Category Archives: Girls Game Stories

GHSA State Championship Recaps

March 7 – Macon Centreplex

Class AA

Laney Wildcats basketball

(G) R4 #1 Laney 63, R4 #2 Josey 40 The Wildcats ripped off a 12-0 run after trailing 16-15 to find the cushion they needed to blow past Josey for a fifth time this season and win their second-straight state title and 62nd game in-a-row. Alabama-signee De’sha Benjamin was unstoppable with 19 of her game-high 26 points in the first half when it mattered most. She finished with 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Laney led 29-20 at the half, holding the Eagles to 22.7% shooting. Jhessyka Williams tacked on 19 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Jaiden Hamilton tallied 14 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists as the third head of the Wildcat attack. Josey finished just 29.5% from the field and 3-of-14 from deep. Tykedra Rolland (10) and Rhykeria Rolland (7) were held to 17 points total. Ebony Clark led the Eagles with 12 points and 7 rebounds.

Thomasville Bulldogs basketball

(B) R1 #1 Thomasville 66, R2 #3 Vidalia 31 It was a blood bath from the opening tip as the bigger and more athletic Bulldogs ran wild with a 13-0 start. Sloppy Indian ball-handling led to turnovers while lazy transition defense accounted for six Bulldog first half dunks. The Indians shot 4-of-24 from the field (16.7%) and 1-of-14 from deep in the opening half as the Bulldogs led 41-10 at the break. McDonald’s All-American and Mississippi State-bound forward Reggie Perry finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks. Vonterius Woolbright added 17 points, 7 assists and 3 rebounds. Titus Wright had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. Vidalia was led by Tahj Jones’ 10 points. The Indians finished 2-of-25 from three. Thomasville outscored Vidalia 40-20 in the paint and had 22 points off turnovers.

Class A-Public

Greenville Lady Patriots basketball

(G#4 Greenville 73, #3 Marion County 52:  While Marion County came out double-teaming reigning Class A-Public Player of the Year and Mississippi State-signee Brittany Davis, the rest of the Lady Patriots picked up the slack, helping Greenville grab a 21-10 first quarter lead and building it to 43-26 at the break. Davis finished with 30 points (5-20 FG; 19-20 FT) 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 1 block in her final game. Freshmen Shabrica Leslie and Jabrika Leslie came up big, Shabrica posting 14 points and 5 rebounds while Jabrika had 12 points. Nuriyah Slaton finished with 8 points, 16 rebounds and 5 steals. The Lady Patriots grabbed 24 offensive rebounds and put up 26 second-chance points. Greenville out-rebounded the bigger Eagles 54-46. Marion County was led by Torriunna Myers’ 15 points. Jameisha Williams chipped in 8 points. Ansley Whitley battled for 7 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks.

Wilkinson County Warriors basketball

(B) #3 Wilkinson County 71, #5 Montgomery County 68: The Blue Storm took over the Macon Centreplex again, as the Warriors completed the three-peat, captured their 10th state title in school history and their sixth in the last eight years. Wilkinson County survived a gutsy performance from senior wing Jahleel Wilson who nearly willed the Eagles past the Warriors who are now 10-0 in state title games. Wilson had 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 blocks as he carried the Eagles. Daveaun Coglin finished with 19 points but shot 7-of-24 from the field while Shaw Robinson, who scored 22 in the Final 4, finished 2-of-11 from the field with 5 points. Wilkinson County showed they could play a fast pace game, running up and down with the Eagles in the first quarter, taking a 21-18 lead after one. The two teams entered the half tied at 38. 6-foot-6 senior center Tylan Grable came off the bench to give Wilkinson County 11 points and 14 rebounds. Montgomery County fell behind 62-54 at the 2:44 mark of the fourth quarter but Wilson powered the team back into it, getting help from Daquan Jackson who netted two late hoops. Robinson came away with a steal and a layup to cut the lead to 67-66 with 29.2 seconds left. Having to foul, the Eagles sent Raequan Smith and Brandon Mayes to the line, who went 4-for-4. With 10.7 seconds left, Coach Christopher Owens drew up a three-point look for Robinson, who struggled all night. The guard that averaged 19 points per game on the season, shot an air-ball, sealing the Eagles’ fate. Wilkinson County was paced by Jaylen Lamar’s efficient night, shooting 9-of-14 from the field for 22 points. Devin Jones chipped in 12 points and 4 assists in the win. Montgomery County out-shot the Warriors 72-to-50, but Wilkinson County sank 50% of their shots while Montgomery connected at a 36.1% clip and just 3-of-18 from three.

March 8 – Macon Centreplex

Class AAA

Johnson Atomsmashers girls basketball

(GR3 #2 Johnson-Savannah 62, R7 #1 GAC 50: The Atomsmashers atoned for last year’s state title game flop by locking down the paint and shutting down a potent GAC offense with three D-I commits. 6-foot-5 senior Giana Copeland swatted 7 shots in the first 6-plus minutes of the game and finished with 3 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks total.  GAC shot 1-of-15 in the first quarter and just 22.1% for the entire game.  Down 52-39 in the fourth quarter with 2:27 left, the Spartans finally made their move, sparking a 9-1 run to close to within 53-48 with 1:27 left. But from that point on, Bubbles Williams, J’Mya Cutter and Jasmine Thompson combined to go 9-of-10 from the line to ice it. Cutter finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds while Thompson added 13 points and 8 rebounds. Williams finished her career with 12 points and 4 assists. Caria Reynolds (Hofstra) led GAC with 13 points and 11 rebounds on 3-of-15 shooting. Taylor Sutton (MTSU) scored 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting and Wofford-bound forward Mary Martha Turner had 6 points and 18 rebounds. Kennedi Williams gave the Spartans a spark at guard with 10 points and 7 assists.

