No. 2 Fayette County sweeps No. 2 Sandy Creek behind 14 threes; Richard second half heroics

5ANo. 2 Fayette County 72, 4ANo. 2 Sandy Creek 71

TJ Bickerstaff free throw

Since picking up their first win of the year back on November 13th at Sandy Creek 74-66, road bumps have been few and far between for Class 5A No. 2 Fayette County (14-2). On Friday night, the Tigers had a chance to earn a season sweep of their cross-town rival Class 4A No. 2 Sandy Creek (10-3) in front of a nearly packed house. The game started and ended with star forward TJ Bickerstaff at the foul line.

The Patriots got off to a quick start, leading before a second even ticked off the clock as Drexel-signee TJ Bickerstaff sank two technical free throws after Fayette County was T’d up during warmups. The Patriots led 8-1 with 6-foot-8 sophomore Jabari Smith using a soft jump hook around the rim, but Fayette County regained their composure with 6-foot-4 senior point guard Terrell Bradley – back from an early season suspension – getting into the paint and finishing.

Coach Jon-Michael Nickerson turned to his bench early and inserted 6-foot-5 sophomore Deshon Proctor into the game, who paid dividends right away with six first quarter points including a slam off a Bickerstaff assist with 1:40 left to play to give Sandy Creek a 16-13 edge.

Twenty seconds later however, Bickerstaff would pick up his second foul and head to the bench.

At the end of one, Sandy Creek led 18-16 after Kingston Calhoun knocked down a three with 37 seconds left from Bradley to slice into the lead.

Bickerstaff checked back into the game at the 6:38 mark before picking up his third foul just 17 seconds later and he would check out with 5:55 on the clock and sit the rest of the half with his Patriots leading 20-19.

Fayette County went on a 5-0 spurt with Bickerstaff benched, JeKobe Coleman drilling his third three of the game as the Tigers picked apart the Patriot zone.

The Tigers had another 6-0 mini-run sparked by Joshua Dupree, who chased down a layup attempt on the fast break to pin it on the backboard then trailed the play heading the other way as Bradley found him open for a transition three to make it 29-25 before Ricky Knight Jr. cashed in on his own three to push the lead to 32-25 with 1:43 left in the second quarter.

Like a game of tug of war, it was Sandy Creek’s turn to pull on the rope as Julian Alexander and Smith scored late to trim the deficit to 34-32 heading into halftime.

The Patriots scored the first four points of the second half to nudge ahead 36-34, but at the 6:23 mark Bickerstaff was whistled for his fourth foul on a charge and was banished back to the bench.

The depth and the well-rounded play of Sandy Creek shined in Bickerstaff’s absence as Proctor continued to pose a problem for the guard-oriented lineup of Fayette County, receiving a dish from Alexander and powering home a two-handed flush to give the Patriots some cushion with 5 minutes to play in the third quarter now up 42-36.

Just when it looked like Sandy Creek would gain separation, Fayette County’s three-point barrage started to bomb from deep. The Tigers went on an 8-0 run with Knight hitting back-to-back threes in the right corner to give Fayette County a 44-42 lead at the 3:34 mark.

With the Patriot zone now concerned about the outside shooting of Fayette County – the Tigers hitting 14 threes on the night – the middle of the zone was wide open for 6-foot-4 sophomore William Richard to score two of his 16 second half points up close.

Sandy Creek responded on offense with Alexander scoring six of his 12 points in the quarter and Keith Williams III breaking loose for eight points, nailing two threes. The Patriots finished with a flurry as Proctor banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Sandy Creek a 57-52 lead after three quarters with their star player having played less than 10 minutes.

Bickerstaff re-entered the game at the 6:50 mark and immediately demanded the ball on a post-up and went to the line where he split a pair of free throws.

Following a scoreless first half, Richard netted eight points including two threes as Fayette County regained the lead with 5:05 to play, 65-63.

Back and forth the two rivals went over the final five minutes.

Sandy Creek got a third dunk from Proctor as the Patriots moved ahead 69-68 at the 3:05 mark.

