February Frenzy is finally here. Over 100 brackets have been submitted to the Sandy’s Spiel bracket challenge so now it is time to highlight a couple of the most dangerous 4-seeds looming in the tournament throughout each classification.
Two 4-seeds stand above the rest in the state’s highest classification. Grayson (20-8) and Douglas County (16-11) will not be pushovers. Both teams spent time in the top ten this year before faltering late. The Rams looked as if the 2-seed or at worst 3-seed was going to be theirs coming out of Region 8, but instead the Central Gwinnett Black Knights stunned them in the consolation game, 87-78. The Rams draw No. 1 ranked Wheeler in round one, the defending state champs. Grayson will need heroic performances from senior guards Alphonso Willis and Austin Dukes. Both average over 17 points per game and have been groomed in one of this year’s deepest regions. Wheeler’s weakest spot on the floor is point guard. If Dukes and Willis can exploit that position as a liability, the Rams have a chance to hang around. Tre Sconiers is an active forward that hits the glass well. He and freshman Kenyon Jackson, a 6-foot-5 center averaging just under 10 rebounds and four blocks a game, will have their hands full with Georgia Tech signee Romello White and North Florida signee Al-Wajid Aminu.
Douglas County doesn’t have a sexy record, but it isn’t for a lack of competition. Region 3 was an all-out war with No. 2 Westlake and No. 7 Pebblebrook leading the pack. The Tigers still managed a 10-4 region record, powered by North Carolina signee Brandon Robinson. The swingman can take games over as he averaged 23 points per game and netted 33 at Holiday Hooopsgiving in a win over 5A No. 3 McIntosh. The Tigers get the guard-heavy No. 8 Newton Rams out of Region 2. JD Notae, Jaquan Simms and Ashton Hagans can all score the ball, but their ability to defend will be put to the test against the explosive Tigers.
Jones County (15-12) opened the season ranked No. 9 but quickly fell out of the poll and never returned. It has become the Devin Wooten show for Coach Dennis Woolfolk. The senior guard pops in 24.5 points per game and is one of the state’s leading scorers. Landravious Bowden has picked up his play as of late averaging over 16 points and close to seven rebounds a night. The Greyhounds are still looking for their signature victory, falling three times to No. 7 Warner Robins: 76-68, 96-90 2OT and 78-72 in the Region 2 semis. They are matched up with Region 3’s Camden County. The Wildcats started out the year 13-0 and cracked the top ten before falling back to the pack. Camden heated up again at the end of the season and marched to the region title, defeating Statesboro in the championship. Point guard Johnathon Canada presents an interesting challenge for Jones County as he averages 8.7 points and 9.8 assists.
No. 8 St. Pius (22-6) is a 4-seed. It doesn’t get much scarier than that. Ranked in the top five for most of the season, the Golden Lions faltered as they let a 15-point lead slip away to No. 3 Grady in the semifinals before falling in overtime to Columbia. Luckily for Coach Aaron Parr and senior forward Kerney Lane, they draw one of the weakest regions in the state in terms of competition level in Region 7. Cartersville will have more athletes than the Golden Lions but it will be Coach Mike Tobin’s job to take advantage of it. The Golden Lions have seen and defeated athletes and talented teams, scoring wins over Grady and No. 4 Lithonia throughout the year, so they will not be intimidated. St. Pius is a trendy pick to meet No. 1 Jonesboro in a rematch of last year’s Sweet 16 showdown. Another dangerous team is Eastside (20-9). Junior guard Isaiah Miller pumps in 25.3 points a night and will be tested by Westover, a 17-11 1-seed out of Region 1, and its trio of talented guards Allec Williams, Jordan Brown and Kris Gardner.
Southwest-Macon (17-9) enjoyed a lengthy stay in the top ten before tumbling late in the year, but they are still a scary team for No. 3 Laney to draw. Senior forward Justin Slocum stands 6-foot-6 and is a beast to guard, averaging 22.4 points and 13.6 rebounds. Junior point guard Nick Hargrove is a gem as well posting 21.1 points and 5.9 assists. Hargrove especially, will be tested by the most seasoned backcourt in the state, Zep Jasper (College of Charleston) and Christian Keeling (Charleston Southern). The two are the epitome of the word “winner” and have rallied the Wildcats from the jaws of defeat countless times this year to run up a 24-2 record. Keeling averages 24 points and 6.5 rebounds while Jasper adds 20.6 points, 4.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds. If the Patriots are able to exploit their size advantage inside with Slocum and if Hargrove can hold his own, this could turn into one of the best first round games in the state.
No. 7 Seminole County (19-7). Do I need to say any more? The defending state champs saw their season end on rocky terms, losing three of their last four games, but the dynamic duo of Jordan Harris (UGA) and Anfernee King still remain. The two combine for over 48 points, 17 rebounds, 13 assists, 9 steals and 3 blocks per game. The Indians are still the only team to have beaten No. 1 Thomasville, proving they can turn things on. First they will have the challenge of defeating No. 2 Crawford County, the team the Indians beat in the finals last year. The forward combo of Will Jarrell and Marcal Knolton put up video game numbers similar to that of the guards of Seminole County. Expect points to be scored in bunches and for the Eagles to make sure Harris doesn’t hang another 41-piece on them again.