Category Archives: Game Stories

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

Chattahoochee
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

Cambridge
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

Barron & Hulsman help extinguish No. 8 Chattooga comeback

Alpharetta 54, No. 8 Chattooga 47

Playing one of the toughest schedules in Class AA and by far the most strenuous out of the North Georgia mountains instead of hiding and padding their record like so many other schools have in the past, No. 8 Chattooga (5-4) has made a concerted effort to test themselves, not for Region 7 play but for the big picture – the state tournament. The undersized Indians were back on the road Thursday afternoon making the 69-mile drive to the War Lodge Invitational at Sequoyah where they battled Alpharetta (8-4), a Class AAAAAA school starting to find its groove.

With 5-foot-6 Jundraius “Nuk” Adams benched to start the game, Alpharetta took advantage of the smaller offense-less Indians by jumping out to an 8-2 lead behind a Kalik Brooks And-1 and threes from North Carolina A&T-signee Brandon Barron and Machi Sibblies. 6-foot-5 junior Josh Spencer made his season debut after an ankle sprain and broken finger sidelined him for the first 11 games and quickly made an impact inside with his rebounding and defense.

At the end of one, Alpharetta led 14-4, but much like at the SportalShowcase against No. 1 Woodville-Tompkins, once Adams entered the game and hit his first shot, the wheels began to turn for the Indians. Back-to-back Adams hoops cut the score to 17-9 at the 6:46 mark before Jamarious Mosteller banked in a jumper to make it 22-14.

As the Indians inched closer and closer, the backcourt of Barron and Brooks held them at arm’s reach. Saddled with foul trouble in the first quarter, Brooks went 4-of-4 from the line while Barron nailed his second three and added a layup to combine for nine of the Raiders’ 14 second quarter points.

With 1:15 remaining in the half, Jayden Stephens cleaned up a Barron miss and made the score 26-17.

Alpharetta entered the half up 28-20 but Coach Jared Groce made adjustments to find more open looks for Chattooga as the Indians sparked a 5-0 run with Mosteller finishing inside to trim the lead to 28-25 at the 6:05 mark.

Adams scored to make it 33-27 with 1:57 remaining but the Raiders stole momentum heading into the fourth quarter closing on a 7-2 run ignited by a Barron assist to Kyle Hulsman in the corner for three and capped by a Barron layup before Clayton Johnson hit a late layup to send the game into the final frame with the Indians trailing 40-29.

The Raiders led 42-31 at the 6:38 mark following a Barron fast break dunk, bouncing the ball to himself and throwing it down with Johnson on his hip.

Johnson answered back with a hoop of his own, but Spencer wore down the smaller Indians on the offensive glass, garnering another rebound and put-back to edge the lead out to 44-36 with 4:40 to play.

 

Thirty-seven seconds later, not knowing he had four fouls, Johnson fouled out at half court leaving the Indians without one of their top scorers down the stretch, Johnson finishing his night with 12 points.

Trying to claw their way to a one possession game, Chattooga got burnt twice in a 36-second span by Hulsman who drilled back-to-back threes to give the Raiders a comfortable 52-42 lead with 2:23 remaining.

Tre Flowers gave Chattooga one last breath when he knocked down his second three of the night to bring the deficit to 52-45 with 1:47 to play, but Stephens scooped up a loose ball and laid it up to push the lead back out to nine to officially put the game out of reach.

 

My Take

Alpharetta has their best basketball coming over the next few months now that they are healthy. Josh Spencer was a major lift inside and once he gets his conditioning and feel back, he will be an important piece that can battle in the paint for Coach Eric Blair. Brandon Barron was steady throughout and played a great floor-game finishing with a game-high 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals, leading the Raiders in all categories. His quickness and athleticism helped him slice into the lane at will and his two three-pointers helped stretch the defense. Speaking of stretching the defense, Kyle Hulsman looked like Robert Horry, nailing crushing threes in the second half. His nine points were the difference late in the game. Kalik Brooks sat for a majority of the first half with foul trouble but he was productive when on the floor and earned rave reviews from the Indians after the game. His length gave them fits on defense but it was his slithery ability to maneuver into the lane for layups which got him going.

Chattooga’s inability to score in the first quarter came back to haunt them. Nuk Adams is so important for their offensive flow, he is their engine. Without Adams buckets are hard to come by, but once he sees his first shot drop, it energizes the entire team. Having a streaky 5-foot-6 point guard as their best shot creator can be tough at times, but the Indians playing against teams with great length will prepare them for the state tournament where they won’t have to worry about too many lineups that can start four players over 6-foot-4. Clayton Johnson played a very nice game offensively with 12 points and hit two timely threes. Having his three-point shot calibrated helps the Indians space the floor and allow Adams to create shots for others. Lefty Tre Flowers stepped up with eight points and nailed two threes while Jamarious Mosteller impacted the game on both sides of the ball. The Indians needed more production from their forwards Malachi Mack and Devin Price who combined for three points. Mack rebounded the ball well in the first half and finished with three blocks, but Price could never find a niche to impact the game like he usually does. The Indians have proven they can compete with bigger and better teams and that they aren’t just another prototypical North Georgia team that feasts on cupcakes. They are a serious threat come February. Chattooga’s lack of true full-time basketball players may hurt them down the stretch, but their competitiveness and athleticism will keep them in every game, especially in Class 2A.

Top Performers

Alpharetta
Brandon Barron – 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
Kalik Brooks – 12 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
Kyle Hulsman – 9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Josh Spencer – 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 blocks
Jayden Stephens – 5 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal
Machi Sibblies – 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal

Chattooga
Nuk Adams – 13 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Clayton Johnson – 12 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Jamarious Mosteller – 11 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals
Tre Flowers – 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Malachi Mack – 2 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 3 blocks

Paulding County collects 30 steals in blitz of East Paulding

Paulding County 90, East Paulding 77

In front of two vocal student sections that lacked a filter, Paulding County (12-1) put their nearly pristine record on the line against cross town Region 7-AAAAA rival East Paulding (6-5), who is already two wins away from their most victories in a season since 2012-13 under new Head Coach JW Cantrell. Even with the clear size, skill and athletic advantage it wasn’t until the four-minute mark of the fourth quarter that the Patriots were finally able to put away an upset-minded Raider group.

The Patriots entered Wednesday night without one of the state’s top scorers, Jervon Morris (24.9 ppg) who was suspended for disciplinary reasons. Even without Morris, Paulding County played their trademark up-tempo style and pressed the full length of the court.

East Paulding traded buckets with Paulding County as Azer Tidor, a 20+ point-per-game scorer got to the rack early for six points in the opening frame.

Tidor never got into a clean flow however as the Paulding County press harassed East Paulding and picked up eight of their 30 steals in the first quarter to set the tone while John Cook capitalized on the other end, the athletic 6-foot-5 forward scoring nine points to give the Patriots a 22-19 lead after one.

Missing star post Sean Rutledge, Coach Cantrell turned to Cole Brown who provided a spark in the second quarter scoring and rebounding the ball, but Paulding County continued to stretch the lead, going on a 10-4 run to make it 32-23 at the 4:32 mark, Cook scoring eight points during the stretch.

With the Patriots having the ability to bury opponents in a flash, the Raiders responded with a 7-0 run of their own, Silas Johnson Jr. knocking down a three and Ravon Melon finishing two And-1s, but missing both free throw attempts to make it 32-30 with 3:03 left in the first half.

As East Paulding tried to make a game of it, Paulding County punched back with their defensive pressure suffocating the Raiders. Keon Sedgwick capped a 7-2 run which pushed the lead out to 39-32.

At the half Paulding County led 44-39 playing at a Patriot pace. By the break, Cook had already dumped in 20 points and the free throw advantage for the aggressive Patriots started to balloon, going 11-of-20 from the line while East Paulding shot 1-of-6, both teams leaving crucial points at the line.

The Patriots popped East Paulding right out of the gate in the third, swarming for easy steals – Sedgwick, Corleone Thomas and Jamal McIver at the forefront of the pressure which made the score 50-41 after two Sedgwick pull-ups. But once again, East Paulding wouldn’t lay down, cutting the lead back to three before a Thomas layup in traffic made it 52-47 at the 4:48 mark.

The Raiders cut the lead to 58-54 but in the blink of an eye, a Trell Evans three and a McIver steal and layup grew the Patriot advantage to 63-54 with 1:13 remaining before settling with a 67-56 lead heading into the fourth quarter after closing the third on a 9-2 run, Evans netting 11 points in the period.

With East Paulding seemingly on the ropes, the Raiders struck a 9-1 run to trim the score to 68-65 at the 6:20 mark following a Johnson three and put-back.

The three-point deficit would be as close as the Raiders would get as Cook unleashed an onslaught in the final six minutes after failing to score in the third. The senior piled in 12 of his game-high 32 points in the deciding quarter as the Patriots ripped off a 13-2 run to put the game out of reach, making it 81-67 with 3:10 left to play.

In the fourth quarter the Patriots went 7-of-19 from the line, taking more attempts than the Raiders did the entire game going 9-for-18. Paulding County finished 20-of-42 from the line but the story was East Paulding’s inability to handle the press and Cook’s knockout fourth that closed the game 90-77 in favor of the visitors.

My Take

Paulding County was impressive with their overall length, athleticism and aggressiveness. They are the type of team that will overwhelm bad teams and feast on weaker competition which they have done so this year. They may run into trouble when they play disciplined teams with good guard play or teams that can control the tempo and play in the half court. Their lone loss came against Carrollton who had the competency to handle ball pressure and elected to run with them, winning 92-76. Either way, the Patriots are an exciting group to watch and they should be able to secure another state tournament berth and have a ton of natural talent. The details surrounding the suspension of Jervon Morris aren’t pretty if true, but if and when he’s allowed back on the court, it gives Coach Kevin Hammitt another potent scorer. John Cook was great for the Patriots tonight. After three years of chasing stability, he has found it and showed the type of talent he has finishing with 32 points (5 threes), 7 rebounds and 5 steals. He could be a good fit at the JUCO level. Sparkplug Trell Evans stepped up in a big way with his speed and tenacity. His third quarter helped Paulding County extend its lead with Cook going scoreless. The length of Corleone Thomas and Keon Sedgwick led to 13 combined steals. Sedgwick played the role of swiss army knife, collecting 9 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 7 steals and 2 blocks. He’s a wiry and lively player, always getting involved in plays. He had lightning quick hands that led to easy poke aways and showed a nice pull-up jumper.

The fact that East Paulding was able to hang around until the four-minute mark was quite impressive. Outmanned, the Raiders had to scrap all throughout the night and punished the Patriots on the glass, outrebounding the bigger and more athletic visitors 58 to 32. The Raiders were horrendous against the press and all but neutralized their large rebounding advantage however. A lack of a true point guard was apparent as the Patriots bullied them with their pressure leading to 30 Paulding County steals. 6-foot-2 senior Azer Tidor had a quiet 20 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block if that’s even possible. Tidor was steady throughout, scoring six points in the first, third and fourth quarters. The 6-foot-2 combo guard is a nice sleeper prospect that doesn’t play AAU. He’s got a good feel for the game and didn’t get too flustered with the aggressive Patriot defense. He liked to pull-up from the elbow but also showed the ability to finish at the basket. He could help out a small college looking for a reliable option on the wing. Silas Johnson Jr., a 6-foot-3 senior, hit three three-pointers en route to 15 points and 8 rebounds. The lefty isn’t much of a ball handler, but he’s long and can help stretch the floor and rebound. The Raiders will be adding one of the best players in the region this January as 6-foot-5 junior post Sean Rutledge will be eligible. He is a game-changing presence with his ability to score with his back to the basket and will give Coach JW Cantrell a very talented inside-out duo with Tidor on the perimeter. East Paulding’s best basketball is on the horizon as they look to shatter last year’s 8-win mark.