Trying to nurse a one-point lead with less than two minutes to play, Alexander’s cross court pass was intercepted by Knight and finished on the other end to give the Tigers a 70-69 lead with 1:33 to play.

The Patriots responded by dumping it down low to Bickerstaff who made a strong move toward the middle of the paint to take back a 71-70 lead with 1:12 remaining.

On the other end, Richard scored his 16th and final point off the bench to give Fayette County the lead for good with less than a minute to play.

The Patriots got a bad look at the basket with 28.1 seconds left and had to foul twice to send Coleman to the line. The three-point sniper missed the front end of the one-and-one and gave the ball back to Sandy Creek now with 17.5 left on the clock.

Sandy Creek drove and dropped off to Proctor who was body-checked but no whistle came. The ball squirted loose and in a wild scramble the Patriots temporarily regained possession before a kickball was called and Sandy Creek had the ball out of bounds with 5.6 seconds remaining.

Coach Nickerson got the ball into the hands of Bickerstaff who drew a foul and was sent to the line for two free throws with 1.8 seconds left on the clock. Bickerstaff missed the first and after a timeout, missed the second as the Tigers held on in dramatic fashion to sweep the season series.

My Take

Friday night was one of the best games of the season. The largest lead of the game was seven points for both teams while there were too many lead changes to keep up with. Fayette County is the real deal in Class 5A and a legitimate state title contender with how they shoot the three. They banged in 14 threes and destroyed the Patriots zone. Fayette County’s guards are interchangeable with everyone standing between 6-foot-0 and 6-foot-4 and all able to stroke the deep ball as five players connected from distance. 6-foot-4 senior point guard Terrell Bradley has found his groove after serving his suspension. He’s got great size for the lead guard position and has a nice touch when whipping the ball inside. His length even led to three blocked shots. Fayette County might not have one sure-fire D-I prospect but they have a ton of mouth-watering D-II and JUCO options that can help programs quickly. 6-foot-3 senior Josh Dupree is a bouncy glue guy that can affect the game on both ends, 6-foot junior JeKobe Coleman is a lethal three-point shooter along with 6-foot-2 senior Ricky Knights Jr., both canning five three-pointers. The biggest difference maker however was 6-foot-4 sophomore William Richard who came off the bench and scored all 16 of his points in the second half. Richard doesn’t really have a position, but he plays anywhere from three through five for Coach Andre Flynn. His activity on the glass, his soft touch inside and his ability to step outside and hit the three makes him the perfect compliment in the Tigers’ guard-oriented lineup. Fayette County has the talent to run the table the rest of the regular season and position themselves for a deep run in Class 5A.

In the loss, there were good takeaways for Sandy Creek. Their depth was key with 6-foot-5 sophomore Deshon Proctor leading the way with 15 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. He is a man-child inside with his strength and he looked a lot more comfortable playing around the basket than he did in the summer. Similar to Proctor is 6-foot-8 sophomore Jabari Smith who looked like a completely different player than when I last saw him at Carrollton over the summer months. Smith showed toughness with his slender frame, playing with his back to the basket. He scored on a pretty baby hook to ignite his night and showed that he could put the ball on the floor and hit the three. His five blocked shots around the rim were key as well. Smith has a high ceiling with his skillset and it was nice to see him not fall in love with his guard skills and stand on the three-point line. 6-foot-3 senior Julian Alexander had a nice spurt in the third quarter but went scoreless in the fourth. He’s a solid all-around scorer that should be in the mix for D-II schools. Junior guard Keith Williams III had a quiet first half but he had an important eight-point stretch in the third quarter. It was a nightmarish night for Drexel-signee TJ Bickerstaff who could never find a flow in the game. With foul trouble hampering his play, he had a chance to save the day at the end but it wasn’t in the cards. I was surprised with how much zone Sandy Creek played against such a potent outside shooting team. The Patriots had some weak close outs and a few mental breakdowns on rotations which hurt them.

Top Performers

Fayette County
Ricky Knight Jr. – 22 points (5 threes), 1 rebound, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
JeKobe Coleman – 17 points (5 threes), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
William Richard – 16 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Terrell Bradley – 8 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

Sandy Creek
Deshon Proctor – 15 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
Jabari Smith – 15 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 block
Julian Alexander – 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Keith Williams III – 12 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block
TJ Bickerstaff – 9 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal

Record-breaking 18 threes shoot No. 5 Chattahoochee past Cambridge

No. 5 Chattahoochee 98, Cambridge 84

Chattahoochee vs. Cambridge basketball

Winners of five-straight heading into Thursday’s crucial Region 7-AAAAAA showdown, No. 5 Chattahoochee (13-3, 5-2) entered play as possibly Class 6A’s hottest team, debuting in the Top 10 after clawing their way to a Blue Bracket Championship at the Tournament of Champions last week. Cambridge (10-6, 6-2) made the 9-mile drive from Milton to Alpharetta with something to prove after getting ran out of the gym and the state rankings two weeks ago by No. 7 Sequoyah 109-80.

In an up-for-grabs region, both teams came out hot trading blows to start with UGA Head Coach Tom Crean in attendance. There were hardly any whistles or stoppages in play as the game fluidly saw Chattahoochee hold a slim 13-12 lead to start before the Cougars embarked on a historic night.

AJ White hit one of his seven threes to give Chattahoochee a 19-14 lead.

Cam Sheffield followed up with a three of his own before Grant Van Beveren scored inside for Chattahoochee’s final hoop of the quarter as the Cougars led 24-19 after one.

In the first quarter alone, the Cougars nailed six threes – a foreboding sign as Chattahoochee would burry a school-record 18 threes on the night.

Cambridge tried to play a 1-3-1 zone to start the second quarter but poor rotations led to even more open shooters as Chattahoochee grew their lead to 32-22.

Star sophomore Matt Cleveland glided his way to the basket for two of his 12 first half points, but the Cougars still led 35-26.

The onslaught continued as the Cougars pulled away.

White and Franklin Bailey went back-to-back from deep to make it a 43-26 game at the 3:26 mark. At the half Chattahoochee held a commanding 53-36 lead, knocking down 13 threes as Sheffield (18), White (17) and Bailey (12) all reached double figures and combined for all 13 trifectas.

Tired of peppering the Bears from beyond the arc, Coach Chris Short began to pound it inside to Van Beveren where Cambridge had no defensive answers either. The 6-foot-6 senior scored eight quick points and pushed the lead to 70-44 with 2:43 left in the third. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Cougars led 74-52 behind 16 three-pointers.

Bryce Boutelle tried to spark Cambridge with consecutive threes, scoring 11 of his 21 points in the final frame but the hole was too deep to climb out of. The Bears turned over the Cougars with their press and trimmed the lead to 80-66 with 4:28 remaining, but Chattahoochee would answer as Van Beveren closed the door on a comeback with nine points down the stretch.

Bailey hit Chattahoochee’s final three-ball of the night to extend the lead to 91-72 before coasting to a dominant 98-84 rout at home.

My Take

I got to witness Chattahoochee at their absolute best. When they are hitting threes like they did last night they are tough to beat, but even with 18 made threes they did only win by 14 points. The Cougars are heavily reliant on the perimeter shot. AJ White has to be in the discussion for best pound-for-pound scoring point guard in the 2021 class. He never shies away from an open look and he was nearly automatic tonight, nailing 7 threes and scoring 25 points. Just like a lot of great guards around the state, his biggest deterrent come recruitment time will be his 5-foot-8 height. Someone who doesn’t have a problem with size is 6-foot-6 junior wing Cam Sheffield. He’s a good-looking D-I prospect that can hit the long ball (5 threes) but also put the ball on the deck and get to the hoop. He had 26 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. I highlighted junior shooting guard Franklin Bailey back in May at SportalSlam and he has carried his sharpshooting momentum into the high school season. Bailey is a one-dimensional player right now, but he is dang good at that dimension, sinking 6 threes to finish with 18 points. Bailey is a lethal floor stretcher that has burned opponents that have decided to key in on slowing down White and Sheffield and have neglected to find Bailey on the three-point line. Bailey can be a streaky shooter however and if he is cold that is when Grant Van Beveren is possibly the most important piece for the Cougars. With the amount of three-pointers attempted and made by the Cougars, it’s amazing to realize the 6-foot-6 senior was still able to dominate when he touched the ball, posting an efficient 23 points and 11 rebounds. Van Beveren is a workhorse that does the dirty work inside for Chattahoochee. His ability to score with his back to the basket and rebound at a high clip is what makes the Cougars more than just a jump shot loving team. My concern with Chattahoochee is their extreme lack of depth. Out of their 98 points scored, 92 of them came from Sheffield (26), White (25), Van Beveren (23) and Bailey (18). Outside of those four, there are no offensive threats and only six players played in the first half. If White, Sheffield or Van Beveren sustain an injury or get in serious foul trouble, the Cougars could be in trouble against a team that has depth, athletes and can defend full court.

Cambridge was very disappointing tonight with their lack of defensive effort. Even with Kamar Robertson back, the Bears just didn’t have enough to dig in and get stops. Allowing a team to hit 18 threes – many not contested very well – is inexcusable. They will need to go back to the drawing board after allowing 207 points in their last two games against Top 10 opponents. Matthew Cleveland put together a nice game in front of UGA Head Coach Tom Crean, posting 23 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 1 block. He was steady throughout. Unsigned senior Kamar Robertson scored 22 points with eight coming in the fourth quarter. He added 4 rebounds, 9 assists and 2 steals. Bryce Boutelle like Robertson, got hot in the fourth quarter with 11 points. He’s a nice scorer that should garner D-III interest. 6-foot-6 junior center Sola Adebisi is long and athletic. He showed that he could knock down the 15-footer from the elbow and blocked three shots. He did not rebound all that well, but most of the time the Bears were getting the ball out of the net.

Top Performers

Cam Sheffield – 26 points (5 threes), 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 block
AJ White – 25 points (7 threes), 4 rebounds, 5 assists
Grant Van Beveren – 23 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
Franklin Bailey – 18 points (6 threes), 1 rebound, 4 assists, 1 block
David McDaniel – 6 points, 1 rebound

Matthew Cleveland – 23 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
Kamar Robertson – 22 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals
Bryce Boutelle – 21 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Sola Adebisi – 8 points, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks

2018-19 Mid-Season Storylines

2019 is here and we have reached the midway point of the GHSA basketball season. It’s time for some mid-season awards and storylines to track the rest of the year.

Biggest Surprise

Boys: Currently ranked No. 8 in Class 7A, East Coweta (14-1) has emerged as a Region 2 title contender and a legitimate threat to take a deep run in state. The Indians will be battle-tested if they make the state tournament which will be no cakewalk as No. 5 Wheeler, No. 9 Pebblebrook, Westlake and Campbell all loom. The Indians have already surpassed last year’s 13-win mark and have seen major contributions from 2019 6-0 G Mandez Jones (18.3 ppg), 2020 6-6 W Brandon Stroud (17.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.2 spg, 1.2 bpg) and 2020 6-4 G Christopher Youngblood (15.4 ppg, 8 rpg). The addition of 2019 6-5 PF Zac Hill (9 ppg, 10.1 rpg) and the play of set-up man 2019 PG 5-9 Derrick Emory (3.7 ppg, 6.8 apg, 3.6 spg) make East Coweta tough to slow down.

Girls: Following a 9-15 season in Year 1 under Coach David Dowse, Lumpkin County has compiled a 13-3 record with just eight girls on the roster. While they haven’t quite secured their signature win in Region 7-AAA yet, the Lady Indians have proven to be able to hang in with some of the state’s best, losing to No. 7 GAC 48-42 and No. 6 Dawson County 58-55. Sophomore Isabel Davenport and senior Mackenzie Pulley have carried the load offensively.

Don’t Sleep On…

Boys: There have been a handful of teams that have taken their L’s in non-region play, trying to prepare for the bigger picture. All of the defending Class A-Public state champ Wilkinson County’s losses have come against teams that have spent time in the Top 10. Sitting at 3-8, don’t count out Region 7-A’s most feared team. The talent is there but the wins haven’t been for Cedar Shoals (6-7) who is closing in on last year’s 10-win total. Juniors 6-foot-6 Quincy Canty and 6-foot-1 Tyler Johnson look like future D-I players while Demetrius Glenn, another 2020 guard, is a three-point marksman. The Jaguars will not be an easy out come February.

Girls: Once the class of Cobb County and the state’s most dominant program, McEachern (4-7) has come back to earth. They Indians are better than what their record suggests, going 2-4 against out of state competition but they still have a lot of work to do to crawl back into the Top 10 in Class 7A. A 50-40 loss to No. 3 North Cobb was a sobering reality that the Indians are no longer the best team in their own region or county, but with most of their speed bumps in the rearview mirror, don’t count out McEachern as they gear up for another playoff run.

Knock, Knock

Boys: The Top 10 is a crowded picture in each classification and Pope (11-3) might be first in line to barge down the door in Class 6A. The Greyhounds sit at 5-1 in an improved Region 7 and hold wins over No. 5 Chattahoochee (81-70) and No. 7 Sequoyah (97-54), one of Region 6’s frontrunners. Ugly losses to 4-11 Lassiter (66-63) and Cambridge (70-45) have held the Greyhounds back. Seniors Micah Paulk and Ryan Billig pace a senior-laden group.

Girls: Jones County (12-3) holds two wins over No. 10 Warner Robins and has beaten previously ranked Woodland-Stockbridge and Baldwin along with a tough Locust Grove group. Another clean week could propel the Greyhounds into the Top 10 if anyone falters in Class 5A. Down in Class 2A, Model (11-3) has transitioned to life after Victaria Saxton quite well. The Blue Devils won the Rome News-Tribune Christmas Tournament by beating Class A-Private No. 10 Darlington 50-39 and previously ranked in Class 5A Rome 55-48.


Mid-Season Statistical Leaders

*Reported to MaxPreps


JR Keundre Campbell Webster County 29.4
SR Chris Parker Bowdon 27.0
SR Malik Foston GMC 26.5
SR Terrell Burden Campbell 25.1


SR Justin Jackson Dougherty 13.4
JR Shontavian Manuel Bleckley County 13.1
SR Zeff Felton Dooly County 12.9
SR Zac Cole Southeast Whitfield 12.4


SR Jordan Brown Westover 7.9
JR Donovan Shipp Sequoyah 7.8
JR Omar Cooper Walker 7.8
JR Dwon Odom St. Francis 7.1


JR Terrele Barnes Jordan 6.4
JR KD Johnson Southwest DeKalb 4.7
JR Tailique Williams Harris County 4.5
JR CJ Johnson Lanier County 4.5


JR Walker Kessler Woodward Academy 5.4
SO Omarion Smith Douglas County 4.3
SR Jahleel Roundtree Burke County 3.7
FR TJ Grant Veterans 3.1




*Reported to MaxPreps

SR Gracie Brunel Lanier County 26.8
JR Olonna Rawls Bryan County 24.7
FR Sydney Bowles Woodward Academy 24.4
SR Tomiyah Alford Lamar County 24.0


SO Alayshia Dixon Wilcox County 16.1
SO Sacha Washington Parkview 15.4
SO Nuriyah Slaton Greenville 13.7
FR Layla Hood Elite Scholars Academy 13.6


SR Zamiya Passmore Locust Grove 7.4
JR Mya Byrd Turner County 6.2
SO Ty’Shemia Bunkley Central-Talbotton 5.5
JR Lacy Robins Statesboro 4.8


SR Tomiyah Alford Lamar County 7.8
SR Denetra Sneed North Clayton 7.6
JR Jada Showers North Clayton 6.5
JR Deasia Ford Americus-Sumter 6.5


SO Nuriyah Slaton Greenville 5.3
SR Emily Greek Thomas County Central 4.9
SO Sania Feagin Forest Park 4.3
JR Ke’mya Whitlock Berkmar 4.1