Greater Atlanta Christian basketball

(B) R7 #1 GAC 67, R3 #2 Jenkins 53: The Spartans turned a 25-20 halftime deficit into a state title under alumnus David Eaton. Ben Sheppard keyed a 24-point third quarter by sinking two of the Spartans’ four trifectas in the frame. Sheppard scored 8 of his 15 points in the quarter as the Spartans edged ahead with a 44-38 lead and would never trail again, bouncing back from a 15-1 run that gave Jenkins the lead at the half. Hunter McIntosh iced the game from the line in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of his game-high 19 points in the final eight minutes including finishing 14-of-19 from the stripe. Michigan football-commit Chris Hinton piled in 12 of his 16 points in the second half and collected 4 rebounds and 4 assists in the process. Roy Dixon scored 13 points to help the cause. Jenkins was led by Sai Fisher’s 12 points and Mye’on Williams’ 11 points and 6 rebounds. Matthew Sams netted 10.

Class AAAAA

Buford Lady Wolves basketball

(G) R8 #1 Buford 60, R8 #2 Flowery Branch 49: Buford defeated Flowery Branch for the fourth time this season and seventh in the past two years as the Lady Wolves repeated as state champs and won their sixth title in school-history. Buford held Flowery Branch under the magic number of 50 — all three of the Wolves’ losses this season coming when they allowed over the half century mark. Michigan State-signee Tory Ozment poured in 15 of her game-high 28 points in the first half to go along with her 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Ebony Grant added 12 points. Flowery Branch was paced Alabama-signee Taniyah Worth who finished her career with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists before fouling out with 1:11 remaining down 60-48.  Caroline Wysocki struggled from the field going 1-of-7 to finish with 10 points.

Warner Robins Demons basketball

(B) R1 #1 Warner Robins 67, R5 #3 Miller Grove 64: In a tug-of-war game to finish a less than competitive week back at the Macon Centreplex, Jacolbey Owens drilled a three with 1.3 seconds left to give Warner Robins their first-ever state championship. Miller Grove got off to a hot start, up 15-6 in the first quarter behind eight quick Lorenzo Anderson points. At the end of one, the Wolverines held a 15-10 lead and kept Georgia State-commit Nelson Phillips scoreless. Phillips scored his first basket at the 5:31 mark with the Demons down 19-14 in the second quarter. At the half, Miller Grove maintained a slim 31-29 lead. While Phillips was 3-of-8 from the field, Jacolbey Owens led the charge with nine points but shot just 3-of-7 from the line. In the third quarter, Phillips flew in from the left baseline corner to throw down a one-handed put-back jam to push the Demon lead to 39-35. A Jaydon Norman layup capped a 12-2 run for Warner Robins, giving them a 43-35 lead at the 2:44 mark. The Demons carried a 51-44 advantage into the final frame, but Miller Grove would not go away. After a quiet third quarter, Anderson scored 8 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth. With 2:33 left on the clock, the Wolverines caught up to the Demons at 60-60. Owens was sent to the line where he was 3-of-10 at the time and as a team, Warner Robins was 18-of-32 at that point. Owens sank both free throws and did the same at the 1:54 mark to make it 64-60. The Demons finished 22-of-36 from the line (61.1%) while the Wolverines didn’t fare much better at 66.7% (16-of-24). Down four, Anderson got to the line and converted both attempts. Less than a minute late, Maurice Harvey, who finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals, did the same, knotting the game up at 64 with 51 seconds remaining. The Demons held for one shot. Instead of getting the ball in the hands of star Nelson Phillips, who finished 6-of-15 for 16 points and 10 rebounds, Coach Jamaal Garman saw Owens control their destiny. Owens went to his left, pump faked, and sailed a three over the outstretched arm of TJ Stargell, drilling it — Warner Robins’ only made three of the game (1-for-11) — sending the crowd into a frenzy. Warner Robins went out to celebrate, but the Wolverines got a second chance at life, as the referees added 1.3 seconds back on the clock. Miller Grove’s final inbound heave was fumbled away, giving the Demons a state championship just 21 miles away from home. Owens finished with 24 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Jaydon Norman added 13 points and 5 rebounds. The Demons collected 18 points off turnovers and out-rebounded the larger Wolverines 43-to-36, grabbing 22 offensive rebounds. Miller Grove received 11 points from Terrence Edwards and 7 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists from TJ Stargell.

March 9 – McCamish Pavilion

Class A-Private

Wesleyan Lady Wolves basketball

(G#6 Wesleyan 61, #1 Holy Innocents’ 44  After beating the Wolves three times in the regular season, Holy Innocents’ kryptonite rared its ugly head again on the biggest stage. After blowing a 17-point lead last year in the title game, this time the Golden Bears trailed through out and lost to Wesleyan for the third time in the past four state championships. The Wolves’ repeat was led by Furman-signee Sutton West’s 17 points and 8 rebounds. AC Carter had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Old Dominion-signee Amaya Register scored 12 points and freshman Paige Lyons added 10 points and 6 rebounds. UGA-signee Kaila Hubbard finished her Holy Innocents’ career with 18 points and 4 rebounds.  Jada Farrell  had 13 points and 9 rebounds while freshman Jillian Hollingshead tallied 5 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks. Kennedy Suttle, a Penn-signee that had 16 points and 13 rebounds in last year’s final, was held to 4 points and 7 rebounds. As a team, the Golden Bears shot a woeful 27.1% from the field.

(B) #6 Aquinas 65, #4 St. Francis 60: St. Francis missed three three-pointers in the final 33 seconds as Aquinas won their first-ever state title. The Knights led 33-26 at the half, weathering a 12-to-4 foul count and a 13-of-15 free throw shooting effort, but in the third quarter, the game came to a screeching halt. The Irish outscored St. Francis 25-to-9 in the third as both Tre Gomillion and Trent Bowdre scored 8 apiece in the quarter. As a team, the Irish connected on 10-of-12 field goals in the third after shooting 6-of-19 in the first half. Aquinas controlled a 51-42 lead heading into the fourth. Dwon Odom scored nine of his game-high 22 points in the quarter. At the 6:47 mark of the fourth quarter, the Irish held a 55-48 lead. The Knights fought back and cut the deficit to 61-60 after Odom collected a steal and drained a three-pointer in transition with 48.7 remaining. The Knights had Daniel Parrish trapped in the corner on the press, but were called for a foul that sent the South Carolina move-in to the line. Parrish missed the front-end of the one-and-one, giving the Knights one last look with 8.9 seconds showing on the clock. Coach Drew Catlett designed a misdirection play that found CJ Riley open in the corner for a good look, but his three-pointer was off and Parrish secured the rebound, knocked down both free throws and clinched the title. As a team, the Irish went 24-of-27 from the line. St. Francis opened up 15-7 in the first quarter going 4-of-9 from deep, but finished just 6-of-26 for the game. Gomillion led Aquinas with 16 points and 14 rebounds after having just four points at the half. Dajuan Hill added 15 points and 5 rebounds while Parrish (14) and Bowdre (10) each hit double figures. Riley finished with 18 points and 4 assists for the Knights. Chase Ellis was quiet with 10 points.

Class AAAAAA

Lovejoy Lady Wildcats basketball

(G) R4 #1 Lovejoy 57, R6 #1 Harrison 41: Lovejoy used a 12-0 run to start the fourth quarter, outscoring the Lady Hoyas 23-to-5 to gain control and win their first-ever state title. After being held to 1-point in the first half, Genesis Bryant scored nine in the third quarter to spark the Wildcats, but Lovejoy still trailed 36-34. In the fourth quarter, it was fellow sophomore Anaya Boyd’s turn to carry the load. Boyd finished with 20 points and 5 rebounds, scoring nine in the fourth quarter. Bryant finished with 14 points. Avanna Preston scored 8 points while Kayla Brown collected 8 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks. The Wildcats cut down on their turnovers after committing 12 in the first half and finished with 16 on the night. Harrison turned it over 17 times, seven times in the second half. The Lady Hoyas were led by GCSU-signee Harper Vick’s 10 points and 4 assists. Sarah Woghiren had 8 points and 7 rebounds. Eastyn King and Amara Newsom each had 6 points. UAB-signee Audrey Jordan fouled out and was held to just three shot attempts, finishing with 4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

Langston Hughes Panthers Basketball

(B) R5 #1 Langston Hughes 85, R8 #1 Gainesville 78: In front of alumnus Deshaun Watson, Gainesville led by as many as 14 points at 42-28 at the 2:05 mark of the second quarter and carried a 45-38 lead into the half, but the Panthers of Langston Hughes would not be denied, as Coach Rory Welsh and company repeated as state champs. Saddled with foul trouble the entire game, the Red Elephants were able to control the tempo and slice up the Panthers defense in the first half. Kajuan Hale scored 13 of his 15 points in the half while Gainesville made Virginia Tech-signee Landers Nolley work for everything he got, scoring 16 points but also facilitating with five assists. Down seven points, Langston Hughes needed players other than Nolley to step up. Tyrel Morgan scored eight of his 14 points in the first half to provide support, but Tyler Smith was quiet with just three points and two rebounds.  Following a dormant opening 16 minutes, Smith brought a spark, scoring eight points in the third as the Panthers surged past Gainesville to take a 65-59 lead into the fourth. Gainesville’s final lead of the game came at the 2:16 mark of the third quarter up 57-56.  Middle Tennessee State-signee KJ Buffen scored all 13 of his points in the first half but sat in the second with foul trouble, only managing to take two shots in the second half. Not tested since their 83-81 comeback win at Buford on January 20, the Red Elephants faced adversity for the first time in a long time.  At the 1:47 mark of the fourth, Langston Hughes captured their largest lead of the game at 78-67 after a Tyler Smith And-1 and a technical foul on Brent Kelly that gave Nolley a pair of freebies. Instead of rolling over, the Red Elephants fought back in Coach Benjie Wood’s final game on the Gainesville sidelines. Bailey Minor completed a 4-point play, Hale split a pair of free throws and Rafael Rubel finished a layup to make it 78-74 with 1:13 remaining in the blink of an eye. Rubel would then add a three to make it 80-77 with 48 seconds to play, but that would be as close as the Red Elephants would get as Langston Hughes went 8-of-9 from the foul line in the fourth quarter. Nolley finished his illustrious career with three state titles — two in Georgia and three in a row including a sophomore championship campaign at Curie, IL. The future Hokie poured in 34 points (17-of-20 FT), 10 rebounds and 6 assists. Smith added 17 points. Gainesville was led by Minor’s 17 points. Rubel chipped in 12 points.