Top Performers

Paulding County
John Cook – 32 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 steals, 1 block
Trell Evans – 20 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals
Corleone Thomas – 17 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 steals
Keon Sedgwick – 9 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 7 steals, 2 block
Kevin Brown – 7 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
Jamal McIver – 5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 7 steals

East Paulding
Azer Tidor – 20 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Silas Johnson Jr. – 15 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Cole Brown – 9 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
Ravon Melon – 8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal

Short-handed No. 2 Therrell guts out nail-biter against No. 4 South Atlanta

No. 2 Therrell 54, No. 4 South Atlanta 52

After bursting onto the scene last year, sweeping the then defending state champion South Atlanta Hornets in three games by a total of 15 points, Therrell has returned to prove that last year’s Elite Eight finish was no fluke. Hit with the transfer bug, losing leading scorer to DeAndre Brown to Holy Spirit Prep, No. 2 Therrell (7-3) has proven they can push through adversity and did so again on Tuesday night, handing No. 4 South Atlanta (9-1) its first loss of the season in front of a spirited home crowd without the services of 6-foot-5 All-State power forward Robbie Armbrester.

Short-handed without their star post presence, the Panthers needed someone to step up especially once the Hornets came out of the gates hot, stinging Therrell with a quick 8-2 spurt paced by 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard Ja’Quavian Florence, who turned defense into offense with eight points and four steals in the opening eight minutes.

Therrell caught their breath and regrouped early behind Tyrese Ransom. The junior guard slithered to the hoop to trim the lead to two.

At the end of one, South Atlanta held a 14-11 advantage.

6-foot-5 junior swingman Ra’Sean Frederick scored 11 of his team-high 19 points in the first half and knocked down a three to knot the game at 14 just over a minute into the second quarter.

Defense and physical play set the tone right away for both teams as neither could take ahold of the lead for good. South Atlanta’s 2-3 zone slowed down Therrell’s attack but Cameron Fortson muscled his way to six points in the quarter to become a factor while Florence continued to shine for the Hornets, knocking down a pair of triples as the Region 6 rivals went into the half tied at 26.

Points were hard to come by in the third quarter as after a Gary Davis layup at the 4:09 mark, the score remained Therrell 32 and South Atlanta 31 until 2:28 left to play.

The pace soon quickened as Florence struck again with his defense, pilfering and putting down a fast break jam to ignite the South Atlanta crowd and move the Hornets ahead 37-36 with 1:01 remaining.

The Panthers answered however behind Preseason All-State point guard Roman Son, who had been quiet up until the waning moments of the third. Son attacked the basket and finished a late layup that gave Therrell a 38-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Ransom extended the Panther lead to 43-39 at the 6:03 mark after converting an And-1. The Hornets responded by moving to a full court press to try and change the pace. The move worked as Florence sparked a 7-2 run to take a 48-45 lead with 3:17 remaining as he found Rohan Garner in the corner for a three-pointer then collected another steal and went coast-to-coast for an And-1, but missed his free throw attempt.

With Georgia State and Columbus State in attendance, the Lakers already offering, Son kicked it into high-gear and seemed to thrive in crunch time. Though he only scored seven points on the night, the true point guard made two of the biggest plays down the stretch, spoon-feeding Ransom for a layup and then Frederick to take a 49-48 lead before Florence answered with a layup and Frederick later was sent to the line to split a pair of free throws, leaving the game squared at 50 with 1:30 left.

South Atlanta had opportunities down the stretch but failed to capitalize.

6-foot-6 sophomore forward Julius Lymon raced down the floor and pulled up from 15-feet, missing the shot and going over the back to send Ransom to the line where he sank a pair of free throws to give Therrell a 52-50 lead with 43 seconds to play.

Now down two, the Hornets found the ball in the hands of freshman guard John Lawton who felt pressure in the corner and threw the ball away to Frederick before Corey Donaldson was fouled and sent to the line with 21.2 seconds remaining.

Donaldson left the door open by splitting a pair of free throws. Florence got a clean look at the other end and missed, but got his rebound and had the ball knocked away with 6.5 seconds.

On the ensuing inbound, the Hornets had to settle for a Demetrius Headspeth layup with 2.5 seconds left on the clock making it 53-52.

It looked like Therrell was able to run out the clock before being fouled but South Atlanta was gifted 1.8 seconds and saw Frederick head back to the line.

Frederick sank his first attempt but missed the second. Gary Davis rebounded and heaved the full length of the court but there was no South Atlanta miracle to be had, Therrell surviving 54-52.

 

My Take

It’s always a classic when these two premier Class AA schools meet. Therrell was up against it without double-double machine Robbie Armbrester available to play but as all good teams do, the Panthers had key role players step up. Tyrese Ransom netted 14 points while getting the start. The lefty found himself at the right place at the right time and scored half his points in the fourth quarter including going 3-for-3 from the line. Three-point shooting could be an achilles heel for the Panthers and South Atlanta made life tough for them by sitting in a 2-3 zone and with enough size inside to protect the rim and outrebound the Panthers 37 to 23. Therrell hit three deep balls on the night, getting two from Ra’Sean Frederick who has taken his game to the next level now that his role has increased after the loss of DeAndre Brown to Holy Spirit Prep. Frederick is a big 6-foot-5 southpaw that affects the game in many ways with his physicality. His three-point shot is a little flat but it goes in and his willingness to mix it up on the glass gives Coach Eddie Johnson another imposing force when crashing the boards. Roman Son had a quiet game offensively, but his spurt in the last two minutes helped the Panthers settle themselves and regain momentum. His quickness, toughness, ability to both find the open man and finish through contact will translate well to the next level, but to really solidify himself as one of the premier guards in a deep 2020 class, he will have to craft a three-point shot that will keep defenses honest and stretch them out to create even more lanes for scoring and assisting.

South Atlanta had opportunities all night to steal a massive Region 6 road win but could not seal the deal. There were silver linings in the loss however as Ja’Quavian Florence was outstanding, finishing with 24 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 6 steals and 1 block after promising me before the game that he would put on a show – he did just that. If you follow Sandy’s Spiel year-round, you’d know that Florence was a name I tabbed back in June and its quite refreshing to see him rise to the occasion in a big spot. While his athleticism and scoring are easy to notice, it was his quick hands on defense that really separated him tonight. Florence is rounding into a nice prospect that could garner some D-II/LM D-I sniffs come his senior year. 6-foot-6 sophomore Julius Lymon had a wasted freshman campaign after breaking his wrist and enduring an essential redshirt season. He had some hype coming into last year but will have to work hard to remind people about his potential. He didn’t have a massive game and did have a poor decision down the stretch, but there’s a lot to like about his frame and mobility. He collected 10 rebounds and keeps the ball high on putbacks. He also swatted away four shots. Going from someone who had steam going into their freshman year to a player that no one has talked about, 5-foot-11 freshman point guard John Lawton has some promise. Much like Lymon, he showed his youth late in crunch time, but you can’t teach Lawton’s toughness and aggressive on-ball defense. While he can get a little too chippy on defense, if you’re being defended by Lawton you will know it. He did not back down from the challenge of checking Roman Son and got right in his chest, flustering Son into committing an offensive foul with a shoulder. Lawton has some bounce for a freshman and quickness to get into the paint where he dropped off a few nice passes. He will have some freshmen moments, but the good will outweigh the bad this season and Lawton could be a sneaky name to track for the next four years and could be next in the long line of quality guards that Coach Michael Reddick has helped produce.

Top Performers

Therrell
Ra’Sean Frederick – 19 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Tyrese Ransom – 14 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
Cameron Fortson – 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Roman Son – 7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals
Corey Donaldson – 6 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals

South Atlanta
Ja’Quavian Florence – 24 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 6 steals, 1 block
Demetrius Headspeth – 10 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Julius Lymon – 4 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks
Gary Davis – 4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
John Lawton – 2 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal