Category Archives: Game Stories

Hadaway’s 43 and Barber’s big fourth lift No. 6 LaFayette over No. 10 Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe

PRO Movement

No. 6 LaFayette 82, No. 10 Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 69

The Elite Eight has been the ceiling for LaFayette the past two years losing at home to Cross Creek twice, the eventual state champion a season ago. The gap has been closing in Region 6-3A with Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe hard charging to challenge the Ramblers. On Tuesday, the Warriors hosted the two-time defending region champs with a chance to make a statement and seize early control of the region as both teams put Top 10 rankings and undefeated records on the line. In a game that saw explosive performances from star players, in the end it was the role players of the Ramblers that hit shots late to keep LaFayette atop the region as the team to beat.

In front of a packed house, No. 6 LaFayette (14-0) jumped out to an 11-3 lead as 6-foot-8 Ohio-signee Aidan Hadaway set the tone early with seven quick points. His dominance continued throughout the night, helping the Ramblers build a 20-10 lead after one quarter.

Struggling to defend Hadaway inside, No. 10 Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (14-1) had to find mismatches of their own. The talented junior backcourt of Jamichael Davis and Brent Bowman got into a groove in the second quarter, Davis spurred by transition opportunities and Bowman by creative isolation takes from the perimeter.

Davis trimmed into the lead at the 6:42 mark with a coast-to-coast take after an errant fastbreak lob to Hadaway making it 20-14.

But as Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe began to climb back into the game, LaFayette still had a trump card with Hadaway. He scored on an isolation from the wing, spinning his way into the lane for a lefty floater before attacking again from the perimeter, getting to the paint and scoring on a patient step-through to hold a 28-22 lead with 2:52 to play in the second quarter.

Behind 11 points apiece from Davis and Bowman in the period, the Warriors won the quarter 24-14 to head into the half tied at 34. Davis and Bowman with 16 each while Hadaway had piled in 28 points, unstoppable around the rim.

The second half opened with a bang for the Warriors, Bowman catching fire hitting his first five shots, three pull-up jumpers and two three-pointers to push LFO ahead 46-40 at the 4:39 mark of the third. With the gym rocking, Junior Barber helped stem momentum with a drive to knot the game at 46.

The Warriors would carry a 56-51 lead into the fourth quarter after a 16-point explosion from Bowman and a manageable seven points from Hadaway, but as the third quarter winded down so did the life left in Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe’s legs.

Nursing a 59-54 lead early in the fourth quarter, the heavy lifting from the previous three quarters started to take a toll on each team’s star player especially Bowman, who couldn’t get the same lift on his jump shot as he did earlier. Bowman finished with a team-high 34 points and 5 rebounds but went cold with two points in the fourth quarter.

On the other end, Barber came to life for the Ramblers. The senior hit a pair of threes to trim the LFO lead to 61-57 at the 6:18 mark. Less than a minute later, Zach Barrett scored his only points of the game on a three and Barber scored on a put-back to edge LaFayette ahead 62-61. The Ramblers would close a 12-4 run with consecutive buckets from Hadaway to maintain a 66-63 advantage with 4:21 to play, the lefty’s first two buckets of the fourth quarter.

A Barber drive signified the beginning of the end for Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, giving the Ramblers the lead for good at the 3:16 mark, igniting a 16-2 run to close the game. Barber, who had six points over the first three quarters, poured in 19 in the fourth keyed by three three-pointers to finish with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals. Barber and Hadaway connected on back-to-back threes to stretch the lead to 74-69 with 2:15 remaining. Another Barber drive pushed the lead to eight points with 89 seconds left, all but putting the game out of reach.

Hadaway put the finishing touches on a monster night with a late free throw, capping his performance with 43 points, 18 rebounds, 2 assists and 5 blocks. Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe received 27 points and 12 rebounds from Davis who scored seven of the Warriors’ 13 fourth quarter points.

My Take

Basketball in Northwest Georgia in Class 3A traditionally isn’t very strong compared to the rest of the state, so it was nice to see two legitimate powers finally test each other. LaFayette has big game experience. They are only challenged come February and haven’t played a road playoff game in over two years so Tuesday’s atmosphere was the toughest they’ve played in in years. Ohio-signee Aidan Hadaway is everything for the Ramblers. He’s the best forward in Georgia and is truly unstoppable in Region 6. The lefty went 18-30 from the field with seven misses coming from the three-point line. His motor and athleticism have long made him the best rebounder in the state but the way he has refined his offensive game has made him special. Hadaway is a mismatch with how he can attack off the dribble and get into the lane with ease. He has such a soft touch in the paint, scoring on step throughs, floaters and 10-foot jumpers. Hadaway has elevated his game even more from last season and likely is the best player Class 3A has to offer. For the Ramblers to get over the hump and make a Final Four or potentially a state title game, it comes down to their supporting cast. Hadaway can’t score 28 out of his team’s first 34 points every night. Someone needs to step up and take some sort of scoring burden off his shoulders. Junior Barber was that guy on Tuesday. In the fourth quarter, Barber looked like the freshest player on the floor. A strong athlete, Barber was aggressive and confident down the stretch. His contested pull-up three early in the frame was the beginning of a 19-point fourth quarter avalanche. If Barber is the consistent second option, a third is still needed. Jaylon Ramsey added 7 points while Jordan Kennerly collected 4 points and 8 rebounds. Maybe the biggest shot of the night came from junior guard Zach Barrett who was not a scoring threat the entire game. His three midway through the quarter brought the Ramblers to within one, right before Barber gave them the lead for good. It’s a shame the rest of the state doesn’t get to watch LaFayette play. Their only chance will be during the state tournament if the Ramblers lose a coin flip in the Elite Eight or make it to the Final Four or beyond, which is possible with Hadaway leading the charge.

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe is on the verge of something special with their junior class. The Warriors should run the table next year in their region. As far as this year goes, they will be a threat come state tournament time. If they are unable to clip LaFayette, they will be a formidable two-seed if they don’t stumble. Their lack of size hurt them when trying to slow down Aidan Hadaway. While they had no answers for the All-State forward, LFO managed to present problems of their own with their dynamic backcourt. It was two vs. one the vast majority of the game with Jamichael Davis and Brent Bowman tag-teaming the scoring duties. With a combined 61 points between them, Davis and Bowman form the best backcourt in Northwest Georgia by far and one of the best 2023 guard tandems in the entire state. Davis, who has an Auburn offer, is an elite athlete that thrives in transition. He’s a habitual stat sheet stuffer that has added a reliable three-point shot to his game. Bowman is a special shooter. The show he put on in the third quarter was remarkable. His footwork in isolation settings, able to get to his spots consistently was out of this world. He hit contested jumper after contested jumper. Of his team-high 34 points, Bowman sank four threes and hit seven mid-range jumpers. Last year when I watched him vs. Sonoraville, he was off his game with four points. Tuesday, he looked like a future no-brainer at the D-I level making it clear why UMKC has already offered. Much like LaFayette, supporting cast production will be important come playoff time. Already an undersized lineup, finding points and rebounds will be imperative. Outside of Davis and Bowman, the rest of the roster managed just 8 points and 6 rebounds combined. It will be hard to sustain success against high level opponents with such limited help, but even if a third scorer or a helpful rebounder doesn’t emerge, it will be difficult for teams to slow down both Davis and Bowman for the full 32 minutes. 6-foot-3 junior Amari Burnett could play a big factor down the stretch after tearing his ACL when I saw him play last season. He’s a big body with some skill, able to rebound, score inside and stretch the floor with his jumper.

Top Performers

Aidan Hadaway – 43 points (18-30 FG), 18 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 blocks
Junior Barber – 25 points (19 in 4Q), 10 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe
Brent Bowman – 34 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Jamichael Davis – 27 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 steals, 1 block

Coleman and Spells power Portal past undefeated Claxton for first-place

Portal 55, Claxton 50

33 miles apart, long-time rivals Claxton (13-1, 6-1) and Portal (16-6, 11-1) met in the Turpentine City to determine first-place in Region 3 A-Public. The Tigers of Claxton rolled in undefeated with a 59-50 win over the Panthers back on January 9, using a fast pace style of play loaded with quick football players and little size to speak of. Portal counters with three high-scoring freshmen and one of the best shot blockers Georgia. In front of a packed crowd, it was Portal who was able to hold on in a nip-and-tuck game Friday night to slide into first-place with one regular season game remaining.

Claxton came out of the gate hot, leading 8-2 and then 11-4 after Jamon Mangusho hit Cameron Arthur for a three in the corner, one of his three triples of the game.

6-foot-5 freshman Amir Jackson kept Portal afloat with buckets inside and saw Claxton settle for a 15-11 lead after one following a Josh McKeever assist to Brian Bacon.

Down 17-15, Portal began to make their push at the 5:33 mark. 5-foot-8 sophomore Elijah Coleman got loose with six quick points as the Panthers started to find a groove offensively. 6-foot-7 Fred Spells, one of the top shot blockers in Georgia last season, came off the bench and immediately changed the game. He swatted five shots in the first half and had a put-back slam to give Portal a 19-17 lead.

Wilken Washington drove baseline to make it a 6-0 run mid-way through the quarter.

A pull-up jumper from Jackson capped the Panther run at 11-2 as Portal extended their lead to 26-19 with 1:20 to play in the half.

The Panthers led 28-21 going into the break but saw Claxton regroup in the third quarter and charge back behind a Mangusho jumper and an Arthur offensive rebound to cut the lead to 30-28 at the 4:00 mark.

With Spells on the bench two minutes into the third quarter with foul issues, Claxton was able to get to the basket and breakdown the Panthers off the dribble with their quickness. The Tigers broke off a 12-3 run to lead 33-31 with 2:37 left in the quarter before Spells checked back in.

Immediately as Spells returned, the tides shifted again in favor of the Panthers. Spells emphatically rejected his seventh shot into the crowd before Portal finished the quarter on a 6-3 spurt to tie the game at 37 heading into the fourth.

The final stanza belonged to Coleman. He scored 12 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter to pair with his 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. A tough bucket inside pushed Portal ahead 44-41 and the Panthers led 47-45 with 2:18 remaining before Spells fouled out with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 9 blocks. With their game-altering post out of the game, Coleman kicked it into another gear, finishing through contact to extend the lead to 51-46 with 1:14 left.

Two Coleman free throws with 43 seconds left put the finishing touches on a decisive 6-1 jolt that ballooned the Panthers’ advantage to 53-46. Arthur hit a corner three with 15 seconds remaining to trim the lead to 54-50 but Claxton’s undefeated dream season ran out of time as Portal was able to hold on for a 55-50 win in front of a raucous home crowd.

My Take

Portal has a chance to be scary good by the time their 2024 core is seniors. While they will mightily miss the game-changing shot blocking of 6-foot-7 Fred Spells, the cohesion the trio will build playing together year-round at the high school and travel level will be invaluable. The head of the snake is 5-foot-8 Elijah Coleman. He’s very skilled for a freshman, especially at the Class A-Public level. He can get into the lane and finishes with strong body control. Coleman is a shifty creator that can squeeze in tough passes off the dribble to open teammates. The way he controlled the game down the stretch was impressive. He went 6-9 from the line in the fourth quarter and 11-21 for the game to finish with 23 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. 6-foot-5 Amir Jackson doesn’t look like a freshman. He has a strong frame that should pack on muscle over the course of his career. He finished around the basket and brought a tough rebounding presence. Jackson showed touch from the perimeter on a pull-up jumper. He has room for growth with his ball handling. Jackson contributed 13 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals. The third-head of Portal’s freshman triumvirate is Joseph Thomas, who’s father played at Indiana.  Thomas had an off night, but you could tell he has the shot-making gene in him. He’s got a projectable body on the perimeter at 6-foot and can score from the mid-range and beyond. He took some tough off-balance shots on Friday but managed to chip in 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block. Spells was the difference-maker for the Panthers. With a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Spells erases every shot remotely close to his area. His length lets him tap out rebounds and earn second chances. He will need to get stronger to play at the next level. He didn’t finish very well around the rim, but his athleticism and elite shot blocking make him an intriguing prospect that JUCOs have already taken notice of. Although their record isn’t as sparkling as Claxton’s, I really think Portal is the scarier team in the postseason due to their pieces. Spells, if he can stay out of foul trouble, can completely lock down the paint and if opposing teams don’t have enough floor spacers to pull him away from the basket or at least the ability to knock down open shots from the perimeter, they will struggle against Portal inside who also has Jackson’s strength around the rim. Portal’s 1-2-2 press and 3-2 zone are long and I could see Coleman and Thomas getting hot and causing some issues in the state tournament. They may not be true state title contenders just yet, but in three years don’t be surprised if Portal becomes a consistent threat to play in Macon.

Claxton is loaded with dual-sport athletes. Shakari Denson (Ohio) and Karon Taylor (Mercer) are two D-I football players. In fact, their entire starting five outside of Jamon Mangusho signed to play football in college earlier this week. The Tigers come at you in waves. While their tallest player stands just 6-foot-2 in Cameron Arthur, the Tigers make up for it with their pace of play and overall scrappiness. They attack on defense and rebound the ball well considering their lack of size. Arthur was their best scorer on Friday, totaling 16 points, 10 rebounds and 2 assists while hitting three threes. His effort around the rim and his ability to space out the floor hurt Portal. Mangusho excelled when he played the high post against the Portal zone. He hit a handful of jumpers and I liked his overall versatility and willingness to play a little bit out of position in order to help his team. The 6-foot-1 guard with a 3.85 GPA finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. Denson, 5-foot-11, added 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal while providing tough on-ball defense, helping hold Joseph Thomas to eight points. Claxton will feast on teams that don’t have above average guard play. Their footspeed and pound-for-pound strength make them tenacious on defense. Their size and lack of true skilled creators may hurt them in the long run, but their toughness and quickness will pose problems for teams in the state playoffs.

Top Performers

Elijah Coleman – 23 points (11-21 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals
Amir Jackson – 13 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
Fred Spells – 8 points, 7 rebounds, 9 blocks
Joseph Thomas – 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

Cameron Arthur – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists
Jamon Mangusho – 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals
Shakari Denson – 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal

Juniors ignite Redskins in three-point barrage against No. 3 Towns County

Social Circle 74, No. 3 Towns County 64

Winners of three-straight heading into Tuesday night’s rematch with No. 3 Towns County (12-3, 6-1), Social Circle (9-8, 4-2) looked to muck things up in Region 8-A and climb closer to the top of the standings before letting Towns County run away with the region. With a 64-58 win over the Redskins in tow, the Indians took to the floor for the first time since cracking the Top 3 in Class A-Public.

It was a fluid start for both offenses as Social Circle set the tone early draining three of their 10 three-pointers against Towns County’s 2-3 zone, but trailed 8-7 mid-way through the first quarter.

The Indians went on a 5-0 spurt keyed by Kolby Moss to extend the lead to 13-7 and lead 19-13 after eight minutes following Moss’ eight points.

Moss and Kabe Ellis continued to do damage in the second quarter and kept the Indians in front at 26-21 with 3:15 to play but KJ Reid would catch fire and ignite a 10-0 run to surge ahead 29-26 and never trail again.

Reid, who finished with a game-high 26 points and 6 rebounds, drilled three of his five three-pointers in the opening half and went into the break with 15 points as the Redskins led 31-28.

In the third quarter Coach Robert Benson came out of his zone, but Social Circle remained hot from deep with three more deep balls. As the Redskins started to pull away, the Indians began to get the ball inside. Collin Crowder hit Moss on a face cut to make it 39-34.

After dealing with some foul trouble and a fast pace game, Towns County decided to get 6-foot-7 junior Jake McTaggart involved. He would score eight of his 13 points in the frame, attacking middle and getting to where he could shoot over the defense from a few feet away.

With Taggart establishing himself inside, Social Circle still managed to hang onto a 47-40 lead after three behind the play of Reid and Tyrhell Branch.

Towns County cut the lead to 50-45 at the 4:49 mark but the Redskins would quickly extend the lead using the three-point shot as Cam Gaither got a fortunate bounce to make it 56-45 with 4:11 to play.

Gaither scored 11 of his 19 points in the final quarter as the Redskins would burry the Indians from the foul line when Towns County started to intentionally foul down 59-48 with 2:47 remaining. Social Circle sank 26-39 from the stripe including 17-25 in the fourth quarter with Branch hitting 6-11, Reid 5-6 and Gaither 6-8.

A trio of late threes, two via Aidan Berrong and one from Ellis accounted for Towns County’s only three-pointers of the second half after netting just one in the first.

My Take

I was a bit bullish on Social Circle heading into the season but was cautiously optimistic. The 2022 core of Preseason All-State 5-foot-9 point guard Tyrhell Branch, 6-foot-1 KJ Reid and 6-foot-1 Cam Gaither is a strong nucleus. Add in the size of 6-foot-6 sophomores AJ Vinson and Logan Cross along with 6-foot-2 junior jumping jack Amarion Russell and Coach Taylor Jackson has plenty to work with in Year 2 as head coach after guiding the Redskins to a 20-8 mark in Class 2A a season ago, their first 20-win campaign in over a decade. Sitting at 9-8, the Redskins are currently waiting outside the Class A-Public Top 10, but its not due to a lack of talent. Social Circle scheduled a grueling non-region schedule for an A-Public school and may be better for it, turning a corner with four-straight wins. Reid was great on Tuesday. I felt like Social Circle was settling for too many threes early on against Towns County, but they successfully shot them out of the zone with Reid sinking five and finishing with 26 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. He’s a wiry lefty that can create separation off the dribble to get clean looks from the mid-range and beyond. Branch is a more compact guard with muscle on him. He uses a quick burst to the basket and was able to drive and kick to shooters. He didn’t force any bad shots and was effective when he got in the paint, drawing fouls and going 13-18 from the foul line as he poured in 24 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal. Gaither and Russell were key. Gaither, another long lefty, provided offense at all three levels. He posted 19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal while Russell brought tremendous athleticism and effort in the paint. The bouncy southpaw plays bigger than his size with how he can attack rebounds and snatch them away from bigger players. If Social Circle can shoot anywhere near as well as they did against Towns County, they will be a tough team come state tournament time with how Branch and Reid are able to play off one another and create their own offense.

In the loss, Towns County still looked good. Between All-State 6-foot-1 guard Kolby Moss, 6-foot-7 Jake McTaggart and 5-foot-10 Kabe Ellis, all three can lead the team in scoring any given night. Taggart, a junior, moved in from Hayesville, NC while Ellis, a senior, transferred from Andrews, NC, giving Coach Robert Benson a suddenly deep and diverse team from last year’s 18-9 unit that was beat by GMC 77-57 in the first round of state. Moss finished with 24 points and 9 rebounds. He is the senior leader of the team and plays with a composed fire. He scores in a variety of ways. He’s a crafty finisher that has exceptional footwork when attacking off the dribble. He uses his body well to avoid shot blockers and can finish with either hand, using both his right and left to drop in floaters. Away from the ball, he cuts hard and looks to score when doing so. A majority of his points came in the paint but he is a capable outside shooter that has a high release that can be difficult to defend. Moss is the school’s all-time leading scorer and just received an offer from Young Harris. McTaggart is a bruising forward with skill. He posts hard and can attack off the dribble and can push the ball on the fast break. He finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block, but I thought he could have done a little more. Looking back, I don’t think he scored one bucket with his back to the basket on any drop steps. McTaggart uses the same move. He likes to spin into the middle where he can turnaround and shoot short shots over the defense. He has a nice touch but I would have liked to see him play with more power and go into the defense instead of fade away. His shot is nearly unguardable at the A-Public level with not many teams big enough to defend him, but in college it will be tougher to convert those shots when they are contested. McTaggart did do a nice job of drawing fouls on Social Circle but most of them were when he was posting up. He went 1-3 from the line. What gives McTaggart an advantage on most big men prospects is his versatility. He can get creative with the ball on the perimeter and can shoot the three. He’s a little heavy footed when he attacks but with his size and strength it doesn’t negatively affect him. McTaggart is a solid prospect. D-II programs should be on him hard. With a strong travel season, he could really gain some major attention. Another player I liked was Kabe Ellis. I thought he didn’t get to hunt his shot enough in the second half after scoring seven points in the first. He’s a quick guard with tight body control. He’s able to make plays off the dribble and get to his spots in the mid-range. I like his shooting touch and his overall skill level. He’s extremely tough at the A-Public level and he and Moss will give teams fits.

Top Performers

Social Circle
KJ Reid – 26 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Tyrhell Branch – 24 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Cam Gaither – 19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal
Amarion Russell – 5 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal

Towns County
Kolby Moss – 24 points, 9 rebounds
Jake McTaggart – 13 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
Kabe Ellis – 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Collin Crowder – 7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block

Phoenix rise up to edge Warriors in The Furnace

Free Preview Week

No. 10 Sonoraville 55, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 51

In a season that has felt anything but normal, Friday night harkened back to the age of COVID-free basketball as No. 10 Sonoraville (16-0, 10-0) hosted Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (9-4, 7-3) in an important Region 6-3A battle. The Furnace was packed as the heat of the crowd helped spur the Phoenix to a 55-51 win continuing Sonoraville’s best start in the school’s 15-year history as they approach their record 23 wins behind a senior-laden group.

Coming off a statement win over No. 6 LaFayette 65-40, the Phoenix took to the floor for their third game in five days against a talented young Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe team. Sonoraville, who starts five seniors that have seen the good, the bad and the ugly over the course of their career, has risen from the ashes of irrelevancy to be the best team in Northwest Georgia this season enjoying a magical run. Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe on the other hand, is led by a trio of talented sophomores that turned the Warriors from a 12-14 team to a burgeoning 23-5 power a season ago.

Led by Kevin Morrison and Orry Darnell, Sonoraville got off to a good start. Darnell, a 5-foot-11 point guard, scored from the mid-range to knot the game at 5 early on before Morrison sank a long jumper to make it 8-8 at the 2:41 mark.

Morrison hit a pair of threes and scored eight of his 12 points in the quarter to give the Phoenix a boost, but the Warriors answered with three three-pointers and entered the second quarter trailing 15-11.

Super sophomore 6-foot-1 point guard Jamichael Davis got loose in the second quarter for LFO getting a slam dunk to spark him and then taking his man off the dribble to keep the Warriors within reach at 21-17 mid-way through the quarter.

While Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe looked to speed the game up and take advantage of their athleticism, Sonoraville was comfortable playing at their own pace and following the lead of Darnell, who would finish with a game-high 19 points and 5 assists. He would score on a lefty finish and then net a mid-range jumper to help keep the Phoenix in front 27-24 at the half.

The Warriors came out of halftime with purpose, turning to a 2-2-1 press to try and speed up Sonoraville and force some live ball turnovers. Davis thrived in transition and helped the Warriors gain momentum. He would finish with 17 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 steals and 1 block and set up Amari Burnett for a layup on the break to edge ahead 32-31.

Up 36-33 with 3:31 remaining in the third quarter and things starting to go LFO’s way, the tide turned on a game-changing play. Sonoraville had a fast break opportunity and Burnett hustled down the floor to clean up a potential miss, but his right knee buckled before he could go up for the rebound and he tumbled into a heap. Burnett would be helped off the floor and have ice applied, ending his day prematurely after leading all scorers at the time with 14 points, scoring inside and out and giving Sonoraville fits with his versatility and physicality.

With Burnett injured, 6-foot-2 forward Murray Somers started to take over. He would net nine of his 16 points in the quarter and finish with 10 rebounds. Somers got busy on the glass and hit a three at the buzzer to push Sonoraville to a 42-38 lead after three, closing on a 9-2 run after the loss of Burnett.

Without one of their most important pieces, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe continued to fight and nip away at the Sonoraville lead. Davis broke free for a transition slam to ignite a 5-0 run that would put the Warriors ahead 43-42, but Darnell and Somers hooked up for an And-1 to regain control at 45-43 with 3:57 remaining following Somers’ bucket and free throw.

In crunch time, it was Darnell and Somers’ time to shine. Sonoraville took the lead for good with 2:07 left on a Darnell three before Morrison got a putback with 1:58 remaining to extend the lead to 50-45.

Without a bucket in almost two minutes and scrambling for points, instead of a much-needed hoop, the Warriors saw Darnell come away with a steal with just 37.2 seconds to play. Following a pair of free throws, Cameron Gregg drilled a three to cut into the lead with 23.7 seconds left at 52-48. From there, Somers helped ice the game going 3-4 from the line to secure the 55-51 win.

My Take

While they may not be a state title favorite, Sonoraville will still be a tough out in the state tournament. Region 6-3A traditionally hasn’t been a juggernaut come playoff time, but there are a handful of solid teams. Sonoraville and Murray County are senior-heavy teams while Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe has the best young backcourt in the pocket of the state and LaFayette has big-game experience in February and has a star in 6-foot-7 Aidan Hadaway. With that being said, Sonoraville hasn’t compiled the resume that LaFayette has, who has won every game by double digits, but the Phoenix’s 65-40 destruction of the Ramblers speaks volumes. Aside from that win, Sonoraville has won games close and sometimes ugly. Out of their 16 wins, seven have come by 7 points or less. Their experience in tight games and their ability to know how to win when the game is on the line bodes well for a veteran group on the verge of making history. Orry Darnell is the head of the snake. The point guard plays with poise and very little flash. He orchestrates the offense and doesn’t need the extra razzle-dazzle to be effective. He excelled at getting to his spots in the mid-range and finding the open man. His timely play makes him the go-to guy when the game hangs in the balance capable of either being a scorer or facilitator. I thought Murray Somers was crucial down the stretch and is a versatile X-Factor. Listed at 6-foot-2, with his strong college-ready body and nose for the ball, Somers plays bigger than his size and can hurt teams inside and out. He was instrumental in helping shutdown Hadaway in their rout of LaFayette and on Friday, it was his 15 second half points that carried the Phoenix during stretches. Kevin Morrison stands 6-foot-4 and provides a similar inside-out diversity. He hit two early threes and crashed the glass inside.  Sonoraville is a team that plays hard and understands where their strengths and weaknesses lie. There is a synergy between the players and the staff led by Coach Brent Mashburn that helps the Phoenix when facing adversity. On the hunt for their first ever win in the state playoffs, if Sonoraville can secure home court advantage the Phoenix will be tough to beat in The Furnace.

Even with the loss and sitting at 7-3 in region play, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe is a scary team that no one will want to play come region tournament time. 6-foot-1 sophomore Jamichael Davis is a budding star. His electric athleticism and all-around floor game make him a complete guard. He can get to the rim with the best of them and can outjump anyone in the region. He will have to improve his outside shot, but few are better than Davis in transition. He and Dee Calhoun caused problems with their bounce and length. Calhoun is a solid role player that can chip in on the glass and defend multiple spots. The loss of Amari Burnett changed the game. At 6-foot-3, the wide-chested sophomore is a problem for opponents. The lefty can help stretch the floor and has nice footwork inside. He drained two threes before injuring his knee. If he is out for an extended period of time, it will hurt LFO’s chances of locking down a favorable seed. It was an off night for shooters Cameron Gregg and Brent Bowman. Bowman could never get into a flow, as he sat on the bench for long periods of time presumably with foul trouble. He started the game with a three-pointer and had some nice moves with the ball in his hands, but he could never consistently find his offense finishing with 4 points and 3 assists. Bowman has a lot of skill and when he’s on, he’s a three-level scorer that can torch defenses. The 2023 trio of he, Davis and Burnett should win many games and has the potential to be a major threat come state tournament time. I think those three could go toe-to-toe with many in Class 3A by the time they are seniors. Gregg, a senior, will be key down the stretch for LFO. His ability to stretch the floor alongside Bowman will give Davis plenty of drive and kick opportunities. Give credit to the Sonoraville defense to holding Gregg and Bowman to a combined 7 points, well below their combined 25.2 point-per-game average. I foresee bounce back games for both of them in the very near future.

Top Performers

Orry Darnell – 19 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
Murray Somers – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals
Kevin Morrison – 12 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe
Jamichael Davis – 17 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 steals, 1 block
Amari Burnett – 14 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block
Dee Calhoun – 10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals

Upperclassmen Trio helps Parkview protect homecourt vs. Newton

Parkview 64, Newton 62

Tuesday night Parkview (7-3) hosted Newton (7-7) in an early Region 4-7A matchup that pitted an up-and-comer in the Panthers vs. an established program loaded with talent in the Rams. Newton, having just fallen out of the Top 10, needed to get back on track against a Parkview team that had quietly gotten off to a hot start. In a back-and-forth battle, it was Parkview who came up with enough stops to earn a signature win to move to first-place in the region at 2-0 while Newton sank to last at 0-2.

The Panthers opened quickly, dealing with Newton’s superior size and athleticism at each position. 6-foot-5 senior Avantae Harper set the tone as a battering ram, using his aggressive motor to score in the paint and give Parkview an early 8-3 lead.

Harper would score eight of his 16 points in the first quarter and collect 13 rebounds and 3 blocks over the course of the game, winning his matchup with 6-foot-7 Miokaye Grant. Newton saw TJ Clark score five points in the opening frame using his pull-up game to his advantage, able to shoot over Parkview’s smaller guards.

Stephon Castle found Jakai Newton in the corner for a late three to knot the game at 16 heading into the second quarter.

Parkview extended their lead to seven points but MJ Whitlock came off the bench for the Rams and provided energy, scoring and playmaking for others.

The Panthers switched from man to a 1-2-2 zone and disrupted the flow of the Rams. Asher Woods, who got hot with 10 points in the quarter, chased the ball up top and applied ball pressure, hindering Newton’s slashing guards from getting anything going downhill. Jason Edwards hit a pair of threes in the quarter and helped Parkview maintain a 39-31 advantage after 16 minutes.

In the third quarter the two teams traded bucket for bucket. Whitlock scored two of his 9 points on a floater to make it 45-39 with 4:17 left before Woods answered with a tough reverse layup to keep the lead at six.

A Whitlock three tied the game at 47 before the Rams stole momentum with a late Castle steal and slam before the buzzer, giving Newton a 51-49 lead.

The Panthers edged ahead in the final frame with Woods and Edwards hitting consecutive threes and would take a 61-56 lead with 3:01 remaining when Nathaniel Belete worked the high-low with Harper.

With the game slowly slipping away, Clark stepped up for the Rams and netted seven of his 16 points in the quarter helping cut the lead to 61-60. Newton had a contested layup attempt with 51 seconds left to take the lead, but he couldn’t convert and the Rams had to send Woods to the line with 27.1 seconds to play. Woods, who finished with a game-high 24 points, would coolly sink 3-of-4 from the line in the final seconds to ice the game and secure the Panther win.

Top Performers

Asher Woods – 24 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal
Avantae Harper – 16 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks
Jason Edwards – 15 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 steals

Stephon Castle – 18 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
TJ Clark – 16 points, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Jakai Newton – 11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block
MJ Whitlock – 9 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block

My Take

Continue reading Upperclassmen Trio helps Parkview protect homecourt vs. Newton