March 10 – McCamish Pavilion

Class AAAA

Spalding Lady Jaguars basketball

(GR2 #1 Spalding 58, R4 #1 Henry County 46: Sophomore forward Corriana Evans exploded for 19 points and 17 rebounds as the Jaguars raced past Henry County. Kirah Milner scored 9 points and Kiana Banks added 8 points and 9 rebounds. In the loss, Auburn-signee Brooke Moore had 21 points. Amaiya Jackson tallied 10 points and 8 rebounds. As a team, the War Hawks shot 6-of-29 from deep and 26.8% overall.

Upson-Lee basketball

B) R2 #1 Upson-Lee 70, R8 #1 St. Pius X 54: 63-straight. The Knights repeated as state champions, racing past the Golden Lions in the second half after trailing 33-32 at the break. With JaCorey Smith suspended, junior guard Jarrett Adderton stepped up. In his first showdown with the Golden Lions after transferring in from Florida in the off-season, the 6-foot-2 sparkplug provided the Knights with 16 points (7-11 FG) — 10 in the first half — 5 rebounds and 5 assists. St. Pius held their largest lead of the night at 33-25 after back-to-back Everett Lane threes with 1:04 left in the second quarter, but the Knights closed on a 7-0 run, capped by an Adderton block which led to a Tye Fagan layup with two seconds left. The Golden Lions drilled 5-of-14 threes in the first half and got eight points from Troy Stephens. But in the second half, the Knights slammed the door shut, St. Pius going 1-of-9. With the deep ball not dropping, the Golden Lions still harassed the Knights and trailed 44-40 with 1:19 left in the third before a Fagan layup and an Adderton jumper pushed the lead to 48-42 heading into the final quarter. In the fourth, the Knights ran wild as the Golden Lions’ tank was on E. A 14-2 run saw contributions from everyone, growing the lead to 64-47 with 2:49 showing on the clock. Fagan, a MTSU-commit, finished his high school career with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. Travon Walker helped the Knights dominate the paint for a second-consecutive time against the Lions, collecting 11 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks as the Knights out-rebounded St. Pius 43-to-28, blocked 11 shots and outscored St. Pius 40-28 in the paint. Zyrice Scott netted 14 points to go with his 4 rebounds and 5 assists. The X-factor in last year’s game, Everett Lane, finished with 11 points to pace the Golden Lions. Cameron Traylor drew the defensive duties and helped keep Lane in check as he took his first shot attempt at the 6:46 mark of the second quarter. Matt Gonzalo had 8 points and 4 assists while Zach Ranson added 9 points. The Golden Lions scored 19 points off 18 Upson-Lee turnovers. The Knights now await a call from the GEICO Nationals.

Class AAAAAAA

Westlake Lady Lions basketball

(GR2 #1 Westlake 60, R8 #1 Newton 45: Westlake led 39-32 at the end of three and pulled away late to claim their first state title. Anastasia Warren poured in 22 points while freshman Raven Johnson had 15 points and 11 rebounds including grabbing her own missed free throw and finishing a bucket inside to put the game out of reach at 50-41 with 1:13 remaining. Taylor Hosendove added 10 points and 6 rebounds. Newton was powered by Jurnee Smith’s 25 points and 6 rebounds. Lexii Chatman added 13 points and 7 rebounds.

Meadowcreek Mustangs basketball

(B) R7 #2 Meadowcreek 56, R7 #1 Norcross 43: For a second straight season, Norcross entered the state title game with momentum and labeled a slight favorite, but again it wasn’t in the cards. After beating Meadowcreek  three times this season, twice on buzzer-beaters, the Blue Devil magic ran out as the Mustangs used a 13-1 run to open the fourth quarter and squeeze Norcross into submission, capturing their first-ever state championship. Dequarius Nicholas scored 10 of his game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, going 5-of-6 from the foul line. Brandon Boston fouled out at the 6:10 mark with Meadowcreek up 38-37. With Boston’s 13 points on the bench, the Mustangs outscored Norcross 18-6 the rest of the way. Kyle Sturdivant finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds, but his late-game heroics never came into play. Meadowcreek pounded the interior all night, outscoring the Blue Devils in the paint 30-to-16. Duquesne-signee Amari Kelly posted 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks while Detroit-signee Cory Hightower put up 6 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. Meadowcreek closed out the game with a bang at the 1:55 mark as freshman Kedrick Green delivered a behind-the-back pass to Jamir Chaplin for a big slam to make it 46-37.

Chaplin finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds while Green added 5 points. Meadowcreek tallied 12 assists on the night compared to just two for the Blue Devils. As a team, Norcross was held to 31% shooting. UGA-signee JoJo Toppin had 8 points and 7 rebounds while Issa Muhammad managed 4 points and 4 rebounds. Norcross shot 1-of-14 from three.

Genesis Bryant leads No. 1 Lovejoy past No. 8 Tucker in dominant fashion

Contributed by Rob Grubbs   (@RCGJr226070)

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

January 23, 2018 (Lovejoy, GA): On paper, it appeared to be a great matchup, the Lovejoy Lady Wildcats (19-1, 10-1), ranked No. 1 in AAAAAA, against the No. 8 ranked Tucker Lady Tigers (14-6, 8-3) on Tuesday night, both from Region 4. Tucker had won seven of its last eight and played tough against the Class AAAAAAA No. 1 Westlake Lady Lions before Christmas and seemed poised to push Lovejoy for a chance at region supremacy. But as the game unfolded, it became apparent that while Tucker was a good team, Lovejoy was a great team.

Just as a fine-tuned sportscar has multiple components that work together in unison to provide maximum production, Head Coach Cedric King has built his team in a similar fashion. He has the power of a proven scorer in sophomore Genesis Bryant. Bryant is unique in that she can score at will, but she also brings her entire team for the ride.  They have the proven leadership of senior low post player Kayla Brown who can dominant the game in the paint and provide a defensive stopper.  Add to the mix sophomore Anaya Boyd who has the skills to run the court like a point guard, shoot from the outside and post up against anyone.  Top all of that off with a roster full of role-playing stars who fit the mold to perfection, and Lovejoy can play with anyone.

In the end, the Lady Wildcats completely dismantled the Lady Tigers for a convincing 68-33 win. With the regular season winding down, Coach King has his team steadily improving and ready to make a championship run. Even the reserves who got to play the final minutes for Lovejoy in relief seemed to have something to prove, they play with an edge.

The game started slowly for Lovejoy, they picked up two quick fouls and seemed to be a little hesitant early. The score was tied just passed the halfway point of the first quarter when the Lady Wildcats stepped on the throttle. Bryant and J’Auana Robinson both hit threes and when Mariah Spain drove the length of the floor after a steal for a layup to end the first quarter, they capped off a 12-1 run in just three minutes.

Bryant was brilliant throughout, she scored 14 points in the first half alone to extend the lead. As good as she was at creating scoring opportunities, Kayla Brown, the only senior on the roster,  was equally impressive down low,  she dominated the middle and imposed her will on the glass, gathering 11 rebounds. Tucker could not keep up with all the offensive fire power of the Wildcats.

The second quarter was an offensive clinic by Lovejoy, they scored on a perfect inbound pass from Robinson to Brown, a baseball pass from Bryant the entire length of the court to Brown for an easy layup and a deep three from Avanna Preston. Everything was working in the repertoire.

In the second half, Coach King substituted in waves, he seemed to have unlimited depth at his disposal. Eight of his players had points in the first half and two more joined the scorer’s sheet in the second half. Each player seemed to bring a specific skill set that complimented the team as a whole. After a three-point play by Bryant near the end of the third quarter, the Lady Wildcats had extended the lead to 58-20.  Lovejoy was solid from the charity stripe as well, hitting 22-of-33 free throws (67%).

For Tucker, the game got out of hand quickly and took them out of their game plan.  Senior guard Kierra Guthrie was able to dribble and penetrate, but the shots would not fall for the Lady Tigers and the constant pressure eventually wore them down.  Junior Jasani Buchanan continued to fight, she scored early in the third quarter off a steal and later scored on a nice drive to the basket. She led the Lady Tigers in scoring with 10 points.

Senior guard Kayla Baise would make two three-pointers in the fourth, hopefully giving Tucker something they can pull from the rubble to carry into the next game.

As bad as the final score, the Lady Tigers are still in third-place in Region 4-AAAAAA, only one game behind No. 7 Stephenson for second.  It is time to put this one behind them and finish strong in their final four games in the regular season, including their finale at home against the same Lovejoy team.

Afterwards, Coach King still saw room improvement, but was pleased overall. “Our girls competed and executed well, but we still need to improve our mental toughness. We tell them, don’t let anyone steal your joy while playing, which is important to getting better.”  He also cited the play of junior Preston as key, “Avanna played a big part of the win tonight, I was proud of her, but as a team, there are a lot of areas we can improve.” The thought of Lovejoy getting better and mentally tougher should cause a lot of concern for the rest of class AAAAAA and with their youth and good coaching, they will be good for a while.

Top Performers

Tucker
Jasani Buchanan – 10 points, 5 rebounds
Summer Dilwood – 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist
Kayla Blaise – 6 points

Lovejoy
Genesis Bryant – 23 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals
Anna Boyd – 15 points, 7 rebounds
Kayla Brown – 5 points, 11 rebounds

Savannah Samuel stars with 23 of 29 River Ridge second half points to carry Lady Knights past Sequoyah, 54-48

River Ridge 54, Sequoyah 48

River Ridge moved into third-place in R6-AAAAAA

The War Lodge was host to an important Region 6-AAAAAA matchup between Sequoyah (16-5, 7-4) and the River Ridge Knights (15-5, 8-3). Deadlocked at 7-3 apiece in the standings, the winner would control third-place in the top-heavy region while No. 3 Harrison (16-4, 11-0) and No. 4 Creekview (13-6, 8-2) manned the top spots. The Lady Knights shook off a nightmarish opening four minutes to regain their composure and methodically chip away at an early deficit, eventually gaining control and closing out a 54-48 road win behind sophomore Savannah Samuel’s sensational night.

The Lady Chiefs jumped all over the Knights, forcing four quick turnovers and leading 8-0 at the 6:09 mark. Coach Jason Taylor laid into his players, exclaiming they were about to get ran out of the gym if they didn’t take better care of the ball. Another two minutes went by and things didn’t get much better, the Lady Chiefs up 14-4 as Sydney Rosant and AnnaLynne Bennett scored six apiece in the frame.

River Ridge would close on an 11-4 run to end the quarter down 18-15, Mary Allen Mansell sparking the Lady Knights with six early points and Samuel adding five.

The two teams traded buckets in the second quarter. Peyton Satterfield got hot with two threes for Sequoyah, but River Ridge’s size began to pose a problem as 6-foot-2 Lexi Palmer and 6-foot Faith Arthur scored four points apiece around the basket. Arthur added a contested jumper in the lane at the buzzer as the Knights entered the half trailing 28-25.

In the third quarter, Samuel took over. The 6-foot-1 wing led the charge as the Knights pounded the smaller Lady Chiefs on the boards. Samuel’s first six points of the quarter all came on put-backs as River Ridge finally got over the hump and seized their first lead of the game at 33-31 with 3:55 remaining.

At the end of three, River Ridge held a 37-36 advantage. Samuel scored 10 points in the quarter while Arthur crashed the glass alongside Samuel for second chance opportunities.

The Knights shut down senior leader Alyssa Cagle, who had only two points, both coming from the free throw line in the first quarter. With Cagle unable to find a field goal, the Lady Chiefs scrambled for baskets. Sequoyah trailed 41-40 before Samuel drilled a three in the corner to go up four with 3:33 left.

Samuel would finish with a game-high 30 points, scoring 23 of her team’s 29 second half points.

Macy Williams knocked down two free throws for the Chiefs to cut the lead to 46-44 with 2:18 to play, but Samuel continued to score at will, netting 13 points in the final frame, going 8-of-10 from the line.

Rosant floated in a tough bucket in the lane with 54 seconds remaining to make it a 50-48 game, but the Lady Chiefs were unable to keep the ball out of Samuel’s hands as she punished them from the line.

Sequoyah had a last gasp to make it a one possession game, but the Lady Knights got a crucial stop that resulted in a Leigh Codiniera rebound and two free throws at the other end with 13 seconds left to ice the game 54-48.

My Take

Cherokee County girls basketball just got that much more interesting. It would be too cliché to say a star was born, considering Savannah Samuel has averaged 20.9 points and 5.6 rebounds, but the 6-foot-1 sophomore transfer from Collins Hill has changed the outlook of an entire program. Gwinnett County’s loss is Cherokee County’s gain. Samuel was phenomenal, taking over the game against one the state’s best programs over the past four years. A lanky, fluid athlete that’s all arms and legs, Samuel can get to the hoop and finish through contact. She can stretch teams out to the three-point line and is a nuisance on the glass. She has a High Major D-I ceiling and could be one of the best players the county has seen in quite some time, a county with a rich tradition of girls basketball. River Ridge’s frontline did major damage against the Chiefs; Sequoyah’s one glaring weakness. While the entire roster took a backseat to Samuel in the second half, Faith Arthur and Lexi Palmer were relentless on the boards, taking Samuel’s lead. Arthur has a physical, sturdy frame that allows her to play inside and out. With three players standing over 6-foot, the Knights have the ability to dominate the paint. Freshman Leigh Codiniera showed promise and composure while handling the point guard duties. She went 4-of-4 from the line including the final two points of the game. Depth will be a major issue for the Knights come state tournament time. Outside of their starters, Sabrina Roberts and Emily Ruth combined for three rebounds and one steal; the only stats contributed by the bench.

Sequoyah looked like they were going to blitz the Lady Knights, coming out with intense defensive pressure, but eventually River Ridge settled in and the Lady Chiefs’ large lead evaporated by the end of the first quarter. Sydney Rosant came out firing. There’s not many shots the high-scoring junior won’t take. She was finding baskets early on and hit her season average with 13 points. The insertion of AnnaLynne Bennett into the starting lineup over tallest player, 5-foot-9 Emily Seres, paid early dividends. The engine that makes Sequoyah go, unsigned senior Alyssa Cagle, was held to two first quarter free throws. While she was unable to score, she affected the game in other ways, the 5-foot-6 bulldog leading the Lady Chiefs with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. Her offense hasn’t been as consistent this year, but credit some of that to her deferring to Rosant. Sophomore Macy Williams had six points. She’s instant energy off the bench for Coach Derrick DeWitt. Williams is the next in a long line of tenacious Lady Chief guards. She is a major competitor on the floor.

Top Performers

River Ridge
Savannah Samuel – 30 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block
Faith Arthur – 8 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Lexi Palmer – 6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks
Mary Allen Mansell – 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Leigh Codiniera – 4 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal

Sequoyah
Sydney Rosant – 13 points, 2 rebounds
Peyton Satterfield – 10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals
Macy Williams – 6 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals
AnnaLynne Bennett – 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block
Colby Carden – 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals
Alyssa Cagle – 2 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals

6A No. 2 Harrison controls tempo, but 7A No. 2 Collins Hill grinds out 42-39 win

Contributed by Rob Grubbs  (@RCGJr226070)

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

7ANo. 2 Collins Hill 42, 6ANo. 2 Harrison 39

Harrison was able to neutralize Collins Hill’s size advantage for most of the game

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. – In men’s basketball, most games are won with athleticism and skill, the tallest players and those that leap the highest usually determine the outcome.  But the ladies game has more room for diversity of style, it can be more of a tactical match of wits and the ability for the head coach to relate and motivate his team.  In the nightcap of the Queens of the Hardwood Classic, two of the best teams in the state faced off with completely different roster styles. The Harrison Lady Hoyas (7-2), who lost the state championship last season to Mays by one point, are currently ranked No. 2 in Class AAAAAA while Collins Hill (9-1) is ranked No. 2 in Class AAAAAAA. Harrison has a small quick line-up, they start four guards and a forward, while Collins Hill is exactly the opposite, they start four forwards and one guard. The game was a low scoring affair as the Lady Hoyas dictated the pace, but the Lady Eagles held on for the 42-39 win.

Collins Hill has All-State forward 6-foot-2 Jada Rice (NC State) and University of Georgia-commit 6-foot-3 Jayvn Nicholson and as Head Coach Brian Harmon said, “We prefer to work our offense inside and which opens up our outside shots.”

That is how the game started, Nicholson scored the first basket in the paint for Collins Hill to set the tone early. The Lady Hoyas prefer to run a motion offense with multiple passes and controlling the ball for long periods of time. Their typical possession contained up to 15 passes as they looked for the open shot, with the entire team working in orchestrated precision that resembles synchronized swimming in some instances. You could sense that the Lady Eagles’ height inside was affecting Harrison, as most of their shots had a much higher arch than normal and at the halfway mark of the first quarter, the Lady Hoyas still had not scored a point. Senior Harper Vick finally broke the ice with a three at 3:34 mark in opening quarter to tie the game at 3.

The change of pace from Harrison caused frustration for Collins Hill, with the Lady Hoyas controlling offensive possessions for long periods of time, they effectively took away what the Lady Eagles do best. The patience was paying off for Harrison as they jumped out to a 10-8 lead after the initial quarter.

With their post players effectively neutralized, Collins Hill showed that to be a champion you must adapt, and junior guard Bria Harmon (Purdue) took control of the Lady Eagle offense, hitting a runner early in the second quarter to tie the game up. Harmon, who is a Gwinnett Daily Post Super 6 pick (along with Nicholson) and Coach Harmon’s daughter, continued to look for scoring opportunities throughout the game.

Coach Harmon called upon junior Katherine Fourie off the bench to supplement the scoring and she came up big. She entered the game with the Lady Hoyas up 16-14 and scored six points in less than two minutes, including a three to push Collins Hill to a 22-16 halftime lead.

Coach Harmon said, “Katherine can provide instant offense for us, which we needed, I just had to figure the right moments to get her in there.”

When he put her in, she came through, as she led all scorers with 15 points, all of them clutch.

Harrison continued the game plan in the third but behind Harmon, the Lady Eagles were slowly growing the lead behind Harmon and with the clock clicking down in the third quarter, Lady Hoya senior guard Sarah Woghiren hit a three at the buzzer to turn a 9-point deficit into a more manageable 31-25 game entering the fourth.

After a Jaron Stallworth basket, the Lady Eagles were up 37-30 with 4 minutes remaining, but Harrison head coach Steve Lenahan, in his 10th season, saw his plan coming into focus as the Lady Hoyas scored six unanswered to pull within one point with two minutes left.

Harrison had two possessions to take the lead but could not convert on either one and then “instant offense” Fourie hit a three-pointer with 1:13 remaining that seemed to ice the game at 40-36.

The Lady Hoyas didn’t bring the word quit with them on the bus from Kennesaw and when Vick converted a free throw to complete a three-point play to bring the game to 40-39 with 37 seconds, they were just a turnover away from another chance to snatch a win. However, Collins Hill broke the press and Nicholson hit two free throws to ice the game for the 42-39 win.

Coach Harmon was frustrated but pleased with the outcome. He closed with, “We have to do a better job of forcing our tempo instead of just allowing ourselves to play our opponents game, that is the lesson that we learned tonight.”

He had a classroom-style chat with the team on the bench for about ten minutes before they headed home.  Hopefully, it is a lesson his team learned, as the head coach of their next opponent was in the building to observe and scout.

Great teams separate themselves from the good teams by the way they adjust, Collins Hill has the roster, it us up to them to learn from tonight and move forward.

Rob’s Takeaways

  1. Junior Bria Harmon is a three-year starter at point guard and usually has the take of setting up the post players down low, but tonight, she took on more scoring responsibility and kept the Lady Eagles in the game throughout. She played excellent defense, and has extremely quick hands and feet. Being the head coach’s daughter can bring its own set of challenges, but she saw the direction the game took and understood it was her responsibility to score.
  2. I was excited to see Jada Rice and Jayvn Nicholson work inside and was disappointed they were regulated to a spectator role for much of the time. They will need to adapt, as several coaches from other top high school programs were in attendance for the game and took notes on how to neutralize their presence.
  3. The Players of the Game, as determined by the teams’ head coaches were UAB-signee Audrey Jordan for Harrison and Bria Harmon for Collins Hill.
  4. Coach Harmon had excellent utilization of Katherine Fourie, he brought her into situation when the Lady Eagles needed points and she delivered.
  5. As the region slate heats up, Harrison needs to find a consistent scorer to depend on, will that be Harper Vick, Sarah Woghiren, Audrey Jordan? Who will take the shots with the game on the line?
  6. Does Collins Hill get maximum exposure from “instant offense” Katherine Fourie off the bench or would she be better suited for the starting five? Coach Harmon will have to continue playing his hunch here as the region and playoff games get more important down the road.
  7. Up next – for Harrison, they face Lambert on Thursday night at the Hawks-Naismith Classic. Collins Hill plays Buford in the same tournament.

Top Performers

Collins Hill
Katherine Fourie – 15 points, 4 assists, 2 steals
Bria Harmon – 14 points, 4 rebounds
Javyn Nicholson – 6 points, 8 rebounds
Jaron Stallworth – 5 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks

Harrison
Amara Newsom – 10 points, 2 rebounds
Audrey Jordan – 8 points, 7 rebounds
Harper Vick – 7 points, 3 assists

Explosive fourth quarter powers No. 2 Wesleyan past Fayette County at Queens of the Hardwood Classic

Contributed by Rob Grubbs  (@RCGJr226070)

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

No. 2 Wesleyan 83, Fayette County 58

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga – In girls high school basketball, the holiday tournaments give teams the opportunity to play against competition from other classifications and parts of the state, it is a good gauge of where they are and what they need to work on before region games heat up in January.  The Fayette County Lady Tigers, who advanced to the Sweet 16 last year in Class AAAAA, have gotten off to a strong start and got the chance to face one of the most storied ladies’ programs in the state, the No. 2 Wesleyan Lady Wolves. Under the leadership of Head Coach Jan Azar, Wesleyan has won 12 state championships in the past 16 years.  The current edition is led by the talented senior duo of point guard Amaya Register who is signed to Old Dominion and Furman-signee Sutton West, but an otherwise young supporting cast. While the Lady Tigers (8-2) played Wesleyan even through the first quarter, emerging star sophomore AC Carter dominated on the offensive and defensive sides of the court and led the Lady Wolves (6-1) to an impressive 83-58 win.

The opening tip of the game gave a glimpse what was to transpire as West easily tipped the ball out to Carter who had an easy lay-up for the opening score. West would score on their next possession to go up 4-0 less than one minute in and a sudden feeling of a blow-out wafted overhead, but Lady Tiger senior forward Rikkelle Miller knocked down a three to answer, which seemed to settle her team down. Miller hit another three-pointer at the end of the first quarter to tie things up at 20. An otherwise impressive first quarter by the Lady Tigers did have one negative, the sharpshooting Miller picked up two quick fouls, the second one only three minutes into the game, it would significantly affect the way Fayette County Head Coach John Strickland rotated her in and out to protect her.

The Wolves struck quickly to start the second half, they went on a 9-0 run over the first 3 minutes. Register and Carter scored during the run that put the Lady Wolves up for good. The Lady Wolves may have stars, but their roster is strong from top to bottom and minutes are spread out.  When West sat down in the second quarter, Sophomore Izzy Larsen got productive time and scored off an offensive rebound and put back. Another sophomore, Lauren Hill, hit a three from the top of the key and Register followed suit. Fayette County senior guard Trinity Brown, who had the task of answering the Wesleyan press all game, kept the Lady Tigers within striking distance, she slashed to the basket on two occasions for lay-ups to keep her team close. At the half, the Lady Wolves were up 40-31.  After the 9-0 run to start the quarter, the Lady Tigers matched points the rest of the half.

The third started like the first, Carter hit a triple on the first play. It was the start of a surgically precise third quarter where the Lady Wolves operated at will. They hit six three-pointers in the quarter alone, Carter and Register with two each, and Nicole Azar and Hill also getting one. Maegan Barkley was a bright spot in the second half for the Lady Tigers, she made an athletic steal at mid-court and a drive for the basket plus the foul to keep Fayette County within reach at 58-45.

By the fourth quarter, the game was decided. It was an opportunity to showcase some skillsets and get some younger players some playing time. Carter impressed the crowd with a strong defensive rebound and then drove the length of the floor for the lay-up. She was almost unguardable throughout the game.  Miller would add one more three with 6 minutes remaining, but the Lady Wolves closed out strong for the 25-point win.

Coach Azar was proud of the effort afterwards, “We have not played in 11 days, so I was really impressed at our shooting, we shot the ball really well. And made shots on the offensive end allow us to set up the press. Fayette County is a good team, we just hit the shots that let us jump out to a big lead and put it away.”

The Lady Wolves are going to be sending a lot of good teams home with 25-point losses as the season progresses.

Rob’s Takeaways

  1. The Wesleyan Lady Wolves arrived at the gym 25 minutes prior to game time, they literally walked off their bus, put on tournament tee-shirts and started their warm-up routine.
  2. Senior Sutton West is a state championship machine, she currently has 7 (two in basketball, once in soccer and four in track). She has the chance to get four more this year. She is their best defender and usually draws the opponent’s best player. She can bring the ball up court, effectively maneuver the press and score off the dribble.
  3. The Lady Wolves offense runs through AC Carter, Amaya Register typically makes an entry pass to her at the free-throw line and she either drives to the hoop from a spin move, passes to a cutter headed to the basket, or back out to Register who resets the play.
  4. Early foul trouble on Fayette County’s Rikkelle Miller hurt the Lady Tiger game plan. Her ability to score from beyond the three-point line was paramount to keeping the Tigers in the game.
  5. Fayette County’s senior guard combo of Trinity Brown and Meagan Barkley have been in Coach Strickland’s system since freshman year and are athletic and physical.  Their play and leadership make them the favorite in Region 3-AAAAA.
  6. Wesleyan freshman Alyssa Phillip has been getting increased playing time in Coach Azar’s system. There is a lot of depth in front of her, but you can see her potential. Great size and physical around the basket.
  7. Coach Azar’s daughter, freshman Nicole is a three-point sharpshooter and another weapon off the bench for the Lady Wolves. She had two in the game.
  8. At one point during the game, Coach Azar and Register were having a strategy conversation during a Fayette County free throw about the technical aspects of the upcoming possession. The discussion sounded like a graduate level class lecture. The Wesleyan basketball IQ is off the charts.
  9. Fayette County has two post players that are getting their first significant playing time, sophomore Naomi Franco and junior Celine Akande. They have great potential to improve and give the guard-laden team more options as the season progresses.
  10. Regardless of what the PA announcer said – it’s Wesleyan – not Wesley-Anne.
  11. The Players of the Game, as determined by the teams’ head coaches were Maegan Barkley for Fayette County and Amaya Register for Wesleyan.
  12. Up next – for Wesleyan, they face Miller Grove on Tuesday at the War Eagle Classic @ Woodward Academy. Fayette County travels to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the Crescom Invitational.

Top Performers

Wesleyan
AC Carter – 27 points, 15 rebounds
Sutton West – 10 points, 10 rebounds
Amaya Register – 18 points, 6 assists

Fayette County
Maegan Barkley – 15 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
Rikkelle Miller – 16 points, 4 rebounds
Trinity Brown – 10 points, 6 assists
Sydney Sims – 4 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists