Lions only lasted one week in the poll before being thumped by No. 6 Lakeview Academy 65-48 and Tallulah Falls 67-53. No. 9 King’s Ridge and No. 10 Walker make an appearance in the top ten. Walker returns for the first time since Week 3 when it started 5-1. King’s Ridge debuts and has played well this year. The Tigers have won 4-straight and still have 7-foot center Tolu Jacobs waiting in the wings to become eligible and potentially change the landscape of A-Private.

In Class A-Public, No. 1 Hancock Central completes its ascension to the top of the state following No. 3 Treutlen’s 66-51 loss to No. 7 Calhoun County, knocking the Vikings from their perch. After a 5-5 start, Coach Tasha Kimble’s No. 4 Turner County Rebels are red-hot, winning 11 in a row including demolishing Hawkinsville 70-48 and No. 6 Atkinson County 82-46.  The Rebels have won their last five games by an average of 33.8 points. No. 9 Central-Talbotton enters the top ten for the first time following wins over Hawkinsville and St. Anne-Pacelli.

Class AA Region Run Down

Class AA

Region 1

            Team                                       Overall            Region
No. 1 Thomasville                     18-1                 6-1
No. 2 Seminole County          13-4                 5-1
Early County                                14-4                 4-2
Brooks County                            8-10                 3-4
Fitzgerald                                       8-6                   3-4
Pelham                                             6-7                   2-4
Berrien                                             7-11                 0-7

It might be a safe bet that the eventual state champion will come from Region 1 or will at least have to go through a few Region 1 teams to hoist the trophy. Last year it was No. 2 Seminole County winning the state title behind UGA signee Jordan Harris and Anfernee King. A true Batman and Robin duo, the two are the blood that courses through the Indians’ veins. Harris averages 31 points, 11.1 rebounds, 6 assists, 3.6 steals and 2.2 blocks while King posts 17.4 points, 6 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 5.1 steals. The dynamic duo combined for 49 points to take down No. 1 Thomasville on Jan. 9, 71-65. The Bulldogs might be the deepest and biggest team in the state. Brothers Alex and Reggie Perry transferred from Maclay High School in Tallahassee. Alex is a 6-foot-6 senior forward while Reggie stands 6-foot-8 as a sophomore and holds interest from Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma and Arkansas to name a few. They pair up with Jordan Willis, Thomasville’s leader at point guard and Shedric Cooper, a danger from deep. And don’t forget about massive freshman, Titus Wright, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound monster inside. Early County was also in the race for first-place and in the top ten, but a 68-67 upset loss at Brooks County last Saturday hurts their chances. The Bobcats play at Thomasville on Jan. 29 and host Seminole County on Feb. 5. The Indians and Bulldogs play at Thomasville on Feb. 2 in a showdown that will likely determine the region regular season champion.

Region 2

        Team                           Overall            Region
No. 3 Vidalia                   17-2                 10-0
Long County                15-5                 8-2
Benedictine                 10-7                 5-4
Bryan County              9-8                   5-5
Jeff Davis                        9-10                 4-5
Bacon County              7-11                 4-6
Groves                              2-15                 2-8
McIntosh County      2-16                 1-9

No. 3 Vidalia continues to win and is one of Southeast Georgia’s most consistent programs. Upstart Long County had a chance to dethrone them on Jan. 12, but the Indians went on the road and picked up a 76-65 victory. On Dec. 8, Vidalia took care of the Blue Tide 96-77 and will now cruise to another regular season region title. Long County has come out of nowhere to push Vidalia this year after the Tide finished 6-22 in 2014-15. Sophomores Henry Blair (12.3 ppg), Christian Bass (9.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Ryhiem Izzard (8.3 ppg) have blossomed into important pieces for Coach Deshon Brock. Junior Perrell Brisbane averages 11.7 points and 7.4 rebounds.

Region 3

         Team                           Overall            Region
No. 9 Dublin                   15-3                 6-0
Swainsboro                    10-6                 6-1
Screven County           7-6                   4-2
East Laurens                  6-8                   3-3
Jefferson County        4-11                 3-5
Metter                               3-14                 1-5
Harlem                              2-17                 0-7

Following a 12-17 season, No. 9 Dublin is back in the driver’s seat in Region 3. The Fighting Irish scrapped out a 65-56 win at home vs. Swainsboro last Friday, but still have to escape the Tigers at home Jan. 30, no easy task especially after Swainsboro won a controversial second round playoff game vs. Holy Innocents’ last year in overtime, 57-52. The clock operator awarded the Tigers a crucial point after Swainsboro had missed a free throw with three minutes to play in the fourth. Swainsboro might only be 10-6, but they are battle tested after scheduling 5A’s Statesboro and No. 10 Effingham County 2x, 1A-Public’s No. 3 Wilkinson County 2x and No. 1 Treutlen, and 1A-Private’s Tattnall Square Academy, who just fell out of the top ten this past week. The Tigers also battled with No. 3 Vidalia, losing 59-58.

Region 4

                Team                                       Overall            Region
No. 4 Crawford County             15-2                 7-0
Monticello                                         12-7                 5-2
Macon County                                12-5                 4-3
Lamar County                                   8-9                   3-3
Bleckley County                             6-9                   3-4
Putnam County                              2-18                 2-5
Northeast-Macon                         2-17                 0-7

Last season’s state-runner up No. 4 Crawford County should cruise to its second straight undefeated region schedule behind William Jarrell and Marcal Knolton. Jarrell averages close to a triple-double going over 26 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists a night while collecting around 5 steals and 4 blocks. Knolton, a junior, is putting up monster number as well, averaging over 19 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks. Everyone returns from last year’s team that came up just short. The Eagles are one of the state’s highest scoring offenses pouring in 81.7 points a night. Monticello lost 73-55 at home to Crawford County but has one more shot next Tuesday. The Hurricanes use a balanced attack led by De’Miria Glover while Macon County leans on 6-foot-5 forward Marquell Wiggins, who just committed to play at Georgia College.

Region 5

         Team                                       Overall            Region
Manchester                                 13-5                 5-0
Temple                                           14-3                 4-1
Heard County                           10-9                 3-2
Bowdon                                        10-9                 1-3
Bremen                                         3-14                 1-4
Chattahoochee County     3-12                 0-4

The Region 5 race will come down to Manchester and Temple with Heard County hoping for both teams to falter. The Blue Devils held off Temple 65-62 this Tuesday to gain a game on the Tigers. The final game of the season pits the two against each other at Manchester on Feb. 5. If Temple wants to steal a win, Peyton Applewhite will need a big game. The 6-foot-7, 245-pound center can hit the three ball and also bang inside with his back to the basket. Demarcus Addie, Jah’nile Hill and Jerquavion Mahone will be three go-to guys for Coach Curtis Noble’s Blue Devils.

Region 6

            Team                                       Overall            Region
No. 5 Pace Academy                  9-8                   7-1
No. 6 Lovett                                    13-4                 7-1
No. 8 GAC                                        12-8                 7-2
No. 10 Holy Innocents’            14-5                 5-4
Wesleyan                                         11-8                 5-4
Hapeville Charter                         7-11                 2-7
KIPP Atlanta                                    6-7                   1-7
BEST Academy                               1-9                   0-8

Four teams fill up the top ten from Region 6, but it hasn’t been a smooth road. No. 5 Pace Academy is finally over .500 after a 2-8 start, meaning they have now won seven-straight. The Knights scheduled a slew of national tournaments which hurt their record, but now that they are back in the friendly confines of Region 6, they are ready to make a run behind 6-foot-10 top ranked junior in the nation, Wendell Carter Jr. No. 6 Lovett has been the biggest surprise in the region with Coach Ryan Koudele stepping in as head coach and already matching last year’s win total when the Lions went 13-15. Lovett doesn’t have much size, but senior Henry Richardson powers the undersized Lions, leading the team in scoring thanks to his deft three-point touch. No. 8 GAC has had a roller coaster season. Senior Garrett Covington, a Gwinnett Daily Post Super Six selection and Brian Coffey Jr., a recent North Florida-commit, are both no longer on the team. Coach David Eaton has used addition by subtraction to keep the Spartans afloat. They drilled rival No. 10 Holy Innocents’ 77-37 last Friday and then lost by just three, 42-39, to Pace. 6-foot-8 junior Charlie O’Briant scored 18 points and blocked six shots while freshman Hunter McIntosh added 15 points in the win over the rival Golden Bears. Basil Peterson chipped in 14 points and senior Jacob Hoffman had 10. Even after the lopsided loss, Holy Innocents’ is still dangerous, they just need to get healthy with 6-foot-7 center Brent Duncan missing a handful of games due to injury and backup 6-foot-7 center Richard Surdykowski, who has played exceptionally well in Duncan’s absence, has been dealing with a stress fracture in his foot.

Region 7

          Team                                     Overall         Region
No. 7 Chattooga                       19-1                 7-1
Model                                             12-6                 6-2
Coosa                                              8-7                   5-3
Darlington                                   12-7                 5-3
Gordon Lee                                 10-9                 4-4
Dade County                              6-15                 1-8
Armuchee                                    5-11                 0-7

No. 7 Chattooga was hammered at Model on Dec. 1, 57-37 as it looked like the Blue Devils, who finished 23-5 last year, were going to roll to another Region 7 championship. But when the Indians got a crack at Model at home last Friday, they took care of business 58-46 to regain first-place. Model’s only other loss came by 13 at Gordon Lee, 60-47. Chattooga almost lost at Coosa on Jan. 8, as it took overtime to escape the Eagles 70-68. Isaiah Foster poured in 31 points to lead the Indians while Jay Shropshire pitched in 13 points.

Region 8

        Team                                       Overall            Region
Rabun County                          9-10                 5-2
Union County                           9-10                 4-2
Riverside Military                   8-8                   4-3
Oglethorpe County               6-12                 3-3
Greene County                        6-12                 3-4
Washington-Wilkes             10-8                 2-4
Social  Circle                              8-11                 2-5

Wins have been tough to come by in Region 8 with just one team over .500. Last season Greene County went 23-6, Rabun County 21-9 and Union County, a respectable 17-12. If you like three-pointers, Rabun County is the team to see. 5-foot-8 senior Matthew Addis leads the team in scoring at 16.4 points per game, while sophomores Bailey Fisher (12.7 ppg) and Tevan Dixon (11.8) are both double digit threats. Addis is among the entire state’s top gunslingers, leading Georgia in threes made (90) and threes attempted (219), averaging 4.7 made threes a game on 11.5 attempts. Union County features three players scoring in double figures led by junior Lawson Baenninger’s 14 points per game. Inside, 6-foot-8 Chase Shook averages 11 points and over nine rebounds a game with two blocks. Sophomore Crawford Colwell could be one to watch in the future. He averages more than 13 points and five rebounds as a 6-foot-1 forward. The Panthers beat Rabun County 77-74 on Jan. 8 and travel to Rabun on Jan. 29 for a chance to control the region. Riverside Military has beaten Union County and has split the season series with Rabun. On Jan. 26 the Eagles visit Union County and could sneak back into the hunt for the No. 1 seed with a win.

Class AAA Region Run Down

Class AAA

Region 1

              Team                                      Overall           Region
(B) No. 2 Jenkins                      16-2                 8-0
(B) Johnson                                 13-5                 7-1
(B) Islands                                     15-5                 7-2
(A) Dodge County                    11-5                 5-2
(A) Tattnall County                 11-7                 5-2
(A) Brantley County               12-6                 6-4
(B) Savannah                                8-11                5-5
(B) Southeast Bulloch             10-11              3-5
(A) Appling County                   2-14                 2-5
(B) Beach                                        5-15                 2-6
(A) Toombs County                  3-16                 2-8
 (A) Pierce County                      3-12                1-10

The balance of power lies in sub-region B as defending state champion No. 2 Jenkins looks to fend off Johnson and the much improved Sharks of Islands. The Warriors play Johnson for the first time tonight at home, then travel to Johnson on the last day of the regular season, Feb. 6. 6-foot-5 junior Trevion Lamar has quickly made a name for himself with the Warriors, leading the team in both scoring (16.8) and rebounding (9.1) while adding 4.3 assists per game and team-highs in steals (2.7) and blocks (1.9). Point guard Zion Williams transferred from Savannah High and is averaging 14.5 points and 4.6 assists as a junior. Seniors Michael Coffee and Dimetri Chambers are both scoring in double figures. Johnson’s only region loss came in double overtime at Islands, 64-61. The Sharks, whose program began in 2010-11, have steadily improved. Their wins by year read: 2010-11: 0, 2011-12: 0, 2012-13: 1, 2013-14: 2, 2014-15: 11. This year the Sharks have clinched their first-ever winning record behind patient Head Coach Karl DeMasi and 1,000-point scorer junior Justin Cave, who averages 21.2 points. Only one senior is on the roster. DeMasi’s primary rotation consists of one freshman, two sophomores and four juniors.

Region 2

           Team                                       Overall             Region
No. 6 Central-Macon             17-2                 10-1
Southwest-Macon                  14-5                 10-2
Westside-Macon                     15-4                 10-2
Jordan                                           8-11                 6-5
Spencer                                        4-12                 4-5
Rutland                                         5-12                 4-7
Kendrick                                      2-13                 2-7
Jackson                                        1-15                 1-9
Peach County                             2-16                 1-10

Region 2 has become one of the state’s most interesting regions located in Middle Georgia. No. 6 Central has won 10-straight including an 80-76 2OT thriller at Southwest last Saturday. The Chargers’ only loss came way back on Dec. 4, their second game of the season at Westside, 82-63. In their rematch, Central won 75-72, but that early loss could still come back to haunt them and has left the door open for the Seminoles and Patriots. There is some interesting talent in Macon. Central has senior point guard Derrick Evans and juniors Kentrevious Jones and Anterious McCoy. All three are constant 20-point threats. Jones may be the most intriguing of the bunch, standing 6-foot-10 and 280 pounds. Westside flaunts one of the most sought after prospects in the Class of 2018 in 6-foot-8 guard Khavon Moore. He averages 21.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.8 steals and 2.7 blocks. Southwest counters with its own pair of aces in senior Justin Slocum and junior Nick Hargrove. Slocum is 6-foot-6 and posts 21.5 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a night while Hargrove, a private school transfer, records 20.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists.

Region 3

             Team                                       Overall            Region
No. 5 Laney                                     17-2                 6-1
No. 9 Westside-Augusta        10-3                 5-1
Josey                                                    8-9                   5-2
Butler                                                  9-6                   3-4
Washington County                   8-10                 3-4
Glenn Hills                                        2-15                 2-5
Hephzibah                                        0-19                 0-7

No. 5 Laney’s record looks like the Wildcats are having another strong year, but if you dig deeper into the results, the Cardiac Cats have shown signs of vulnerability. Countless times this season Laney has had to rally from down double digits in the second half to pull out a victory. Laney has won seven games by six points or less. No. 1 Morgan County edged them on Jan. 9, 65-63 and took over first-place from the Wildcats. Laney then slipped again just a week later, falling to Josey 66-55. Christian Keeling (Charleston Southern) and Zep Jasper (College of Charleston) are the heartbeat for new head coach Shawn Parks’ team. Keeling averages 24 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists while Jasper goes for 20.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists. No. 9 Westside has proven to be tough, losing to Laney at home 69-64 and again on the road 62-60 in the Richmond County Christmas Tournament, meaning it didn’t count in the standings and that Westside has one last crack at the Wildcats tonight with a chance to take over first-place. Damontrez Hawes leads the Patriots with 18.3 points per game while Dekwan Lewis (12.6) and Christian Robinson (11.1) are both valid options.

Region 4

            Team                                         Overall            Region
(A) No. 4 South Atlanta           16-4                 6-0
(B) No. 7 Westminster             17-2                 5-0
(A) North Clayton                       12-8                 5-1
(B) Blessed Trinity                      11-9                 4-2
(B) Decatur                                      9-12                 4-3
(B) Douglass                                    12-8                 3-3
(A) Cedar Grove                             8-8                   3-3
(A) Jackson-Atlanta                   13-8                 3-3
(B) Therrell                                      10-7                 2-3
(A) Towers                                       5-14                 1-5
(B) Washington                             1-18                 0-7
(A) McNair                                       3-14                 0-8

No. 4 South Atlanta made possibly the biggest statement out of any team in the classification with a wire-to-wire win over 1A-Private No. 1 Greenforest at the Blue Collar Basketball MLK Showcase at Peachtree Ridge on Monday, 62-57. The Hornets are long, quick and athletic. Everyone Coach Michael Reddick throws on the court has a chance to sting the opponent. Orlando Bebee, Devontae Dean, Frank Bailey and Devonta Pullins make up a deep backcourt while Tyler Thornton, Korbian Bell, Demonte Roberts and Artavious Banks do yeoman’s work inside. Quietly, No. 7 Westminster is the hottest team in the state outside of No. 3 Calhoun with 16-straight wins. Bo Jackson clone Will Benson leads the offense and is headed to Duke to play baseball. Tyler Barry, former NBA player and announcer Jon Barry’s son, pulls the trigger from deep while Mikael Sampson is an improving post and Philip Jones, a steady point guard. North Clayton might not have the prettiest record, but watch out. The Eagles lost 58-52 at home vs. South Atlanta on Jan. 5 and get another crack at the Hornets on Feb. 2. Junior Ahsan Asadullah is 6-foot-8 and has displayed elite footwork and passing skills down low while averaging a team-high 16.1 points.

Region 5

         Team                                       Overall            Region
(A) No. 8 Callaway                  10-3                 5-0
(B) Pepperell                              11-6                 4-1
(B) Rockmart                               4-14                 2-3
(B) Cedartown                            6-10                 2-3
(A) Central-Carroll                   9-9                   1-4
(A) Haralson County               2-17                 1-4

Talk about a down year for the diminutive region. Last year saw both No. 8 Callaway and Rockmart crack 20 wins, this season it looks as if only Callaway has a shot. The Cavaliers lost back-to-back games vs. LaGrange, 80-68 at home then 63-60 on the road before falling weeks later to Lanett (AL), 72-54, the Panthers’ record this season at 18-4. Callaway hasn’t quite had the explosive offense it had last season, but Braylon Sanders, Earnest Patillo, Dre Martin, Quantrez Cooper and Joe Brown make up a formidable five in the wide open classification. Pepperell has played well after an 11-15 season and was selected as a Sandy’s Spiel Super Sleeper entering 2015. The Dragons are a competitive bunch, but the Cavaliers are a lock to roll through the region undefeated and capture the No. 1 seed. Callaway’s average margin of victory against region opponents this season is a whopping 27.6 points, with their closest game coming against Central, 84-76.

Region 6

      Team                                       Overall            Region
No. 3 Calhoun                            18-0                 11-0
Coahulla Creek                         16-4                 10-2
Ringgold                                      8-10                 7-5
North Murray                          13-7                 7-5
Sonoraville                                 8-9                   5-5
Murray County                         7-14                 5-7
Lakeview-Ft Oglethorpe      6-14                 4-7
Adairsville                                    6-13                 2-9
Gordon Central                            2-16                 0-11

The Yellow Jackets are the only unbeaten team left in Class AAA. No. 3 Calhoun has handled every team placed in front of them and has established their legitimacy as being a title contender by sweeping through the bracket of the Lake City Classic to win the tournament by an average margin of victory of 15 points. Jireh Wilson is a 1,000-point scorer and Wofford football signee averaging 13.7 points. Kaelan Riley, the star quarterback going to Mercer, posts team-highs of 15.9 points and 8.3 rebounds. Chapin Rierson, a 6-foot-5 junior, is a versatile X-factor with a motor that doesn’t quit. He chips in 12.9 points and 6.6 rebounds a night. Ray Reeves is the team’s best three-point shooter at 36 percent and averages 7.9 points. Much like Islands of Region 1, Coahulla Creek is an upstart program enjoying its best season ever in its short existence. After finishing 14-11 last year, the Colts are off to a 16-4 start. Seniors Alex Fisher and Caleb Lewis power Coach Matthew Queener’s offense. The Colts lost 60-52 against Calhoun and a 56-52 falter at Murray County likely erases Coahulla Creek’s shot at catching the Yellow Jackets, but the two teams play at Calhoun on Feb. 2.

Region 7

           Team                                       Overall            Region
No. 10 Banks County             18-2                 8-0
Lumpkin County                       16-5                 6-2
East Hall                                        13-6                 6-2
West Hall                                     10-9                 4-4
Franklin County                        7-14                 2-6
Dawson County                       10-10               1-6
Fannin County                           8-11                 0-7

Only three points separate No. 10 Banks County from being undefeated. A 67-66 loss to North Hall on Dec. 21 and a 42-40 loss in the Commerce Christmas Classic championship to 6A No. 10 Collins Hill are the Leopards’ only two blemishes. Coach Mike Cleveland overlooks the play of Zez Steeple, Zac Orr and Kahmal Wiley. Steeple, a 5-foot-7 guard, is an electric playmaker with his passing and scoring. Orr is a rugged 6-foot-6 center that is difficult to handle down low while Wiley at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds is a tank inside and cleans the glass alongside Orr. Head Coach Jeff Steele has brought over his magic touch after leading Johnson-Gainesville to a 29-1 record a year ago. Lumpkin County finished just 9-20 in 2014-15 and behind Steele and senior 1,000-point scorer Jack Howard, the Indians have revived their program. Brandon Zarate inside and guard Zach Pulley make Lumpkin County a dangerous team come tournament time. Lurking in the shadows is Coach Joe Dix’s East Hall Vikings. They won’t have a chance to catch the Leopards after falling 82-66 to them on Tuesday, completing the sweep, but the Vikes do get another crack at Lumpkin County next Tuesday, who they already beat 73-63 at Lumpkin. The boys from Valhalla don’t have much size, but Tylor Brown and Markese Jackson are active attacking the rim while brothers Triston and Luke Cooper can get hot from deep.

Region 8

         Team                                       Overall            Region
No. 1 Morgan County           16-4                 8-0
Jackson County                        12-8                 5-3
East Jackson                               9-10                 4-4
Jefferson                                       7-12                 4-5
Elbert County                             8-11                 3-5
Oconee County                         5-13                 2-5
Hart County                                6-15                 2-6

The prevalent theme across AAA has been surprise teams and momentous turnarounds. No program has fit the bill more than Jackson County, who finished 4-22 last year. Coach Chuck Butler has established a winning mentality with upperclassmen and have lived and breathed by the motto EAT: Effort, Attitude, Toughness. The Panthers have feasted on opponents this year, especially one program that elected to stray from the homegrown route, East Jackson. There is no way to sugarcoat it anymore, the Eagles’ season has been a disappointment after opening the year ranked No. 4 with the amount of talent Coach David Boyd has at his disposal. Sophomores Drue Drinnon and Travis Anderson are among the best young guards in the state, but it hasn’t resulted in wins. Lamont Smith left mid-way through the season and is back in Gwinnett County helping Duluth win games. Jalen Morgan is now eligible for the second half of the season, but the Eagles’ lack of post production is what has hurt them the most. The Panthers swept the season series in a pair of emotional wins, 67-63 at East Jackson and 74-73 at home on Tuesday. No. 1 Morgan County is still the class of the region after a state championship in 2014 and a runner-up finish in 2015. Florida Atlantic signees DeVorious Brown and Jailyn Ingram have given Coach Jamond Sims exactly what he needed after losing 3,000-point scorer Tookie Brown to Georgia Southern. Freshman guard Alec Woodard has stepped up while 6-foot-6 senior Jordan Ford has brought an explosive long athlete to the interior.

Class AAAA Region Run Down

Class AAAA

Region 1

          Team                                        Overall            Region
No. 10 Worth County           14-3                 4-0
Monroe                                          11-5                 9-1
Bainbridge                                    12-7                 6-3
Westover                                      10-7                 5-3
Americus-Sumter                     11-6                 5-3
Crisp County                               14-5                 6-5
Dougherty                                    10-9                 5-5
Albany                                             7-9                   3-5
Thomas County Central       4-15                 2-5
Cook                                                 5-14                 2-6
  Cairo                                                2-18                1-11

Region 1 isn’t quite the region it was a year ago with five teams over 18 wins, but it still is regarded as a deep and dangerous group of teams. Bainbridge opened the season at No. 4 with its star trio headed by UGA signee Tyree Crump returning, but the Bearcats quickly fell from the poll and are just now hitting their stride, winners of five-straight including an 82-69 upset of 2A No. 2 Seminole County last Tuesday. Bainbridge plays at Monroe at Jan. 23 in an important tilt. Monroe cracked the top ten for one week before getting blasted by South Cobb 72-55. The Tornadoes’ only region loss came to No. 10 Worth County last Friday, 60-59. The Rams might have the best frontcourt in the state with 6-foot-8 Auburn signee Anfernee McLemore and unsigned 6-foot-5 Brandon Moore. Moore went for 32 points and 10 rebounds against Monroe and is averaging over 22 points and 12 rebounds. McLemore is chipping in 15 points, 12.8 rebounds and over six blocks a game. Westover is sneaky good with possibly the best three-man backcourt in the region. Senior Allec Williams leads the team in points and assists while freshman Jordan “Snow” Brown and sophomore Kris Gardner have bright futures ahead of them.

Region 2

  Team                                 Overall           Region
Perry                                  11-7                 8-0
No. 7 Upson-Lee         15-3                 6-1
Mary Persons               12-7                 5-3
Howard                            8-10                 4-4
Baldwin                            7-12                 2-6
Veterans                          2-17                 2-6
West Laurens                3-16                 0-7

Perry nicked No. 7 Upson-Lee 68-63 on Dec. 8; the Knights’ lone region loss. The two meet this Friday to decide who will have the inside track for the No. 1 seed heading into the region tournament. You would think the Panthers are led by 6-foot-8 Georgia State signee Chris Clerkey, but the senior has yet to average double digits over his career. It is 6-foot-3 Damion Bagley who is averaging close to 20 and 10. To stay undefeated in region play, Perry beat Veterans 55-52 on Tuesday. Bagley went for 17 points and 13 rebounds while Clerkley chipped in eight points and 10 rebounds. The Knights turn to O’Qualan Harris for the bulk of their offense. Bagley finished with 24 points and eight rebounds against Upson-Lee in their first meeting, while the Knights held Chris Clerkley to six points on 0-of-7 shooting from the field.

Region 3

       Team                                        Overall            Region
No. 5 Liberty County            15-1                 4-0
Burke County                            11-4                 3-1
No. 9 Thomson                          14-3                 3-1
New Hampstead                      10-6                 1-3
Windsor Forest                         8-10                 1-3
Wayne County                          3-15                 0-4

No. 9 Thomson had a chance to make a statement with a win at No. 5 Liberty County on Jan. 9. Instead, the Bulldogs were thrashed by the Panthers 100-53, who look like they are going to roll into the state playoffs undefeated in region play and sweep through the tournament. Human highlight reel and Auburn-commit, Davion Mitchell poured in 31 points while running mate and fellow junior Richard LeCounte dropped 27. The potent duo is likely the best backcourt in the classification. Mitchell averages 22.5 points and 7.3 assists while LeCounte averages 19.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Need a third option? Coach Julian Stokes has a third and fourth. Sophomore Will Richardson is a name to write down. He is posting 13.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists as a 6-foot-3 guard. The Panthers don’t have much size, with their tallest player 6-foot-4, but the 6-foot-3 Martial Washington is up to the task averaging close to eight points and eight rebounds. Against Thomson, he carved them up for 23 points and 19 rebounds. Aside from the win over the Bulldogs, Liberty County also stomped Burke County 88-68. Thomson has the size and talent with 6-foot-8 San Antonio Brinson being able to play inside and out, and Darius Turman, Marquez Winfrey and RJ Johnson all talented players making the 47-point loss inexcusable. The Bulldogs have come a long way however, finishing just 8-21 a year ago.

Region 4

          Team                                      Overall            Region
(B) No. 1 Jonesboro               17-3                 6-0
(A) No. 6 Eagle’s Landing    19-1                 5-0
(A) No. 8 Walnut Grove       17-3                 3-2
(A) Eastside                                 14-5                 3-2
(B) Riverdale                                7-10                 3-2
(B) Spalding                                  7-14                 3-2
(B) Mt. Zion                                  5-16                 3-3
(A) Henry County                    12-8                 2-3
(A) Locust Grove                       7-12                 2-3
(B) Griffin                                      5-15                 1-4
(B) Pike County                         1-15                 0-5
(A) Hampton                               0-19                 0-5

Just when you think No. 1 Jonesboro’s dominance of Class AAAA is finally over after winning back-to-back state titles, junior MJ Walker decides to take his game to the next level and keep the Cardinals atop their perch as the team to beat. Walker is posting 23.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game and is quickly becoming one of the best juniors in the country. Eric Lovett (14.2 ppg) and sophomore Jamari Smith (10 ppg) have picked up the slack and filled roles left behind by Austin Donaldson (GSU) and Tracy Hector (KSU). Point guard Tariq Jenkins has also stepped up his play with 9.1 points and 4.6 assists. Region 4 is no cakewalk however. No. 6 Eagle’s Landing and No. 8 Walnut Grove are threats to dethrone Jonesboro. Even Henry County, with the explosive duo of Damion Rosser and Javon Greene, has pushed Jonesboro to the brink, falling 70-65 in overtime. Griffin may not be ready to compete, but keep tabs on the progress of 7-foot junior center Tyshaun Crawford. He is new to the game but has continued his steady improvement, averaging 9.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.1 blocks on the year.

Region 5

         Team                                       Overall            Region
Sandy Creek                              14-5                 4-1
Woodward Academy            9-9                   3-2
Whitewater                               12-7                 3-2
Carrollton                                   9-11                 2-3
Fayette County                       10-7                 2-3
Troup County                           6-10                 1-4

Sandy Creek is as talented a group as they come in Class AAAA, that’s why it’s puzzling why they haven’t taken the region by the throat. The Patriots’ only loss came to Whitewater last Friday 56-54, closing their margin for error. They survived rival Fayette County 78-73 in overtime and held on against last year’s state runner-up Carrollton, 61-59. Gardner-Webb signee Christian Turner is a true bulldog at point guard, averaging 14.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6 assists and 3.8 steals. Both AJ Freeman (10.8 ppg) and Evan Jester (10.1 ppg) score double digits with Freeman providing three-point marksmanship and Jester a double-double threat, grabbing 9 rebounds a night. The most talented player is junior Elias Harden. The 6-foot-6 wing averages 21.3 points and 6.4 rebounds, but gets too trigger happy from deep, launching a team-high 123 three-pointers, but connecting on just 28 percent. Both Whitewater and Fayette County will be tough outs. The Wildcats of Whitewater are led by Garrett Owen and Zach Yeager. 6-foot-7 junior power forward Noah Gurley paces the Tigers with 17.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.4 blocks after averaging just 2.1 points and 2.6 rebounds as a sophomore. Four players average over eight points for Woodward Academy led by Julian Cameron’s 11.8. Carrollton has go-to guys in Desmond Webb and Jarel Rowe, who can carry the Trojans.

Region 6

      Team                                       Overall            Region
No. 4 Grady                              18-2                 12-1
No. 2 Lithonia                         15-4                 12-1
No. 3 St. Pius                           17-2                 11-2
Redan                                       13-6                 7-6
Stone Mountain                  9-10                 6-7
Marist                                        8-12                 6-7
Columbia                                 7-10                 4-9
Arabia Mountain                   7-12                 3-10
Chamblee                                   5-14                 3-10

Make no bones about it; Region 6 is the best region in AAAA with Region 4 close behind. Three teams litter the top five with a wild push towards the region tournament ready to ensue. No. 4 Grady and No. 2 Lithonia have both held the No. 1 ranking in the state for multiple weeks. The Knights have four wins over ranked teams at the time they played them. Grady holds a slim lead atop the standings thanks to a Dec. 1 51-50 win vs. No. 3 St. Pius and a 62-52 win at Lithonia on Dec. 11, but last Friday the Golden Lions trimmed into their region lead with a 62-50 win at the X-Dome. The region will be won and lost on Jan. 26 and Jan. 29. On the 26th, Lithonia travels to Grady and on the 29th, St. Pius visits Lithonia. Stars headline the region’s top teams. Lithonia has 6-foot-7 Cedar Grove transfer Jacara Cross and Rodney Chatman (UTC). Coach Brian Weeden of Grady features Avi Toomer (Bucknell) and St. Pius uses Kerney Lane (18.5 ppg, 7 rpg) to power the Golden Lion offense. Redan and Stone Mountain are likely battling for the fourth-seed come playoff time. They may not have the amount of wins they would like, but they are tough teams that could surprise Region 7’s No. 1 seed. There’s a good chance that Region 6 could advance every playoff team through to the next round.

Region 7

             Team                                       Overall            Region
Heritage-Catoosa                        15-5                 9-1
Cartersville                                     13-5                 9-1
Northwest Whitfield                15-5                 8-2
Southeast Whitfield                  7-13                 4-6
Pickens                                              5-14                 3-6
LaFayette                                          9-9                   2-7
Gilmer                                                  5-13                 2-8
Ridgeland                                          3-14                 1-7

Region 7 brought home the state title in football this year thanks to Cartersville. Don’t expect the same in basketball as they draw the brutal Region 6 with three top five teams. The race to grabbing the No. 1 seed will be imperative for playoff survival. Cartersville has split the season series with Northwest Whitfield, but has beaten Heritage 60-54 with their final meeting coming at Heritage on Jan. 29. Jaylon Pugh, Cade Archer and JKobe Orr are dangerous for the Purple Hurricanes with football standout Kobie Whitfield chipping in as well. 6-foot-5 sophomore Cole Wilcox averages 13.5 points and 8.1 rebounds for Heritage while Hunter Erickson adds 13.5 points a night as well. Northwest Whitfield has split with Heritage, but their Nov. 27 win didn’t count in the standings because it was in a holiday tournament. Sophomore Luke Shiflett and junior Paxton Pardee are key contributors for the Bruins. Southeast Whitfield is powered by the state’s leading scorer, Ty Pendley, who averages 27 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists. If the Raiders want to make it into the postseason, Pendley will have to carry them. He is a free throw magnet, taking nearly 10 attempts a game, sinking 90 percent of them. His 90 percent mark was tops in the entire country last year.

Region 8

         Team                                       Overall          Region
Stephens County                   15-4                 3-0
Buford                                          9-11                 4-0
North Hall                                  15-5                 3-1
White County                          14-6                 2-1
Monroe Area                           10-8                 1-2
North Oconee                         4-15                 1-2
Johnson-Gainesville            5-15                 1-3
Madison County                    12-8                 1-3
Chestatee                                   1-18                 0-4

My preseason Sandy’s Spiel Super Sleeper Stephens County has delivered, but both Buford and North Hall are coming on strong. Buford scheduled a brutal non-region schedule and have been better for it. Alex Jones is starting to heat up with Sahil Patel causing problems inside with his 6-foot-8 frame. Coach Eddie Martin will find a way to make the Wolves a team others do not want to face in the state playoffs. Coach Tyler Sanders’ North Hall Trojans are making some noise. Their only loss came to Buford 58-55 last Friday but they quickly rebounded this Tuesday, stopping White County on the road 65-52. The trio of Carson Heinen, Sam Jackson and Evan Easton has been a handful to stop for opponents. Even with their latest loss, don’t count out White County as a contender for the region title. The Warriors defeated Stephens County 71-57 in a non-region game on Dec. 1.