Category Archives: Game Stories

Tift County puts capper on unpredictable GHSA season, closing out Norcross for Class AAAAAAA state championship

No. 6 Tift County 55, No. 4 Norcross 52

In a year where “super teams” were en vogue, little old No. 6 Tift County (29-2) decided to spoil the party and not only shock the landscape of Georgia high school basketball, but the entire nation as the Blue Devils emerged out of the “Group of Death” to escape a frantic rally from No. 4 Norcross, 55-52.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Tift County was not supposed to be a factor in the state of Georgia this year. They were not supposed to defeat three nationally ranked teams and they were not supposed to beat No. 1 McEachern, No. 2 Newton, No. 4 Norcross (26-6) or No. 7 Berkmar on their quest to a third state title.

Tift County bucked the odds and quietly loomed in South Georgia as the 2014 state champions patiently waited for their shot at the big boys while smashing its way through Region 1. When they arrived at McCamish Pavilion, it was only fitting that the 3-hour trip would end in the Blue Devils completing the state’s greatest and most improbable state championship run in GHSA history.

Tift opened the game like they did against so many other victims, jumping out to a quick 4-0 lead but Norcross quickly eased ahead and gained a 13-9 lead after one. Norcross grabbed its largest lead of the game at the 7:21 mark up 18-9 after Dalvin White netted his second three of the game. The Blue Devils looked to be in control as Tift County’s 6-foot-6 Virginia Tech-signee PJ Horne found it difficult to bully his way around the basket like he did against Newton (25 points) and McEachern (17 points) in the Elite Eight and Final Four. After a first possession offensive rebound and putback, Horne saw his halftime line read: 1-7 FG, 0-3 3PT, 3 rebounds, 3 turnover and 2 points.

With Tift County’s workhorse neutralized by 6-foot-9 Louisville-signee Lance Thomas and 6-foot-8 Georgia-signee Rayshaun Hammonds, the Blue Devil guards lifted Coach Eric Holland’s team. Football standout junior Rashod Bateman scored 10 points in the first half, hitting two threes to bring Tift County to within 21-19 at the half, Tift mucking the game up exactly how they needed to to beat a high-octane team like Norcross. Tift wore their workman blue collar warm-ups and stripped them off to shirts with the phrase “no buckets” across their backs pregame, and were able to back up their tough-nosed defense once the ball tipped.

Both teams shot 33% at the half, not what the casual fan was expecting. But nobody expected Tift to be here in the first place. In the third quarter, Horne slammed home a dunk – the final points of his high school career as he finished 2-of-12 from the field with only 4 points and 5 rebounds. At the 1:37 mark Norcross’ Hammonds picked up his fourth foul on a charge and was sent to the bench. With Hammonds out, Bateman quickly drained another three, finishing with four on the night, taking a 32-24 lead in the process.  Norcross closed however and entered the fourth quarter trailing 32-29.

While Hammonds sat on the bench, Thomas started to come to life. He knocked down a turnaround jumper off a post catch and then added a baseline shot to give Norcross a short-lived 33-32 lead with 5:47 to play.  The Blue Devils quickly ran off eight straight points to go ahead 40-33 and then fouled Hammonds out of the game with the score the same with 3:22 remaining; Hammonds finishing his career with 8 points on 2-of-11 shooting and 8 rebounds.

Possessions got shorter and shorter as Tift continued to grind away at Norcross to go ahead 42-33 before Thomas hit a three. Micah Johnson, going to Alabama State, would not let his Tift County Blue Devils squander a lead, even though it got hectic.

Norcross slowly inched closer and closer as Tift tried to pile on the dirt on the Blue Devils’ grave, but White and Jordan Goldwire along with Thomas gave Norcross a pulse. From down 49-40 with 1:18 left to play, the Blue Devils trimmed the lead to 49-44 with 51.9 left, then to 51-47 with 42.7 remaining and down to 53-52 with just 10 seconds remaining as JoJo Toppin completed an And-1 dunk to send the crowd into a frenzy.

Just when it looked like Cinderella’s glass slipper cracked or the carriage was on the verge of turning into a pumpkin, Johnson continued to supply the dagger as Norcross would foul. Tift County shot 24-of-26 from the foul line – 21-of-22 in the fourth quarter – with Johnson scoring a game-high 24 points going 16-of-18 at the stripe and scoring 17 points in the frame. At just 6-foot, Johnson also collected 9 rebounds and 4 assists, with just one turnover. Bateman ended his night with 18 points as Tift’s guards got the better of Norcross’.

Dalvin White led Norcross with 15 points while Lance Thomas had 13 points but only 4 rebounds as the smaller Tift County Blue Devils outrebounded Norcross 31-28 and held the bigger Devils to 16 points in the paint.

 

PJ Horne spoke with me after the game:

 

State Championships Day 4 Recap

Class AA

(G) Laney 85, Rabun County 76

In a war of Wildcats, No.1 Laney (31-1) hung on against a persistent No. 5 Rabun County (29-2) behind a defensive onslaught in a fast paced game, 85-76. Both teams known for their press, Laney donning “32 minutes of doom” t-shirts to warm up in, opened the game with a frantic pace trapping each other and using pressure defense the entire 94-feet of the floor. Rabun County trailed 24-18 after the first period but De’sha Benjamin and company quickly wore down the LadyCats to take a commanding lead. Benjamin, Aubriana Bonner and Jaiden Hamilton all poured in double figures in the first half, as the Wildcats built a 46-30 halftime lead. Getting out in transition, Laney did its damage on fastbreaks. In the third quarter, Rabun County turned the tables on Laney as their outside shots finally started to fall after going 0-of-8 from three in the first half. The LadyCats sparked a 17-5 run and cut the Laney lead to 51-47 after Savanna Scott, Hallie Reeves and Brooke Henricks got hot. Rabun buried their first threes of the game as Henricks and Reeves went back-to-back-to-back, Henricks nailing two threes in the span. After going 0-of-6 in the first half, Scott scored seven points in the frame and helped the LadyCats enter the fourth down 60-54, now in striking distance after going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Laney quickly extended the lead to 67-58 with 5:52 remaining but the LadyCats trimmed the lead to 68-63. Once again, Benjamin helped Laney grow its lead, this time to 76-63 with 2:44 remaining, but again, Rabun County wouldn’t go away going on a 7-0 run to make it 76-70 as Reeves continued to bomb from deep. Laney was able to put the game away from the line going 11-of-19 in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats outscored Rabun 58-32 in the paint and outrebounded the LadyCats 53-33 led by Benjamin’s monstrous 25 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 5 blocks. Bonner added 16 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists while Hamilton was the third Wildcat to double-double going for 22 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists. Rabun County used a balanced attack of their own to challenge Laney. Sophomores Brooke Henricks and Georgia Stockton scored 17 and 11 points apiece. Senior Hallie Reeves scored a team-high 20 points followed by Scott’s 10 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Freshman Laken Stiles netted 10.

(B) South Atlanta 68, Swainsboro 33

The No. 1 Hornets (29-1) used a dominant third quarter to crush an overmatched Swainsboro team that took a magical run to the state championship. South Atlanta outscored the Tigers (21-11) to the tune of 22-2 in the third to turn a 36-22 halftime lead into an insurmountable 58-24 advantage which resulted in a shortened 6-minute final quarter.  South Atlanta held Swainsboro, a group which uses only a six-man rotation, to just 12-of-65 (18.5%) shooting and outrebounded the smaller Tigers 64 to 44. Devonta Pullins, one of seven seniors which the majority of had been playing together since age 4, paced the Hornets with 20 points. Junior Jalen Stegall had 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Senior Tyler Thornton, 6-foot-7, posted 11 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks while Demontay Roberts, another senior, added 6 points, 14 rebounds and 2 rejections. Swainsboro’s leading scorer, 5-foot-7 junior Jaylan McKinney, was 6-of-21 from the field for 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. His supporting cast struggled as well with senior Justin Harris going 0-of-12 with zero points and sophomore Jamil Watkins shooting 2-of-15 for 6 points. Big man Eddie Roberts, 6-foot-5, battled valiantly on the glass totaling 14 rebounds to go with his 5 points.

Class AAAAAAA

(G) McEachern 75, Norcross 68

Victoria Agyin scored all 13 of her points in the fourth quarter to help No. 2 McEachern (26-6) four-peat as state champions, avenging a 57-53 season opening loss to No. 1 Norcross (29-3), 75-68. Georgia-signee Que Morrison poured in 22 of her game-high 24 points in the first half but Norcross still maintained a 38-37 lead. In the second half, Norcross honed in on Morrison as stingy defense and foul trouble hampered the standout. South Florida-signee Vanessa Blagmon scored 12 of her team-high 23 points in the second half, carrying the scoring burden for Norcross. Miami-signee added 17 points and 8 rebounds for Norcross on the night but McEachern captured a 58-55 lead at the end of three and was able to hang on late. Agyin scored 13 of McEachern’s 17 fourth quarter points. Lyndsey Whilby, heading to Texas Tech, had 13 points and 6 rebounds. Jewel Smalls had 13 points and 6 rebounds.  The Indians shot 62.5% in the fourth while holding Norcross to 28.6%.

State Championships Day 3 Recap

Class A-Private

 (G) Wesleyan 51, Holy Innocents’ 48

Trailing the entire game, No. 2 Wesleyan (28-4) found a way to stun No. 3 Holy Innocents’(29-3) after leading for only the final 1:56 of the game.  The Golden Bears led by 17 at one point in the first half but Wesleyan slowly chipped away at the lead before finally capturing their state-leading 12th title. McDonald’s All-American and UConn-signee Mikayla Coombs settled the Wolves in after their early hole, scoring 12 points in the first half and bringing the Wolves to within 34-27 at the half. Wesleyan drew even in the third quarter but could never take a lead, instead settling for a 41-41 tie entering the final period.  Natalie Armstrong scored four of her 11 points in the fourth quarter as Wesleyan outscored Holy Innocents’ 10-7. The Wolves took their first lead on a Sutton West layup at the 1:56 mark and never relinquished their lead. West finished with 8 points while Coombs finished her high school career with 17 points and 9 rebounds. Armstrong tacked on 13 rebounds and 2 blocks to her 11 points. Holy Innocents’ was led by Kennedy Suttle’s 16 points and 13 rebounds, 12 points coming in the first half. Kaila Hubbard had 14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists while LSU-signee Khayla Pointer finished 3-of-13 for 10 points and 4 assists. The Golden Bears shot 32.7% compared to the Wolves’44.2%.

(B) Greenforest 81, Southwest Atlanta Christian 57

Sometimes you can’t see the Forrest from the trees.  That was an issue for No. 4 Southwest Atlanta Christian (26-6). Unsigned senior guard Justin Forrest poured in a game-high 36 points as the No. 1 Eagles (24-8) repeated as state champions, Head Coach Larry Thompson going 2-for-2 in his two years on the job. While the focus is often Greenforest’s massive front line of 7-foot Ikey Obiagu (Florida State), 6-foot-10 BeBe Iyiola, 6-foot-9 Mohammed Abdulsalem and 6-foot-8 Victor Enoh (Memphis), the engine and key to the Eagles’ success has always been 6-foot-2 guard Justin Forrest.  Forrest scored 19 points in the opening half as he continued to torment SACA’s guards as he’s done the previous two seasons. Fellow senior guard Jandan Duggan added 10 of his 14 points in the first half but the Warriors managed to hang around for most of the half. Unsigned 6-foot-3 senior combo guard Jonathan King threw down a one-handed And-1 slam over Abdulsalem and tallied five assists to pace the offense. Things started to get away from the Warriors late in the half as Florida-signee DeAundrae Ballard picked up his third foul at the 1:29 mark and headed to the bench with SACA down 34-28. The Eagles finished the half on an 11-1 run to take a 38-29 halftime lead and kept the pace in the third quarter pushing ahead 62-39 at the end of three as Ballard continued to struggle. The 6-foot-6 wing finished his high school career with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 6 turnovers while fouling out with 3:50 left to play and SACA down 23. Ballard couldn’t find any hoops in the paint as Obiagu and company protected the rim, the future Seminole totaling 10 rebounds and 4 blocks.  Isaiah Cotton led SACA with 16 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists while King finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Greenforest outscored the Warriors 32-16 in the paint.

Class AAAA

(G) Columbus 69, Carver-Columbus 67

Don’t write game recaps until the game is over. No. 4 Carver-Columbus (26-5) outscored No. 5 Columbus 26-13 in the fourth quarter to force an improbable overtime but in the end, Kentucky-signee Tatyana Wyatt would not be denied, draining a three with 9 seconds left to survive their Region 1 rival, 69-67 in an instant classic, capturing their first title. Columbus (25-5) saw a 21-9 first quarter lead evaporate slowly. At the half they led 33-21 and after three, 43-30. Carver’s guards were kept in check but eventually exploded as sophomore J’Nya Love-Hill ignited the comeback, pouring in 25 points and 4 assists in support of star juniors Alycia Reese (13 points, 4 steals) and Mariah Igus (15 points). The Blue Devils led 52-42 with 2:46 left before the wheels fell off. The Tigers closed on a 14-4 run with Reese burying a three to cut the lead to two with 46.3 left. Carver took their first lead of the game in overtime as Love-Hill connected on an And-1 to make it 61-58 with 3:23 remaining. Igus nailed another timely three with 2:14 left to go up 64-62 but Wyatt took over, tying the game from the line and having an answer for every Carver bucket. Down 67-65, Wyatt sank a game-winner as the Blue Devils stormed the court. Wyatt finished with 27 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 blocks, picking up the slack after Ariyah Copeland (Alabama) was lost for the game with an ankle injury at the 2:46 mark when Carver made their run from down 10. Copeland finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Brittany Floyd had 11 points and 3 steals, battling a turnover issue with 8. Trinity Vasquez finished with 9 points and 6 rebounds including two huge free throws mid-way through overtime.

 

(B) Upson-Lee 53, St. Pius X 48

 

Nobody said it would be easy. No. 1 Upson-Lee survived a furious rally led by junior guard Everett Lane in the second half to cling onto a hard fought 53-48 victory to clinch the school’s first state title in front of a sold out McCamish Pavilion, polishing off the state’s lone undefeated season, a perfect 32-0. The Fire Marshal shut the doors on countless fans as a max capacity McCamish Pavilion saw a standing room only crowd for Upson-Lee’s quest for perfection and No. 6 St. Pius’ bid for a somewhat Cinderella ending just 13 minutes away from the Golden Lions’ campus after starting the year 6-5. The Knights led wire-to-wire, never trailing but receiving a scare in the second half. Both teams opened the game with big stage jitters as missed shots and turnovers were a prevalent theme. Upson-Lee turned to star junior Tye Fagan to ease them into the atmosphere as he sank an early three and glided to the basket for seven first quarter points as the Knights took a 12-7 lead into the second quarter.

Upson-Lee held its largest lead of the game late in the first half as 6-foot-6 sophomore post Travon Walker had his way with the Golden Lions’ smaller frontcourt. Walker’s presence was felt primarily on the defensive end, setting the tone with 10 rebounds and three blocks in the first half, helping limit St. Pius to 4-of-22 shooting.

Up 27-14 at the half, the Knights looked to be in control until Walker picked up his third foul at the 6:45 mark of the third quarter with Upson-Lee leading 29-14. From that point on, Lane went on a tear. The sharp shooter reeled off 13 points in the frame and ignited a 15-6 run with Walker on the bench. With the lead cut to 35-29 heading into the fourth quarter, Jacorey Smith blocked Lane’s layup attempt sparking an And-1 at the other end for senior Michael Smith to push the lead back to nine at 38-29. Lane, not deterred, continued to bomb away in the fourth quarter, dropping 10 points in the last eight minutes and finishing his night with a game-high 29 points and 5 rebounds, catching fire from deep going 7-of-15. As Lane poured it on, Fagan slowed down. St. Pius keyed in on the smooth lefty and forced him to score outside of the paint. Fagan scored just three points in the third quarter but sensing a dream season on the brink of destruction, the silky 6-foot-3 scorer went to work. Following another Lane triple that cut the lead to 38-34 with 6:30 left, Fagan got in the lane and dumped off an assist to Michael Smith.

Minutes later Fagan got to the line and sank two free throws then later tossed in two right-handed buckets in a 22 second span to grow the Knights’ lead to 46-38 with 1:56 remaining. Lane cashed in his seventh three-pointer of the night at the 1:10 mark to trim the deficit to 46-41 and then scored on a cut to make it 46-43 with 40.3 left in regulation. Fagan answered on the other end to cushion a 5-point lead. Matthew Gonzalo sliced the lead back to 48-45 with 23.4 left but Pius would never get closer as the Knights went 8-for-10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter after missing 17 free throws in their Final Four victory over No. 2 Henry County.  Upson-Lee outrebounded St. Pius 37 to 29 and outscored them in the paint 32 to 14, Fagan and Walker playing key roles around the rim. Fagan finished with 20 points (8-18 FG), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks while turning the ball over 6 times along with point guard Zyrice Scott. Walker, a star defensive end with an offer to play at Alabama, posted 9 points, 16 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 4 blocks. Scott added 8 points as did Michael Smith. St. Pius’ second leading scorer was senior Carson Seramur with 7 points. Both teams may become familiar foes as Upson-Lee graduates just one starter and St. Pius loses just three seniors off the entire roster, Seramur the only starter.

State Championships Day 2 Recap

Class AAA

(G) Beach 59, Johnson-Savannah 44 

Not only the bragging rights of a city were won, but a Class AAA state title was decided as No. 3 Beach (29-2) clinched a series victory and their first title since 2000 by beating No. 1 Johnson-Savannah 59-44 after the two teams split 2-2 in the regular season. Beach outscored Johnson 213-211 over their first four meetings before saving their most dominant performance for last, jumping all over the Atomsmashers (27-3) using a stifling defense that held Johnson to 3-of-31 from the field in the first half. Johnson went 0-of-9 from deep while the Bulldogs outrebounded them by 16 and built a 30-13 halftime lead after an 11-1 run closed the half. At the end of three, the game was officially out of hand as Beach ballooned its lead to 45-19. The Bulldogs outrebounded the Atomsmashers 58-33 and held them to 22.4% shooting. Johnson had no answer for the toughness and aggressiveness of Judasia Hills and Jabrekia Bass. Hills went for 19 points and 12 rebounds while Bass added 10 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists. Freshman point guard Madison Evans chipped in 14 points. Jacksonville-signee Alexis Pierce was held to 6 points on 2-of-13 shooting for Johnson. Sy’Marieona “Bubbles” Williams led the Atomsmashers with 12 points and 5 rebounds. J’Mya Cutter had 11 points and 7 rebounds. Iona-signee Olivia Owens saw her prep career cut short as she reinjured her knee at the 5:55 mark of the third quarter and was unable to return, finishing the game on the bench with ice wrapped on her banged up knee. She scored 3 points and had 3 rebounds off the bench. Both teams finish the season with their only losses coming to one another.

(B) Pace Academy 54, Morgan County 46 

In a physical and at points ugly game with 39 combined turnovers, No. 3 Pace Academy (26-8) was able to repeat as state champions in a battle of defending champs, knocking off a sophomore-laden No. 5 Morgan County (25-6) team, 54-46. After winning the Class AA title last year, Pace Academy moved up to AAA where their road to repeating was not easy. To get to the title game the Knights had to defeat No. 1 Westside-Macon in double overtime 53-50 and No. 2 Liberty County 71-62 in the Elite Eight and Final Four respectively. Their final hurdle was a scrappy and fearless Morgan County team, a year ahead of schedule after losing three D-1 players from last year’s championship team. At the half, Morgan County led 26-24 while mucking up the game and bodying up 6-foot-10 Duke-signee Wendell Carter Jr. Carter struggled from the line going 4-for-9 in the first half but in the second half, the big man began to wear down Morgan County’s smaller front line, finishing with 20 points and 17 rebounds, not quite his 30-point 20-rebound performance in last year’s championship, but still more than enough to carry the Knights. Even with their size advantage, Pace did not find baskets easy. Isaiah Kelly, a 6-foot-7 junior, struggled to support Carter. He finished 2-of-9 from the field with 6 points, 7 rebounds and 6 turnovers, but did collect 5 assists. Guards Myles Todd, Barrett Baker and Mark Sommerville took advantage of their open opportunities around the perimeter as the Bulldogs focused on Carter and Kelly inside. Sommerville and Todd scored 7 points apiece while Baker added two threes for 6 points including a corner triple that extended the Knights’ lead to 45-37 with 3:57 remaining.  It was the ignition of a 7-0 run that helped put the game away after Morgan County had cut the lead to 42-37, but a Damarian Thomas air-ball sucked the energy out of the loud Bulldog crowd for the moment.  Pace’s 7-0 run spanned 3 minutes before Thomas redeemed himself with a dunk and a putback to make it 49-41 with 1:13 left. The closest Morgan County would get would be 51-46 after Stevin Green, a sparkplug sophomore point guard, flew in for a layup off a steal. Green finished with 9 points as a part of Morgan County’s three-headed sophomore attack consisting of Alec Woodard (13 points) and Tyrin Lawrence (11 points). Woodard, the school’s all-time single-game three-pointers made record holder went 0-of-7 from deep and 3-of-16 from the field.

Class AAAAAA

(G) Mays 52, Harrison 51

As Sydne Wiggins’ three-pointer swooshed in at the buzzer there was a hesitation on the Mays bench before the No. 9 Raiders (22-9) realized they just won their second state title and first since 2003 with a thrilling 52-51 win over No. 4 Harrison (27-6). Mays led nearly wire-to-wire behind senior guard Kamiyah Street, leading for 27:44 of the game’s 32 minutes. Held in check in the first half, Street scored nine points as Mays took a 20-15 lead into the half as Harrison struggled from the field, going 5-of-21. Entering the fourth quarter, Mays still led 37-33 as Street got help from her supporting cast. Kendall Pack finished with 8 points and 9 rebounds while Tori Hill added 7 points and 9 rebounds, a part of the Raiders’ effort of outrebounding the Hoyas 40-24, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds to Harrison’s 5. The Hoyas fell behind 41-33, but Avery Jordan buried one of her two threes to cut the lead to 41-36 with 5:39 left in the fourth. Harrison took their lone lead of the fourth quarter with 3:58 remaining at 43-42, but from there on Street put her pedal to the metal and accelerated past Harrison. The dynamic scorer poured in 26 points on the night and grabbed 6 rebounds to go with her 4 assists. Wiggins, a Rice-signee, never was able to control the game for the Hoyas like she did in the Final Four against Northview when she scored 21 points. The deft shooting Hoyas shot a modest 6-of-18 from deep. Audrey Jordan led Harrison with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks.

(B) Langston Hughes 73, Brunswick 52 

Coming out of Region 5 as a three-seed and undergoing rigorous travel throughout the state tournament, never hosting a home game, No. 9 Langston Hughes (25-8) shined as the “underdogs” and rode their newfound momentum to the school’s first ever title, besting No. 6 Brunswick 73-52. The Panthers held a 33-31 lead at the half as Brunswick (23-9) didn’t back down even though Langston Hughes had the star power on their side with 6-foot-6 junior wing Landers Nolley and Northeastern-signee, 6-foot-4 point guard Derrick Cook. Marcus Scott, all 5-foot-8 of him, paced the Pirates early, hitting three threes in the first half while 6-foot-8, 260-pound College of Charleston-signee Kymani Dunham posted eight points. The Pirates did a good job defensively on Nolley, holding him to 2-of-7 shooting but he was able to pick up six free throws, finishing with 10 points in the opening 16 minutes.  In the second half, Nolley’s stardom showed, scoring nine points in the third quarter but Brunswick still held fast, down 47-44 entering the fourth.  The final 8 minutes saw Nolley and Cook trade buckets as the Panthers got loose in the open court as their defense clamped down and led to transition points. The Panthers outscored Brunswick 14-0 in fastbreak points. Langston Hughes held Brunswick to just eight points in the final period while the Panthers surged putting up a 26-spot. Nolley and Cook combined for 16 points in the fourth quarter, Nolley finishing his night with 26 points and 6 rebounds and Cook posting 19 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. With Southeast Missouri State-signee Khalil Cuffee unavailable, senior Richard Matthews stepped up as he did all tournament long. Matthews pitched in 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting including two three-pointers. Ahmid Bryant did a strong job inside on Dunham, helping hold him to just two points in the second half and finishing with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 1 block of his own. With Dunham ineffective, Brunswick had to rely on its trio of veteran guards.  After a scoreless first half, Dereck Lampkin finished with 10 points and 6 rebounds. Daquan Humphreys managed to go just 2-of-13 from the field including 0-of-9 from three, Brunswick going 5-of-22 as a team while the Panthers finished 4-of-7. Humphreys had 6 points and Scott finished with 14, held to one basket after his opening shooting display.

State Championships Day 1 Recap

Class A-Public

(G) Pelham 60, Telfair County 42

The boogeyman has a name and its name is Pelham. The Hornets (30-1), who were ranked No. 1 the entire season, rode a 15-0 run to close the first quarter and blow past No. 3 Telfair County 60-42, claiming their first state title since 1997. The Trojans (27-3) came out firing but could only build an 8-5 lead before Pelham’s 1-3-1 zone defense sparked 15 unanswered points and pulled ahead 20-8 at the end of the first quarter. Mahogany Randall drained three first half threes and scored 14 of her game-high 18 points in the first half. Mahogany Brown finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds while Willeshia Kemp posted 13 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks. Region 1 Player of the Year Destiny Thomas finished just 1-of-10 from the floor with 5 points, but tallied 10 rebounds and 8 assists. India Wells led Telfair County with 24 points on 9-of-27 shooting including 4-of-20 from deep. As a team the Trojans shot 4-of-33 from the three-point line and 4-of-18 from the foul line.

(B) Wilkinson County 66, Calhoun County 53

No. 1 Calhoun County (28-2) held a 34-29 halftime lead over No. 4 Wilkinson County (25-7) but a balanced attack and a gritty second half defensive performance propelled the Warriors to their ninth state title and second straight. Wilkinson County took an early 16-8 lead on Calhoun County before 6-foot-7 junior wing Rashun Williams took over. Williams attacked the Warrior defense on every possession, doing the majority of his work on the left wing, facing up and attacking the left baseline. He sent Clarence Jackson to the bench with his second foul at the 3:56 mark of the second quarter with the Cougars trailing 24-22. As the two teams reached the half, Williams already had totaled 16 points and six rebounds. Just 17 seconds into the third quarter, Jackson was stamped with his third foul driving baseline, but Dr. Aaron Geter Jr. did not panic and left his star in the game and had his faith rewarded. The Warriors outscored Calhoun County 20-6 in the period to take a 49-40 lead with Jackson getting to the basket. While Jackson and 6-foot-6 junior Tylan Grable (15 points & 10 rebounds) powered the Wilkinson offense, Aaron Geter III clamped down on Williams and didn’t allow him any uncontested touches, holding him to two points in the quarter. With the game on the line, Williams turned it on in the fourth quarter scoring five of his game-high 25 points in the opening two minutes to ignite an 8-0 run to cut the Wilkinson County lead to 49-48. From there, Wilkinson County slowly started to distance themselves, getting help from everyone on the floor. Jackson, a 6-foot-6 junior, finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds while battling with Williams who tallied 8 rebounds and 5 blocks. Aside from Jackson and Gable, the Warriors received 11 points and 7 rebounds from Larry Jones, 10 points and 7 rebounds from Derrick Wilcher, 8 points from Jadaveon Jones and 7 points and stellar defense from Geter III.  For Calhoun County, Roney Moore pitched in 10 points and 6 rebounds. Juwaun Wiley had 10 points and four rebounds.

Class AAAAA

(G) Buford 60, Southwest DeKalb 42

No. 1 Buford (29-2) claimed its fifth state title as Tory Ozment and company withstood No. 2 Southwest DeKalb’s pressure and cruised 60-42. The Wolves went 6-of-12 from the three-point line in the first half paced by Ozment’s 3-of-5 shooting for 15 points. The Panthers (27-5) struggled to contain Ozment who orchestrated the Buford offense, finding open looks from deep for both herself and teammates.  Buford nailed 8-of-17 threes for the game and continued to pull away in the second half after entering the break up 34-23. Ozment finished the night with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Jessica Nelson had 9 points and 7 rebounds while Tate Walters (9) and Audrey Weiner (8) flanked the attack. Jada Walton, a Texas A&M signee, had 13 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists for Southwest DeKalb. The Panthers were 0-of-6 from three, had 18 turnovers and had their bench outscored 23 to 5. Ogheneruona Uwusiaba was a bright spot for Southwest. The 6-foot-3 center going to Central Florida posted 16 points and 16 rebounds in the loss.

(B) Buford 75, Cedar Shoals 61

As Alex Jones said after the game, “its insanely hard” to beat a team four times, but that is exactly what No. 1 Buford (29-2) did as the Wolves completed a boys-girls sweep of Class AAAAA by surviving a 30-point, 14-rebound outburst by Charleston Southern-signee Phlan Fleming to capture the program’s first boys title and potentially jump start the state’s newest burgeoning dynasty. Up 29-27 at the half and 36-34 after three, the Wolves finally pulled away from No. 4 Cedar Shoals (27-5), outscoring the Jaguars 39-27 in a free throw-laden final period. After there were 0 free throws for both teams in the opening 16 minutes, the second half saw the teams shoot a combined 49 free throws, Buford going 25-of-38 and Cedar Shoals hitting 9-of-11. In the first half it was Buford’s three-ball that was dropping, hitting 5-of-13, but cooling off to finish 6-of-19 while Cedar Shoals struggled throughout going 2-of-21, a key component of Coach L’Dreco Thomas’ offense. Although Fleming left his heart and soul on the floor, playing one of his best games possible, the help just wasn’t there. AJ Jones netted 10 points while Snipe Hall was held to 5 before fouling out with 2:33 left to play on a block call that could have been a charge. Upset at the call, starting point guard Damarrea Lowe picked up a technical, fouling him out on the play as well, finishing his night with just 2 points. Marcus Watson assaulted Cedar Shoals’ defense all game long, scoring a team-high 27 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. The 6-foot-6 sophomore small forward went 3-of-7 from deep and 9-of-13 from the line after struggling early. Junior point guard Alex Jones added 16 points and Donell Nixon scored 13 to go with his 6 rebounds as a 5-foot-7 guard. David Viti double-doubled in the win with 10 points and 10 rebounds.