Tye Fagan, No. 2 Upson-Lee officially announce their statewide legitimacy in destruction of No. 3 LaGrange

No. 2 Upson-Lee 68, No. 3 LaGrange 50

In the LaGrange Toyota Classic Championship, No. 2 Upson-Lee (15-0) faced its biggest test yet: No. 3 LaGrange (11-2) in a bandbox gymnasium harkening back to decades and decades of success with four state title banners hanging on the walls. Over the past three seasons, both teams have seen the wins pile up. Upson-Lee gained relevancy back in 2014-15 as a No. 4 seed in the Class AAAA playoffs, taking a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight. Last season the Knights rolled off 17-straight wins heading into the playoffs but were upset in the first round by New Hampstead. Fast forward to present day, the Knights marched into the Championship game with a chance to make a statement – and they did.

From the opening tip, the Knights and junior wing Tye Fagan were locked in. The potent 6-foot-3 lefty who averages upwards of 24 points per game banked in a baseline three to open the game from the right corner and from there the rout was on.

Laperion Perry, LaGrange’s senior leader at guard, knocked in a three to answer as it looked like a back-and-forth game was in store, but instead it was just a Fagan coming out party. He scored 10 points in the first quarter and got help from senior Michael Smith and sophomore Zyrice Scott throughout. Smith picked up a steal and bucket to help the Knights go up by seven as the game quickly started to slip away from the Grangers with the quarter ending with the Knights ahead 19-9.

Upson-Lee’s quick start proved to be the haymaker and knockout punch in the first round. LaGrange never got off the mat as they saw the lead balloon to 31-16 after a Fagan jumper,

and even higher following a Scott triple.

Scott, a baby-faced sophomore who is nowhere near done growing and maturing, played like a grizzled vet alongside Fagan, dropping in 16 points and collecting five rebounds and four steals. The two powered the Knights to a 36-20 halftime lead, Fagan with 20 points by himself as the Granger fans were at a loss for words with the gym buzzing about the opening 16 minutes.

Things got uglier and uglier as the Fagan show entered its second act. He netted nine more points and drilled his second three of the game in the process.

Entering the fourth quarter Upson-Lee and Head Coach Darrell Lockhart called the dogs off up 61-31. Fagan exited the game with 2:05 left with the Knights up 28, finishing with a game-high 31 points.

Covan Huzzie scored 12 points all in the fourth quarter for the Grangers to make the score more palatable including a three at the buzzer. Bo Russell played hard and finished with 11 points, but Perry and 6-foot-6 Bryan Fanning were held to six and four points respectively.

My Take

When I started this website, I did it for fun and because I wanted to cover the entire state the way it deserves to be covered. With the state being as good as it is – it’s the best in the entire nation – it’s a darn shame that there will always be a handful of fringe D-I/II kids who have major college talent but don’t get enough exposure to have the opportunity to play basketball at a high level. Not every kid like this has to go D-I or deserves to be, but their name needs to be out there for colleges to at least acknowledge their presence and do their due diligence and at the bare minimum take five minutes out of their day to watch a video clip of a player. With that being said, players like Tye Fagan are what high school basketball and Sandy’s Spiel are all about. Thomaston, Ga. is far from the glitz and glam of Metro Atlanta, but boy do they have a special team at Upson-Lee, fueled by Fagan, a nearly straight-A student and a habitual winner. Fagan was a man amongst boys against a very good high school program in LaGrange. Fagan made LaGrange look like they didn’t even belong on the same floor as the Knights and that’s against very good high school players like Laperion Perry, Bryan Fanning, Bo Russell and more. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap and that’s what everyone in the crowd did for Fagan. From his opening three-pointer, the lefty was on a mission. He showed the full arsenal, slipping his way to the basket, taking the ball in the low post, hitting two threes and even finishing with his right hand in traffic twice. Defensively he blocked shots and played the passing lanes. He along with sophomores Zyrice Scott and 6-foot-6 defensive end with an Alabama offer, Travon Walker, know nothing but winning. The core has gone somewhere around the record of 125-8 since they all started playing together and the group won the 16U USSSA National Championship this year with the locally based Middle Georgia Supersonics, going a perfect 6-0 in the tournament, winning by an average of 29.5 points per game. The scary part is the trio has one more year together and they will only get better. Scott is a rock solid point guard and Walker sucks up rebounds and has soft hands and good feet on the block. He admittedly said he didn’t play well after the game but he still contributed five points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Senior Michael Smith is a crucial fourth scoring option. The shooter knocked down three triples on the night. Upson-Lee’s biggest issue come state tournament time will be their depth. If any of the big three get in foul trouble, there will be problems. Outside of Walker, there isn’t a ton of height inside for Coach Lockhart. If this isn’t the year for a state title run, next year has a very real possibility of being it, as long as the Knights can develop one or two more players around their core. Expect the Knights to be in a gym near you this time next year in a major holiday tournament…

LaGrange is a much better team than they showed. They were just shell-shocked by Upson-Lee and I fully expect Coach Mark Veal to use the game as a teaching moment and to build momentum heading into an interesting region schedule. They host No. 1 Sandy Creek on January 13, a game with enormous statewide implications. The score will of that game will be something everyone will want to keep an eye on. There wasn’t much to pull from against Upson-Lee other than Bo Russell playing extremely hard all night and Kenan Grey being a load inside, but even he was held to four points along with Bryan Fanning as they ran into Walker inside.

Top Performers

Tye Fagan – 31 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Zyrice Scott – 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
Michael Smith – 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Travon Walker – 5 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks

Covan Huzzie – 12 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal
Bo Russell – 11 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block
Laperion Perry – 6 points, 1 assist, 3 steals

Under the Radar Seniors 2017 *UPDATE*

Seven of this June’s 18 highlighted under the radar seniors have already either committed or signed to D-I programs. Here’s a look at how everyone has done so far in their final season in the GHSA.

Mohammed Abubukar – 6’8” – Eagle’s Landing

12 GP – 10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg

Mo Merritt – 6’7” – North Cobb Christian


Avery Wilson – 6’3” – Forest Park

11 GP – 29 ppg, 9 rpg, 4 apg

Isaiah Miller – 6’0” – Newton

9 GP – 19.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2 apg, 3.2 spg

Khalil Cuffee – 6’4” – Langston Hughes

10 GP – 15 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg

Evan Cole – 6’8” – South Forsyth

11 GP – 20 ppg, 10 rpg, 2 bpg

Kane Williams – 6’3” – South Paulding

10 GP – 15 ppg, 8 rpg, 6 apg, 3 spg

Phlan Fleming – 6’5” – Cedar Shoals

11 GP – 17.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.7 apg, 3.4 spg, 2 bpg

Trevion Lamar – 6’5” – Jenkins

10 GP – 16.6 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.8 spg, 1.1 bpg

Jules Erving – 6’5” – Holy Innocents’

5 GP – 13.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.4 bpg

Ahmad Rand – 6’7” – Lincoln County

3 GP – 19.3 ppg, 19 rpg, 11.3 bpg

Marcal Knolton – 6’6” – Crawford County


Tyreke Johnson – 6’4” – Woodstock

12 GP – 21.6 ppg, 6 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.8 spg

Tae Hardy – 6’3” – Miller Grove

10 GP – 20 ppg, 4 spg

Damion Rosser – 6’4” – Henry County

9 GP – 21 ppg, 8 rpg, 6 apg, 2 spg, 2 bpg

Evan Jester – 6’7” – Sandy Creek

7 GP – 19.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.9 spg, 1 bpg

Noah Gurley – 6’8” – Fayette County

10 GP – 16.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.3 bpg

Preston Horne – 6’6” – Tift County

8 GP – 23.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.5 steals, 1.3 bpg

Week 6 Girls Rankings


  1. Norcross (15-1)
  2. Collins Hill (12-0)
  3. McEachern (5-4)
  4. Mill Creek (11-1)
  5. Archer (9-2)
  6. Westlake (9-3)
  7. Newton (8-1)
  8. Hillgrove (7-4)
  9. Colquitt County (9-2)
  10. Brookwood (8-4) 


  1. Harrison (9-1)
  2. Winder-Barrow (8-4)
  3. Douglas County (10-2)
  4. Grovetown (8-4)
  5. Mays (5-4)
  6. Sequoyah (10-0)
  7. Lovejoy (9-2)
  8. Northview (11-1)
  9. Stephenson (8-4)
  10. Jonesboro (7-4) 


  1. Buford (8-0)
  2. Flowery Branch (9-2)
  3. Southwest DeKalb (10-3)
  4. Griffin (13-0)
  5. Warner Robins (13-0)
  6. Carrollton (9-0)
  7. Maynard Jackson (9-1)
  8. Villa Rica (11-1)
  9. Arabia Mountain (9-0)
  10. Harris County (10-2) 

Class AAAA

  1. North Oconee (10-1)
  2. West Hall (9-3)
  3. Carver-Columbus (11-1)
  4. Cross Creek (8-4)
  5. Columbus (7-2)
  6. Northwest Whitfield (7-3)
  7. Sandy Creek (7-1)
  8. Jefferson (8-3)
  9. Perry (10-2)
  10. Americus-Sumter (8-2) 

Class AAA

  1. Beach (11-1)
  2. Johnson-Savannah (12-1)
  3. Greater Atlanta Christian (10-4)
  4. Ringgold (10-2)
  5. Hart County (10-1)
  6. Monroe (8-1)
  7. Redan (8-2)
  8. Calhoun (11-3)
  9. Franklin County (8-2)
  10. Haralson County (8-3) 

Class AA

  1. Laney (9-1)
  2. Model (8-2)
  3. Dodge County (8-1)
  4. Rabun County (11-1)
  5. Vidalia (8-1)
  6. Fitzgerald (6-0)
  7. Heard County (10-2)
  8. Dade County (10-3)
  9. Hapeville Charter (8-2)
  10. Dublin (5-2)

Class A-Private

  1. St. Francis (8-3)
  2. Holy Innocents’ (9-1)
  3. Wesleyan (10-2)
  4. Lakeview Academy (10-2)
  5. Pinecrest Academy (8-2)
  6. Landmark Christian (9-3)
  7. Calvary Day (9-2)
  8. Fellowship Christian (5-3)
  9. Christian Heritage (6-4)
  10. Tattnall Square Academy (6-3) 

Class A-Public

  1. Pelham (10-0)
  2. Wheeler County (9-1)
  3. Greenville (9-1)
  4. Telfair County (9-1)
  5. Woodville-Tompkins (10-3)
  6. Macon County (6-0)
  7. Treutlen (7-3)
  8. Taylor County (7-2)
  9. Terrell County (6-2)
  10. Wilcox County (7-4)


Over in South Carolina, the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational was as good as it gets with a handful of Georgia powers in attendance. One of those state championship favorites was Class AAAAAAA No. 1 Norcross, who went 3-1 with their lone loss coming to eventual tournament champion Monacan, VA 58-57.  Along the way the Lady Blue Devils knocked off Wesleyan 58-53. Back in Georgia, No. 6 Westlake and No. 9 Colquitt County were tested at the Peach State Classic. The Lions went 2-1 with a win over Colquitt 45-42. The Packets finished 1-2 with losses to Southwest DeKalb and Westlake. Lambert and Camden County drop out. The Wildcats shouldn’t have been ranked last week as there was an error on MaxPreps saying they beat Calvary Day when they actually lost 48-41. Replacing Camden County is No. 8 Hillgrove. The record isn’t sexy, but the Hawks have played a tough non-region schedule and head into a stingy Deep South Classic field with host No. 10 Brookwood, who reappears in the poll after a 55-46 victory over Lambert. The Broncos draw North Forsyth in Round 1 of the tournament, a great matchup between two Top 10 worthy squads.

The Olivia Nelson-Ododa tour went to the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational and nearly captured the championship. Class AAAAAA No. 2 Winder-Barrow went 3-1, beating Wesleyan 65-60 and falling to Monacan in the finals 54-49. In the loss Nelson-Ododa finished with 16 points and 22 rebounds. In Region 5 play, No. 3 Douglas County held off No. 5 Mays at Mays 67-60. Mays holds firm at No. 5 even with the loss due to strength of schedule. The two square off again on January 7. Stephenson leaps Jonesboro for No. 9 in the state after the Cardinals were tripped up by Holy Innocents’ 53-39 at the War Eagle Classic.

Class AAAAA is shaping up to be tons of fun with No. 1 Buford as the early favorite. They crushed Morgan County 74-17 heading into the holiday break. Southwest DeKalb jumps Griffin for No. 3 in the state. The Panthers won the Peach State Classic beating Tucker (52-46), Colquitt County (60-51) and No. 7 Maynard Jackson 72-58 in the title game. Jackson moves up after beating Westlake 46-38. The Jaguars likely would have been ranked much higher to start the year if I knew that Southwest Atlanta Christian’s two best seniors (6-foot-5 Dominique Banks & 5-foot-7 Tiamya Butler) had transferred to Jackson. In effect, SACA would have never been ranked to open the year. No. 5 Warner Robins hosts No. 10 Harris County on January 6.

It’s now nine straight wins for No. 2 West Hall heading into Lanierland. The Spartans won the Holidays on the Hardwood Championship in North Carolina over Cherokee, NC 76-71. No. 3 Carver-Columbus pounded No. 5 Columbus 69-53, dropping them three spots in the Class AAAA poll. Heritage-Catoosa departs the rankings after a 60-45 loss to Ringgold and is replaced by No. 10 Americus-Sumter, who drilled Monroe 61-40 at the Phoebe Sumter Shootout, the Tornadoes first loss of the year.

No. 1 Beach and No. 2 Johnson-Savannah will battle for Region 3-AAA supremacy all season long and even though it wasn’t a region game, it was Beach’s turn to stun the Atomsmashers. The Bulldogs won the Memorial Health Holiday Classic Championship in overtime 62-56 just six days after losing 45-42 on a buzzer beater to Johnson. The Bulldogs take ahold of No. 1 and will see Johnson for the third time on January 27. No. 4 Ringgold had a strong week, beating Christian Heritage 56-37 and Heritage-Catoosa, their rival, 60-45. Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe drops out after losing to Heritage-Catoosa 68-43. Replacing them is No. 10 Haralson County, who knocked Pepperell out of the AA poll with a 60-39 victory.

No. 2 Model is starting to heat up in Class AA, beating Darlington 56-47 and Rome 60-54. Dodge County leaps Rabun County for No. 3 due to more resume building wins, their most recent coming at Wayne County 50-45. Bryan County and Pepperell exit the Top 10. Bryan County was upset by Long County while the Dragons have dropped three straight by double digits. Entering is No. 9 Hapeville Charter and No. 10 Dublin. The Hornets have some sting and are a team to keep an eye on with a High Major player leading the way.

There’s shuffling along the top of Class A-Private with St. Francis reclaiming No. 1 even after two losses at the Nike Tournament of Champions. The Knights have played the toughest schedule in the state and are still a force in Georgia. Holy Innocents’ climbs up to No. 2 after a clean week with a win over Jonesboro. Wesleyan went 2-2 at the CresCom Invitational, their only two losses coming to GHSA opponents in Winder-Barrow and Norcross. Darlington has lost two in a row and is out of the rankings, replaced by No. 10 Tattnall Square Academy.

No. 1 Pelham is a monster in Class A-Public, beating Tift County 40-38 just to show their dominance from the state’s smallest classification. Below Pelham there were some state-changing results. Wheeler County jumps up two spots to No. 2 following No. 3 Greenville and No. 9 Terrell County’s losses. Greenville was upset by Cook 73-71, but rebounded with an 81-75 win over Turner County, knocking the Rebels from the poll.  Terrell County lost to Taylor County 49-41; not a terrible result at first glance. But the Greenwave fall six spots to No. 9 and Taylor County drops two spots to No. 8 after the Vikings were demolished by No. 6 Macon County 67-35, who debuts in the Top 10. The Bulldogs are officially a problem led by junior Jasmine Larry who is posting 23.4 points, 5.8 assists and 5.8 steals per game. Ranking just ahead of the ‘Dogs is Woodville-Tompkins. They defeated Calvary Day 49-47. Treutlen holds at No. 7 after a 64-59 win over No. 10 Wilcox County and a 64-62 loss to No. 4 Telfair County.

Week 6 Boys Rankings


  1. Norcross (12-2)
  2. Newton (10-0)
  3. Wheeler (8-3)
  4. McEachern (8-0)
  5. Westlake (7-3)
  6. Collins Hill (12-1)
  7. Pebblebrook (5-5)
  8. Tift County (12-1)
  9. Berkmar (9-4)
  10. Peachtree Ridge (7-3)


  1. Gainesville (10-0)
  2. Jonesboro (9-2)
  3. Langston Hughes (7-3)
  4. South Paulding (9-1)
  5. Brunswick (9-1)
  6. Heritage-Conyers (6-3)
  7. South Cobb (9-2)
  8. Alpharetta (12-1)
  9. Dacula (7-3)
  10. Lakeside-Evans (8-3)


  1. Buford (9-0)
  2. Eagle’s Landing (10-2)
  3. Miller Grove (8-3)
  4. Fayette County (10-2)
  5. Cedar Shoals (9-2)
  6. Warner Robins (10-1)
  7. Riverwood (11-1)
  8. Southwest DeKalb (9-4)
  9. Union Grove (9-2)
  10. New Hampstead (8-4)

Class AAAA

  1. Sandy Creek (5-2)
  2. Upson-Lee (12-0)
  3. LaGrange (9-1)
  4. Eastside (9-2)
  5. Richmond Academy (9-3)
  6. Henry County (9-5)
  7. Perry (10-2)
  8. Burke County (6-2)
  9. North Clayton (5-5)
  10. Americus-Sumter (9-1) 

Class AAA

  1. Westside-Macon (6-2)
  2. Greater Atlanta Christian (9-2)
  3. Liberty County (8-5)
  4. Central-Macon (8-1)
  5. Pace Academy (3-5)
  6. Morgan County (6-2)
  7. Calhoun (9-0)
  8. Islands (7-3)
  9. Johnson-Savannah (8-3)
  10. Cedar Grove (5-4) 

Class AA

  1. South Atlanta (12-1)
  2. Josey (12-2)
  3. Thomasville (4-4)
  4. Therrell (9-3)
  5. Dublin (6-4)
  6. Monticello (8-5)
  7. Callaway (3-2)
  8. Putnam County (8-2)
  9. Laney (9-3)
  10. Chattooga (8-1) 

Class A-Private

  1. Greenforest (7-2)
  2. St. Francis (10-0)
  3. Southwest Atlanta Christian (6-3)
  4. North Cobb Christian (7-2)
  5. Aquinas (6-1)
  6. Lakeview Academy (6-3)
  7. Holy Innocents’ (5-4)
  8. Whitefield Academy (6-3)
  9. Tallulah Falls (10-0)
  10. King’s Ridge (7-4)

Class A-Public

  1. Calhoun County (8-0)
  2. Quitman County (11-1)
  3. Taylor County (7-2)
  4. Wilkinson County (6-2)
  5. Treutlen (10-0)
  6. Clinch County (9-0)
  7. Wilcox County (9-2)
  8. Central-Talbotton (8-3)
  9. Crawford County (8-4)
  10. Montgomery County (8-2)


Norcross holds tight at No. 1 in Class AAAAAAA after a 2-2 showing at City of Palms, knocking off defending Class AA champion Pace Academy in the process, 53-44. The Blue Devils’ two losses came by a combined five points to IMG Academy and Brentwood Academy Wheeler has shaken off its slow start and will enter the Tournament of Champions on a four-game winning streak. The Wildcats rise four spots to No. 3 after winning the Chick-fil-A Classic American Division Championship with a 64-53 win over John Carroll, MD. No. 5 Westlake and No. 7 Pebblebrook struggled in their national tournaments. Westlake went 1-2 at the Chick-fil-A Classic while the Falcons finished 1-2 at City of Palms. Down in Tifton, No. 8 Tift County took care of business, smashing Milton 84-40 for revenge of last year’s season-ending buzzer beating loss in the Sweet 16, 56-54. At the 7th annual McDonald’s Tifton Invitational, the Blue Devils also snuck past Duluth 54-52 and hammered Westover 72-48.

There was no movement in Class AAAAAA, but No. 1 Gainesville did have a close call at the Carrollton Christmas Tournament, beating the Trojans in the championship game 53-46. Jonesboro finished City of Palms 3-1, defeating Neumann-Goretti, PA 65-53 in their final game. No. 5 Brunswick had a nice week, beating Monroe 67-52 at the McDonald’s Tifton Invitational and finishing 2-0 at the event.

Buford’s resume in Class AAAAA got stronger with a 60-45 win over Class AAA No. 10 Cedar Grove at the War Eagle Classic. The Peach State Classic helped sort out the rankings as No. 2 Eagle’s Landing fell in the title game to Class AA No. 1 South Atlanta, but beat Class AA No. 4 Therrell and Lithonia in the process. Fayette County holds on at No. 4 after a 2-1 mark at the Peach State Classic, their lone loss coming to South Atlanta. The Tigers defeated Southwest DeKalb 64-56. The Panthers had a rough go at the tournament, going 1-2 and slipping two spots to No. 8. Class AAAA No. 9 North Clayton defeated Southwest DeKalb in overtime 70-64. Warner Robins moves up a spot to No. 6 after winning the State Bank Classic Championship over Class AAA No. 4 Central-Macon, 83-62. Maynard Jackson exits the Top 10 after losing a shootout to Class AAAA No. 6 Henry County, 97-96. Back in the poll is No. 10 New Hampstead. The Phoenix scored a 54-51 victory over Nova, FL at the Memorial Health Holiday Classic in Savannah and finished third.

The merry-go-round in Class AAAA span on this past week as last week’s No. 5 Thomson, No. 6 Westover and No. 8 St. Pius all drop out. Thomson (3-4) has not played well this year yet. They went 1-2 at the Savannah River Shootout and struggled against South Carolina competition. Their 73-67 win over 2-7 Hartsville, SC wasn’t a promising outcome, considering how No. 8 Burke County handled them easily, 78-55. Westover (6-5) lost to Salem 50-47, a team fighting to crack the rankings. The Patriots also lost to Class AAA No. 6 Morgan County 57-50 and to Tift County by 24. St. Pius (6-5) has had the toughest luck thus far. The Golden Lions have loaded up on tough competition but haven’t scored more than impressive morale victories which leads me to believe they will be a tough team come February. Their latest heartbreaker came to Class AAA No. 2 Greater Atlanta Christian in overtime, 61-58. Pius should be the favorite to win Region 8, but Stephens County did push them to the brink, 70-68. Back into the mix are No. 6 Henry County and No. 9 North Clayton due to their quality wins and strength of schedule. The Warhawks proved they are still dangerous, winning three in a row including two against ranked teams. They knocked Maynard Jackson out of the Class AAAAA rankings behind Javon Greene’s 46-point explosion and followed up by beating Class AA No. 6 Monticello 82-72 to win the Chuck Miller Classic Championship. North Clayton’s record isn’t pretty but they picked up two wins against ranked teams as well at the Peach State Classic. After losing to Class AA No. 1 South Atlanta 60-56, they stopped Southwest DeKalb (70-64 OT) and Therrell (39-37).  Debuting in the poll is Americus-Sumter, who just beat Class AA No. 5 Dublin 58-55 in the Phoebe Sumter Shootout Championship.

6-foot-11 Xavier-signee Kentrevious Jones has left No. 1 Westside-Macon. The Seminoles should be allowed to implement a more free flowing style of play behind Khavon Moore, Trey Foster and Samone Reed, keeping Westside a legit state title threat. Up to No. 2 is Greater Atlanta Christian, who held off St. Pius in overtime. Cedar Grove plummets from No. 3 to No. 10. The Saints went 0-2 at the War Eagle Classic, falling to Class A-Private No. 7 Holy Innocents’ (62-54) and to Buford. With 6-foot-8 Jelani Woods electing to enroll early at Oklahoma State for football, the Saints’ upside takes a major hit. Rising three spots is No. 3 Liberty County. A healthy Davion Mitchell with a budding superstar in Will Richardson is trouble for the rest of the state. No. 5 Pace Academy’s struggles in national events continued as the Knights went 0-3 at City of Palms. No. 6 Morgan County is playing good basketball, earning a victory over Westover at the McDonald’s Tifton Invitational. Jenkins exits the poll and is replaced by No. 9 Johnson-Savannah, who avenged an early loss to the Warriors and defeated Jenkins 55-53 in the Memorial Health Holiday Classic Championship.

South Atlanta is the team to beat in Class AA. They have picked up five wins against teams who have spent time in the Top 10 and even more impressively, on their march to the Peach State Classic Championship, they defeated larger schools from Class AAAA and AAAAA. They turned back Class AAAAA No. 2 Eagle’s Landing with a 14-2 run to win the title 61-47 at Clayton State. The hottest team behind the Hornets is No. 2 Josey. The Eagles have emerged as the best team out of Augusta and did so in nail-biting fashion, beating Glenn Hills 59-56 and No. 9 Laney in the Holiday Round Ball Classic Championship, 46-43. The quality wins soar the Eagles up five spots. Augusta did see a casualty however as Butler falls out after beating Class AAAA No. 5 Richmond Academy, but losing to Laney and Glenn Hills at the Round Ball Tournament. Replacing them is North Georgia power No. 10 Chattooga. The Indians have little room for error however due to their strength of schedule.

In Class A-Private, No. 2 St. Francis defeated Milton 85-81. Holy Innocents’ jumps Whitefield Academy at No. 7 after beating Cedar Grove and the Wolfpack losing to Class AAAAAAA No. 2 Newton, 82-58. Darlington drops out after tough 56-52 loss to Calhoun in overtime in the Rome News-Tribune Festival Championship. King’s Ridge Christian resurfaces at No. 10 and has won four straight.

Calhoun County still looks like the top dog in Class A-Public, blowing out Manchester 68-53. Crawford County slips to No. 9 after being upset by Southwest-Macon 63-62. Clinch County is up to No. 6 but they have a rematch looming with Turner County tonight in the Ronalda Pierce Holiday Hoopfest Championship. Twiggs County bows out of the Top 10 after a 63-51 loss at Swainsboro and is replaced by No. 7 Wilcox County, who beat No. 10 Montgomery County 68-53.

No. 1 South Atlanta stings No. 2 Eagle’s Landing with 14-2 close to capture Peach State Classic Championship

No. 1 South Atlanta 61, No. 2 Eagle’s Landing 47

The finals of the Peach State Classic Championship featured Class AA No. 1 South Atlanta (12-1) and Class AAAAA No. 2 Eagle’s Landing (8-2). Both teams fought their way to the title game by knocking off ranked teams throughout their path.

South Atlanta opened up a quick 8-2 lead behind two Devonta Pullins threes and raced out to a 20-10 lead after one. The Hornets used an active defense and 10 of Pullins’ 13 points on the night to get off on the right foot.

A reason for the Eagles’ slow start was that 6-foot-8 North Carolina A&T-commit Mohammed Abubukar didn’t touch the ball in the opening eight minutes. In the second quarter Coach Elliott Montgomery and the Eagles made it a point to get him the ball. On the first possession of the quarter, Abubukar earned a trip to the line and sank both free throws.

The inside-outside duo of Abubukar and Brandon Thomas helped Eagle’s Landing weather South Atlanta’s early scoring storm. Thomas drilled a three to make it 28-19 at the three minute mark and with 1:42 left it was 30-21.

Right before the half, the Eagles got the ball to Abubukar again and he was able to convert to make it 32-24 with the Hornets still on top.

South Atlanta stepped on the gas to begin the third quarter, using a 7-0 spurt keyed by Pullins’ third triple of the game and Tyler Thornton inside to regain a commanding 39-24 lead.

With the game starting to slip away Abubukar sparked the Eagles, powering a 9-0 run highlighted by the big man collecting a steal and going coast-to-coast for a tough lay-in. Thomas drained another three to make it 39-33 with 2:27 left in the third.

Abubukar drove for a dunk and then completed an And-1 to cut the lead to five, but the Hornets ran off the final 50 seconds of the clock and received a Dondre Barnes layup to head into the fourth up 45-38.

The Eagles’ surge continued in the final quarter, using a 7-2 run to close the lead to 47-45 at the 6:21 mark when Tarrence Evans scored his first two points from the line. With Eagle’s Landing in finally striking distance, the Hornets responded and made sure it would be as close as the Eagles were able to claw within.

South Atlanta ripped off a 14-2 streak over the final six-plus minutes to seal the game. It began with Barnes nailing a three and Jalen Stegall adding a jumper. Thornton capped South Atlanta’s 12 unanswered points with a one-handed jam to put the exclamation point on the championship.

My Take

South Atlanta has to be considered the favorite in Class AA to win it all. In fact, in this topsy-turvy season with parity at an all-time high, out of all my current No. 1 ranked teams in the state I am most confident in the Hornets. Wins over North Clayton (60-56), Class AAAAA No. 4 Fayette County (69-57) and Class AAAAA No. 2 Eagle’s Landing are as good as it gets, especially in Class AA which has seen other top programs struggle against tough competition out of the higher classifications. The majority of the Hornets have been playing together for years with a strong cohesion and a pedigree of winning which seems like it’s ready to come to fruition with a state championship. Devonta Pullins got South Atlanta off to a hot start with his three-point stroke, but it was far from a one-man show. Jalen Stegall and Dondre Barnes added 9 points apiece while Tyler Thornton was named Tournament MVP after posting 20 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks. The 6-foot-8 unsigned lefty power forward should be on some schools’ radar. Thornton is comfortable facing up and has a nice turnaround jumper out of the low block. His motor is steady and he is active on the glass and blocking shots. He will be a nice late addition for whatever program sees him as a fit.

Eagle’s Landing’s slow start was too much to overcome. Not getting the ball to Mohammed Abubukar at all in the first quarter was a mistake. The big man nearly carried them all the way back as he posted 15 points. Mo likes to put the ball on the floor and create from the high post, using a multitude of spins to get free in the lane. He needs to make sure he doesn’t get out of control when trying to attack. I would have liked to see him get more paint touches on the low block to see what he can do there instead of relying on him to create everything starting from 15-feet out. Brandon Thomas knocked down four threes, one in each quarter. He’s a sweet shooter when he’s open but he needs to be able to make more happen off the bounce and create his own shot. Christopher Hood added on 10 points and rebounded the ball well. Tarrence Evans was too quiet with just two points on the night. He is usually a strong option on offense. Zane Walker was a tough rebounder inside for the Eagles. The undersized forward brings a football mentality to the glass and I thought he gave Coach Montgomery some quality minutes.


All-Tournament Team (L-R): Mohammed Abubukar, CJ Hood, *Revelle Williams*, Demontay Roberts, Devonta Pullins, Tyler Thornton (MVP)

Top Performers

South Atlanta
Tyler Thornton – 20 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 blocks
Devonta Pullins – 13 points, 4 assists, 1 steal
Dondre Barnes – 9 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
Jalen Stegall – 9 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists
Demontay Roberts – 5 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal

Eagle’s Landing
Mohammed Abubukar – 15 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
Brandon Thomas – 12 points, 3 rebounds
Christopher Hood – 10 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Zane Walker – 4 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal