Double-tech does in No. 4 Gainesville at No. 3 Wheeler

No. 3 Wheeler 82, No. 4 Gainesville 69

D'Marcus Simonds was TwoSpicee at times for Wheeler
D’Marcus Simonds was TwoSpicee at times for Wheeler

A controversial double-technical spoiled what was an outstanding game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as No. 3 Wheeler held off No. 4 Gainesville 82-69.

Gainesville (11-4) entered with just one actual loss and two via forfeit at Lanierland while Wheeler (14-5) strolled in with five straight wins. The litmus test that followed was as stiff as any in the state could face; the feisty Red Elephants at the six-time state champs, highlighted by last season’s 6A title team.

Wheeler entered the game without Cam Jordan at forward, leaving much work to do for the supporting cast. The Wildcats got everything and more from Makhai Eastmond and Kenny Aninye. Eastmond scored 13 points – nine in the first half – while Aninye netted 14 and grabbed six rebounds in his new found starting role. The 13-point final score was not a reflection of how the game unfolded however.

Georgia State signee D’Marcus Simonds started the three-point barrage by hitting Messiah Dorsey to open the game. The Red Elephants sank five threes in the opening period, two apiece via Michael White and Dorsey. Gainesville would finish with seven triples in the first half, but only added one more to the tally in the second half.

While the Elephants were bombing from deep, Darius Perry and unsung hero Makhai Eastmond kept the Wildcats afloat. Perry scored seven of his game-high 21 in the opening period while Eastmond hit two threes to help the ‘Cats head into the second quarter down 19-18.

Darius Perry made all the big plays when Wheeler needed them
Darius Perry made all the big plays when Wheeler needed them

Wheeler opened the second quarter on a quick 7-0 spurt and at the 6:12 mark now up 25-19 after taking their first lead of the game with 7:11 to play, Simonds picked up his third foul. The Wildcats extended their run to 16-to-4 before Simonds checked back in, the Elephants now trailing 34-23 with 3:50 remaining in the first half. Everything seemed to click whenever Simonds was on the floor and while Georgia Tech signee Romello White took a breather on the bench, Gainesville began to attack the basket. Tae Turner, who scored all 10 of his points in the first half, drove for an And-1 and cut the Wildcat lead to 36-30 with 2:06 left.

Momentum swung back into Wheeler’s favor when Perry drilled a straight away three at the buzzer to give the host Wildcats a 43-36 edge heading into the half.

With Simonds back on the floor, Gainesville made another push. He threw down a dunk in transition then added another bucket in the open floor to make it 47-44 before picking up his fourth foul 30 seconds later at the 4:31 mark.

The pesky Eastmond hit a jumper to stabilize things for Wheeler and would spark an 11-5 run to open up a 58-49 lead with 1:29 to play in the third. Then Simonds checked in. The 6-foot-4 guard willed his team back into the game. Within seconds of re-entering, Simonds picked up an assist, hitting Dorsey for a three and then picked Eastmond’s pocket for a layup to bring the score to 60-54. With seconds remaining and Wheeler holding for a last shot, Simonds played the passing lane, picked off a pass and exploded for a thunderous two-handed jam right before the horn to close the gap to 60-58 entering the fourth. His return to the floor ignited an 11-0 run and gave the Red Elephants all the momentum early in the final period as Gainesville had finally caught up to the Wildcats after Simonds came away with another theft up front and boomed home another slam.

On the next possession, Wheeler was sent to the line. The crowd and Simonds still amped up about the dunk, during the free throw attempts on the other side of the court Eastmond and Simonds were jawing. Simonds, known for his fiery play and emotions, finished the back-and-forth with Eastmond and began walking up to the other side of the floor to get ready for the second free throw. While Simonds approached the play, Eastmond followed close behind… a little too close for the referees as they blew a double-technical. With the game tied at 60 with 7:30 remaining and in the midst of an 11-0 run, Simonds was fouled out on the tech.

Simonds’ final line in limited action read: 14 points, four rebounds, six assists and five steals. With the playmaker fouling out, Gainesville had to turn to Dorsey and Michael White. The two combined for nine points in the quarter, but Gainesville would be outscored 22-to-9 with Simonds fouled out.

Anyine scored five consecutive points to push Wheeler’s lead to 71-67 with 2:54 remaining before Romello White finally began to wear down the smaller Elephant frontline. He scored back-to-back And-1s and sparked a 14-2 run to end the game.

My Take: Gainesville looked as if it were going to live and die by the three-pointer early on in the game but the Red Elephants kept coming even with D’Marcus Simonds saddled with foul trouble. A lack of elite size inside hurt Gainesville, who used a frontline of 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6 to try and counter Romello White’s legit 6-foot-8. Sophomore KJ Buffen, who is more of a three, battled valiantly alongside fellow sophomore Bailey Minor against White. Buffen showed flashes offensively with his 12 points, but struggled from the line going 4-of-11 including 0-for-4 in the fourth quarter. Michael White and Messiah Dorsey stretched the defense with their shooting and are great pieces around Simonds. Tae Turner played well with 10 points in the first half, but went scoreless in the second half. Minor blocked four shots, but was never able to establish himself offensively on the low block. Simonds was the best player on the floor today with his explosiveness and quick hands. His plus/minus numbers were through the roof. You take the good with the bad with the caliber of player he is. Some people might classify him as a hot-head with his demeanor on the court, but I liked his emotion and didn’t think any of it was over the top. To be blunt, the referees really botched the double-technical. It didn’t look as if any stern warnings were given and they blew the whistle on a costly interaction which took place in the heat of the moment. Gainesville deserves its top five ranking and will be a scary team to deal with in the AAAAA state tournament.

Wheeler found a way to win without Cam Jordan. As good as Simonds was, Perry was just as good but without the flash. He consistently got big buckets for the Wildcats and went 8-of-8 from the line. Game-ball might have to go to Makhai Eastmond. He is the weakest link for Wheeler but he stepped up big time and played one of his best games, hitting two big threes in the first quarter while Gainesville was on fire and later on baiting Simonds into his fifth foul. Kenny Aninye also played a great game and picked his spots when to attack. His 5-point spurt in the fourth helped give the Wildcats the lead for good. Romello White slammed the door shut with his size as Wheeler began to pound it down low. White posted back-to-back And-1s in the fourth, with the first coming the hard way, cleaning up a miss and powering up strong. He scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter and finished 5-of-8 from the line for the game. Al-Wajid Aminu didn’t have a ton of jaw dropping plays, but boy does the North Florida signee have a motor that doesn’t quit. He is always around the ball when it comes off the rim and is a glue guy that does the little things on defense. He finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Top Performers

Darius Perry – 21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
Romello White – 15 points, 15 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Kenny Aninye – 14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Makhai Eastmond – 13 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Al-Wajid Aminu – 11 points, 10 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

D’Marcus Simonds – 14 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals
Michael White – 14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block
Messiah Dorsey – 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
KJ Buffen – 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Tae Turner – 10 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal
Bailey Minor – 5 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 4 blocks

Week 9 Rankings


  1. Westlake (13-2)
  2. Norcross (16-2)
  3. Wheeler (13-5)
  4. Tift County (17-2)
  5. Shiloh (14-3)
  6. Newton (16-2)
  7. Pebblebrook (12-7)
  8. McEachern (15-3)
  9. Dacula (13-4)
  10. Collins Hill (16-2)


  1. Miller Grove (17-2)
  2. Allatoona (18-0)
  3. McIntosh (16-2)
  4. Gainesville (11-3)
  5. Cedar Shoals (19-2)
  6. Riverwood (19-1)
  7. South Paulding (15-3)
  8. Warner Robins (12-2)
  9. Southwest DeKalb (16-3)
  10. Effingham County (15-3)

Class AAAA

  1. Jonesboro (16-3)
  2. Lithonia (14-4)
  3. St. Pius (16-2)
  4. Grady (16-2)
  5. Liberty County (15-1)
  6. Eagle’s Landing (18-1)
  7. Upson-Lee (15-3)
  8. Walnut Grove (17-2)
  9. Thomson (14-3)
  10. Worth County (12-3)

Class AAA

  1. Morgan County (15-3)
  2. Jenkins (15-2)
  3. Calhoun (16-0)
  4. South Atlanta (14-4)
  5. Laney (15-2)
  6. Central-Macon (16-2)
  7. Westminster (17-2)
  8. Callaway (9-3)
  9. Westside-Augusta (10-2)
  10. Banks County (17-2)

Class AA

  1. Thomasville (18-1)
  2. Seminole County (13-4)
  3. Vidalia (16-2)
  4. Crawford County (14-2)
  5. Pace Academy (7-8)
  6. Lovett (12-4)
  7. Chattooga (18-1)
  8. GAC (12-7)
  9. Dublin (14-3)
  10. Holy Innocents’ (13-5)

Class A-Private

  1. Greenforest (17-1)
  2. St. Francis (13-5)
  3. North Cobb Christian (14-3)
  4. SWAC (11-8)
  5. Lakeview Academy (15-4)
  6. Our Lady of Mercy (13-3)
  7. Whitefield Academy (11-7)
  8. St. Anne-Pacelli (13-5)
  9. Stratford Academy (12-3)
  10. Hebron Christian Academy (14-4)

Class A-Public

  1. Treutlen (15-1)
  2. Hancock Central (12-4)
  3. Wilkinson County (12-5)
  4. Atkinson County (13-3)
  5. Turner County (12-5)
  6. Taylor County (10-6)
  7. Lincoln County (11-4)
  8. Hawkinsville (9-5)
  9. Randolph-Clay (13-6)
  10. Calhoun County (10-7)

If there was ever any question as to if No. 1 Westlake deserved the top spot in Class AAAAAA, there shouldn’t be anymore. The Lions picked up a 76-70 win at No. 7 Pebblebrook to remain undefeated in Region 3 and more importantly, the state of Georgia. Chuma Okeke and Ronald Bell posted double-doubles with 19 points and 15 rebounds and 18 points and 16 rebounds respectively as they exploited the smaller Falcons. Auburn signee Jared Harper was held in check with just 23 points. Shiloh slips three spots to No. 5 after suffering their first in-state regular season loss since Feb. 7, 2014 (Archer) as No. 9 Dacula scored a huge 66-57 win at home and in the process finds itself back in the top ten. The Generals falling three spots isn’t meant to be a harsh punishment or to say Shiloh isn’t one of the state’s elite teams, it is just a credit to how well Norcross, Wheeler and Tift County are playing, making the slightest of slip ups costly. No. 6 Newton has hung around the bottom of the poll but has never dropped out and now finds itself cracking the glass ceiling and a spot away from being in the top five. Coach Rick Rasmussen’s Rams crushed Alcovy 120-51 behind Jaquan Simms’ career-high 30 points, JD Notae’s 24 and freshman Ashton Hagans’ 16 points and 10 assists. They followed it up on Saturday by spanking North Oconee 75-37. Grayson (15-3) slips out of the rankings due to Dacula’s impressive win and a 69-61 loss to Brookwood (13-5). The Broncos are in fifth-place in Region 8 with a 5-4 mark, but have impressive wins over Berkmar, White County, Johns Creek, 2ANo. 8 GAC, Heritage-Conyers and Grayson, making them one of the most dangerous teams in the state that has yet to hold a top ten ranking. Teams on the bubble of making the poll including Lambert (17-2), Johns Creek (17-2), Brookwood, Grayson and others, will have an eye on what No. 10 Collins Hill does on Tuesday at No. 2 Norcross. The Blue Devils blitzed the Eagles for a 93-72 win earlier in the year and another lopsided loss may knock Collins Hill from their perch in the poll.

Region 5’s finest went at it again in AAAAA and once again it was No. 2 Allatoona coming up big and extending its region dominance to 66-straight wins (now 67 after win over Lithia Springs on Saturday). The Bucs fended off host No. 7 South Paulding 53-44 after blasting them at home on Dec. 18, 65-46. Ephraim Tshimanga and Trey Doomes were too much up top. Tshimanga finished with 15 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals while Doomes went for 12 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals. Kane Williams of South Paulding was held to 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists. 6-foot-7 forward Ja’Cori Wilson scored 21 in the losing effort. No. 4 Gainesville steps into the limelight with a chance to make a statement in the state of Georgia as they play at 6A No. 3 Wheeler, the defending state champs, on MLK Day. The game was an in-season pick up after the Red Elephants lost three games due to their out of state mishap in Kentucky. Gainesville’s record may be 11-3, but they have only lost one game to Brentwood Academy (TN) in the King of the Bluegrass tournament while their other two losses came via forfeit in Lanierland. No. 5 Cedar Shoals won a thrilling game late Friday night against Heritage-Conyers, 54-51, after taking their first lead with just 6:06 left in regulation. Snipe Hall scored a game-high 16 points to lead the way while Phlan Fleming added 11. The loss was Heritage’s third straight. The Patriots (15-4) were ranked as high as No. 5 this year and were No. 7 last week, but losses to Rockdale County in overtime, Brookwood 96-68 and now Cedar Shoals has seen the talented group tumble out. Replacing them is No. 10 Effingham County, who debuts in the rankings. The Rebels have eight wins by six points or less and their three losses have come by a total of 10 points. They are in first-place in Region 3 at 8-0, but have four teams hot on their tracks, highlighted by defending state champion Brunswick (15-4) who has now won eight straight.

Spots 2-4 in Class AAAA belong to Region 6. No. 3 St. Pius jumps two spots after getting revenge against No. 4 Grady, 62-50 at the X-Dome. Christian Merrill scored a game-high 17 points, Jakob Spitzer posted 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks and Kerney Lane notched 13 points to knock off Grady. Bucknell-commit Avi Toomer was held to 16 points in the loss. With the win, the Golden Lions now have a chance at a region title in the log-jammed standings. As it stands today, Grady is now tied (hold tie-breaker) at 11-1 with No. 2 Lithonia, while St. Pius slides in at 10-2. No. 6 Eagle’s Landing rallied from down 25-7 to edge No. 8 Walnut Grove 69-61. Freshman Chris Hood got hot and scored 23 in the win for the Eagles. No. 7 Upson-Lee has won nine in a row and hosts Perry (10-7, 7-0) on Friday to take first-place from the Panthers, who beat the Knights 68-63 earlier in the year for Upson-Lee’s only Region 2 loss. Sandy Creek (13-5) peaked at No. 5 early in the season but now finds itself on the outside looking in after a loss to Whitewater 56-54 sees them fall from No. 8 to unranked. Replacing the Patriots is No. 10 Worth County. The Rams opened the year at No. 7 but fell from the top ten in Week 4 and hadn’t returned until this week. Unsigned 6-foot-5 forward Brandon Moore has put up beastly numbers next to 6-foot-8 Auburn signee Anfernee McLemore. Moore went for 32 points and 10 rebounds in a 60-59 win over Monroe. He and McLemore make up most likely the toughest post duo in the state as Moore averages 22.4 points, 12.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while McLemore posts 15.2 points, 12.8 rebounds and 6.3 blocks through 12 games.

East Jackson (9-8) had a chance to prove it could hang with AAA No. 1 Morgan County, but once again it was the Bulldogs taking a bite out of the Eagles for a 75-56 win. Colin Hubbard recapped the action as Florida Atlantic commits Jailyn Ingram and DeVorious Brown were too much for the young birds. Something you haven’t heard in years: No. 5 Laney has dropped two of its last three games. Josey (7-8) upset the Wildcats 66-55 on Saturday led by Donald Jordan’s 17 points. No. 6 Central-Macon won a classic over Southwest-Macon (13-5) in double overtime, 80-76. Derrick Evans (23 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists) and juniors Kentravious Jones (19 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Anterious McCoy (26 points, 8 rebounds) were too much for the Patriots and have formed possibly the most potent inside-out trio in the classification. The two hottest teams in the state? No. 3 Calhoun and No. 7 Westminster are both riding 16-game winning streaks. The Yellow Jackets buzzed Murray County 74-44 to remain undefeated. Ray Reeves poured in 24 points while Jireh Wilson (12) and Chapin Rierson (11) also scored in double figures for Coach Vince Layson’s always balanced attack.

In Class AA, No. 2 Seminole County swaps places with No. 1 Thomasville after an 82-69 slip to Bainbridge. Expect Seminole County and Thomasville to battle for No. 1 all season long. The two Region 1 foes meet again on Feb. 2, at Thomasville, the second to last game of the season. No. 3 Vidalia rises a spot after No. 4 Crawford County lost 98-80 to Northside-Warner Robins. The Indians also earned their rise by beating Long County 76-65 at Long County, knocking the Blue Tide (14-5) from the rankings temporarily. No. 5 Pace Academy might not be above .500, but they are peaking now that they are in Region 6 play. They dropped No. 6 Lovett 53-40 this past week. No. 10 Holy Innocents’ clings onto the top ten, but barely after taking a 77-37 thrashing at now No. 8 GAC. The Golden Bears have been banged up and the Spartans (7-1 in region) have found a new lease on life after some addition by subtraction, losing two of their best players. Early County instead of Holy Innocents’ drops from the rankings from No. 7 after a bad loss to Brooks County, 68-67. The Trojans are just 7-10 overall this season. No. 9 Dublin debuts in the poll after taking down Swainsboro 65-56 and are riding a seven-game win streak. On Tuesday the Fighting Irish host Houston County, who handed Dublin their first loss of the season 88-77 on Dec. 4.

No. 2 St. Francis is finally hitting its stride in Class A-Private. Kobi Simmons poured in 34 points at the HoopHall Classic to defeat Lone Peak (UT) 94-92 in double overtime. Chance Anderson added 24 in the win. The win is a big one as Lone Peak is one of two out-of-state teams that has handed 5A No. 1 Miller Grove a loss, 73-71 at the Shootout earlier this season. After the game, Simmons announced that he will be heading to Arizona to play college basketball, ending the long courtship of the 5-star guard. He and Alterique Gilbert of Miller Grove both were selected Sunday night to play in the McDonald’s All-American game. Elsewhere in the state, newly minted No. 10 Hebron Christian has a chance to pick up a signature win over No. 5 Lakeview Academy. Lakeview currently is 7-0 in Region 8 while Hebron is 6-0. The two teams meet at Lakeview on Tuesday.

Class A-Public’s hottest team outside of No. 1 Treutlen is No. 2 Hancock Central, who rides an eight-game win streak. No. 5 Turner County is also red-hot, rising five spots on its seven-game winning streak. No. 9 Randolph-Clay has fallen six spots after losses to Stewart County and Early County. Mitchell County (9-6) drops out of the top ten after losses to Westover and Quitman County. No. 10 now belongs to defending state champion Calhoun County. The Cougars have won three in a row and are 8-3 in Region 1.

No. 1 Morgan County handles East Jackson

*Guest contribution from Colin Hubbard (@__Chubs__)

No. 1 Morgan County 75, East Jackson 56

The Morgan County Bulldogs (15-3, 7-0) have been a powerhouse in AAA high school basketball for quite some time now, but their 2015-16 squad could be their best team yet. After knocking off the No.1 ranked Laney Wildcats last week, the Bulldogs moved into the No.1 spot and hosted an up-and-coming East Jackson (9-8, 4-3) team on Friday that was hungry for a statement win. Morgan County and East Jackson have been the class of Region 8 for the past two seasons but the Eagles had never beaten them in that time span.

The Bulldogs are led by Florida Atlantic signees Jailyn Ingram and DeVorious Brown while the Eagles are powered by the sophomore trio of Drue Drinnon, Travis Anderson and Jalen Morgan.

FAU signee DeVorious Brown went for 27 against previously undefeated Laney
FAU signee DeVorious Brown went for 27 against previously undefeated Laney

Ingram, who is also a tremendous football player, elected to take his talents to Boca Raton to continue his basketball career and his decision to do so seems to be playing dividends.

Drinnon on the other hand is the Class of 2018’s No.1 ranked combo guard according to Future 150 and has already eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in less than two seasons. In East Jackson’s 81-58 win over rival Jefferson last week, all three of the Eagles’ trio scored 20 or more points before heading into a much-anticipated rematch with the Bulldogs.

Despite a strong effort to start the game, Morgan County was the better team on the night and picked up a 75-56 win to remain undefeated in Region 8.

“We knew coming in that they (East Jackson) were going to come out with a lot of energy so we knew what to expect,” Morgan County Head Coach Jamond Sims said. “We had our hands full with Drinnon in the first half but in the second half we were able to keep him in front of us and that helped us close out the game.”

“The team goes as Jailyn goes and when he wants to assert himself and be the best player on the floor, the rest of our team’s confidence goes up,” Sims said. “Whenever he catches the ball within 18 feet of the basket, he can pretty much shoot over anyone out there so he’s a big part of our success.”

The start couldn’t have been better for the Eagles after jumping out to a 12-4 lead but costly turnovers gave the Bulldogs a 1-point lead after the first quarter, 16-15.

Drinnon and Anderson combined to score 10 of the Eagles’ 15 while the Bulldogs got nine from Jordan Ford.

Travis Anderson | Photo By Ben Munro
Travis Anderson | Photo By Ben Munro

The second quarter did not start out the way East Jackson would have liked and quickly the Eagles found themselves in an 10-point hole midway through the quarter. However, hot shooting from Drinnon cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 41-35 at the half.

Drinnon scored 15 of the Eagles’ 20 points in the second quarter and led all contestants with 20 points at the half on 8-of-8 shooting while Ford added two more to lead the Bulldogs with 11 points.

The Bulldogs found their rhythm in the third quarter and dominated in all facets of the game. Ingram netted eight points in the period and helped build Morgan County’s lead to 61-46 heading into the fourth.

The Eagles managed to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 10 points midway through the fourth quarter but that was the closest they could get. Ingram proved to be too big for the smaller East Jackson frontline and finished with 20 points on the night.

Drinnon poured in a game-high 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting, dished out seven assists and collected four steals.

“We were doing fine at the start but they (Morgan County) started pressing us and that caused us to have a lot of stupid turnovers,” Drinnon said.

“We didn’t rebound the ball. They out rebounded us just like every other team we play so we need to work on rebounding and be safer with the ball going forward.”

Ingram on the other hand was very pleased with the way they played and is excited to see where the Bulldogs are headed.

“We have a lot of experience in playing in tough games so we knew that we would be ready for this one,” Ingram said. “We use all of our games as a learning experience and playing a team like East Jackson helps us going forward.”

Jailyn Ingram was too much inside for East Jackson
Jailyn Ingram was too much inside for East Jackson

East Jackson head coach David Boyd has spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to beat what has become the Eagles’ biggest thorn in their side but has yet to find an answer.

“They are hard to beat and I haven’t figured it out yet,” Boyd said. “I think they have the best team in AAA right now with the amount of length they have. Some of our newer guys that came out for the second semester got introduced to high-level basketball for the first time but we will keep fighting and hopefully get to play them again in the region tournament.”

Colin’s Take: East Jackson arguably has the best young backcourt in all of AAA but their inability to rebound has really held them back. Jalen Morgan, who has played in just three games after transferring from New Hope Christian Academy (NC), gives them the best option down low to rebound the ball but still needs time to get acclimated to East Jackson’s system. While they might not find a rebounding answer this season, they are well on their way to becoming a well-known AAA powerhouse next season and have a great shot at competing for a state championship in the very near future.

Morgan County doesn’t have a weakness. They have three players over 6-foot-6, they run the floor as good as anyone and they can shoot the basketball with ease. Their size and strength wear teams down late in games which gives them a great chance at getting back to the state championship game later this year. If you haven’t watched Morgan County play, then you’re missing out. They play like a Class AAAAAA team and could easily contend in a division of that magnitude.

No. 5 Cedar Shoals steals win at No. 7 Heritage-Conyers

No. 5 Cedar Shoals 54, No. 7 Heritage 51

Basketball is a 32-minute game. For 26 minutes, host No. 7 Heritage was the better team, crushing the offensive glass and sinking four first quarter threes, but as all good teams do, No. 5 Cedar Shoals was able to weather the storm and in the end found a way to pull out another Region 8 victory and move to 18-2 overall and 9-1 in region play after edging the Patriots 54-51.

The Jaguars brought a great crowd as both lineups were greeted with smears of boos and cheers echoing throughout the gym as if it were a neutral site. Coach L’Dreco Thomas said before the game that their goal was to keep the slashing Patriots out of the lane and force them to hit open jumpers – they did. Heritage buried four three-pointers in the first quarter paced by Jordan Thomas, who would sink five on the night en route to a team-high 15 points, giving the Patriots a 22-11 lead at the end of one.

With Heritage nailing nearly every open look it had, the Jaguars had to search for the light at the end of the tunnel. It was hard to find any positives in the first quarter however as the Patriots pounded Cedar Shoals on the glass to take a 17-5 rebounding advantage after eight minutes. The Jaguars would lose the rebounding battle on the night 34 to 21, but through quarters two through four, sewed up the tally, 17-16.

Heritage’s 6-foot-6 center Makyle Wilkerson sat with foul trouble for most of the half meaning 6-foot-2, 200-pound Marquis Davis had to step in. Davis, who looks more like a linebacker, gave the Patriots a spark inside collecting five points off the bench in the second quarter and finishing the game with seven points and seven rebounds.

Makyle Wilkerson played well when he was on the floor
Makyle Wilkerson played well when he was on the floor
Marquis Davis played great for Coach Vernon Denmark
Marquis Davis played great for Coach Vernon Denmark

The second quarter belonged to Phlan Fleming and the Jaguars. Held scoreless in the first, the junior swingman hotly recruited by SOCON schools got going. He led an 18-9 Cedar Shoals second quarter with nine of his 11 points. Coach Thomas elected to come out of their zone and extend into a press that began to rattle the Heritage ball handlers while switching the tempo and momentum into the road team’s favor, leading to a 31-29 halftime score; the Jaguars never holding the lead.

While it was Fleming’s second quarter, the third belonged to Cedar Shoals’ Snipe Hall. The junior poured in 11 of the Jaguars’ 15 third quarter points, the other four being scored by point guard Jerrick Mitchell. As Hall worked his way to a game-high 16 points, the Jags still never captured the lead and Davis would make sure the Patriots had the advantage heading into the fourth, scoring off a tip-in as the clock expired, giving Heritage a narrow 46-44 lead entering the final period.

Seen so many times before, teams in an early hole usually spend all of their energy just trying to claw back into the game and in the end fall short. Not Cedar Shoals. When the going got tough, the Jaguars sank their teeth into the Patriots, clamping down and allowing just five fourth quarter points. Senior guard Greg Smith, who was held scoreless through the first 25 minutes of the game, scored back-to-back buckets to give Cedar Shoals their first lead of the game, 48-46 with 6:06 left.

The Jags had finally climbed the mountain top, but would they be able to place their flag atop it? Nearly three full minutes passed without the score changing. With just over three minutes to play, Cedar Shoals took its largest lead of the game at 50-46. Having no momentum to speak of and no baskets coming easy, Byron Abrams took it upon himself to score two of his 11 points on the night to draw back within two. Twenty-two seconds later, Isaiah Banks hit Thomas in the corner for his fifth and final three of the night to make it 51-50 in favor of Heritage with 2:16 to play.

That bucket proved to not only be Thomas’ final points of the night, but the Patriots’ as well. Stavion Stevenson gave the Jaguars the lead back on a jumper. Banks was fouled with 1:36 to play but missed the front-end of the one-and-one. With 24.4 seconds remaining, it was Hall’s turn to miss a one-and-one, giving Heritage another breath. The Patriots went to Banks who drove to the rim but was swallowed up by two defenders, both Fleming and Hall blocking his shot. Banks retrieved it and tried to gather himself to go back up for two, but was denied again by Fleming and now Smith. A jump-ball was called with 7.9 left and the possession arrow pointing in Heritage’s direction. The Jags weren’t out of the woods yet.

Abrams burned two timeouts trying to inbound the ball and on the third try, Mitchell was called for a hold on Wilkerson, sending the big man to the line with a one-and-one opportunity to tie or potentially win the game.

Wilkerson’s free throw bounced on the rim three times before falling into Fleming’s hands. Fleming coolly sank both free throws with 6.2 seconds. Charles Moore raced up the court and pulled up for a clean look to send the game to overtime, but his shot rimmed out.

Cedar Shoals went 2-of-3 from the line in the fourth quarter and finished the night 7-of-12, while the Patriots went 0-of-2 in the fourth, and made just 3-of-9 during the game. The loss drops Heritage to 15-4 overall and 7-2 in region play; both losses to teams ahead of them with No. 4 Gainesville (11-3, 9-0) in first-place.

It was standing room only for the final possession
It was standing room only for the final possession

My Take: The already late 8:30 start time was pushed back to 9:40 after JV games ran late. This classic wasn’t finished until after 11 P.M., but boy was it a good one. It played out how I expected: two evenly matched teams with great balance, not giving an inch to the opponent. Cedar Shoals started off slow and Heritage, coming off a 96-68 inexplicable blowout loss to Brookwood, looked hungry and ready to blow the doors off of whoever stepped foot on the court. Jordan Thomas was cooking early on from deep and helped the Patriots race to a 15-6 lead. After Heritage’s four three-pointer barrage in the first eight minutes, they hit only two the rest of the game. Byron Abrams showed good court vision throughout the game and attacked when needed. Senior Charles Moore did a steady job handling the ball. To open the third quarter Heritage really looked to play at their pace and decided to slow down the offense a bit, hitting the high post and looking opposite. Makyle Wilkerson didn’t get much burn in the first half due to fouls, but he is a nice athletic piece inside, finishing with eight points and five rebounds. Marquis Davis played great off the bench and was a main reason why Heritage wrecked the smaller Jaguars on the boards to open the game.

Cedar Shoals did what good teams do: find a way to win. Jerrick Mitchell is a speedy guard that was able to attack the rim and set up his teammates. His only flaw is that opponents don’t respect his jumper. Abrams literally shooed him off when he had the ball in the corner and told him to shoot it. Credit to Mitchell, knowing his game, he didn’t play into Abrams’ head-games and passed it off instead of forcing a bad shot. Both Snipe Hall and Phlan Fleming carried Cedar Shoals at times. Both teams have 3-4 guys that can go out and lead the team in scoring with 15+ any night, which makes it difficult to slow them down. Fleming got going in the second quarter showing off a nice feathery touch from the mid-range baseline. Even though he is the most recruited player on his team, he never forced the issue and played within himself while playing team ball. Stavion Stevenson didn’t have a huge game, but he battled inside and came away with two big buckets in the fourth quarter. When Cedar Shoals really needed stops, it got them. The Jags started in a 2-3 zone, but moved into a press that really got them back into the game. Both teams went about 7-8 deep. I envision both squads being extremely tough outs in the state playoffs. They might not have the true go-to guy like Gainesville has in D’Marcus Simonds (Georgia State) or Apalachee in Kamar Baldwin (Butler), but their balance is extremely tough to handle when they are clicking on all cylinders.

Top Performers

Cedar Shoals
Snipe Hall – 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Phlan Fleming – 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Jerrick Mitchell – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals
Stavion Stevenson – 10 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block

Jordan Thomas – 15 points (five 3’s), 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Byron Abrams – 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists
Makyle Wilkerson – 8 points, 5 rebounds
Charles Moore – 7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
Marquis Davis – 7 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists
Isaiah Banks – 3 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists

Mr. Basketball Watch 1-15

*From stats available* *Seniors only*


Photo by Ty Freeman
Photo by Ty Freeman

Jared Harper (Pebblebrook) – Auburn
15 GP – 27.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 10.5 apg,  3.5 spg

Douglas County Sentinel
Douglas County Sentinel

Brandon Robinson (Douglas County) – North Carolina
14 GP – 25.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.6 apg, 2.1 spg


Photo By Ty Freeman
Photo By Ty Freeman

Alterique Gilbert (Miller Grove) – Connecticut
18 GP – 23 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 7 apg, 4.5 spg

IMG_7664Kamar Baldwin (Apalachee) – Butler
16 GP – 28.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 4.7 apg, 3.9 spg, 1 bpg

Photo By Ty Freeman
Photo By Ty Freeman

D’Marcus Simonds (Gainesville) – Georgia State
11 GP – 22 ppg, 8 rpg, 6 apg

Devin Wooten (Jones County)
17 GP – 25.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4 apg, 2.8 spg

Class AAAA


Avi Toomer (Grady) – Bucknell
12 GP – 25.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.8 spg

B2iRB0rCIAAKQMSAnfernee McLemore (Worth County) – Auburn
12 GP – 15.2 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.6 spg, 6.3 bpg

Class AAA

Photo By Ty Freeman
Photo By Ty Freeman

Christian Keeling (Laney) – Charleston Southern
15 GP – 24.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.8 spg

Photo By Ty Freeman
Photo By Ty Freeman

Zep Jasper (Laney) – College of Charleston
14 GP – 21.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.9 spg

Photo By Jason Vorhees
Photo By Jason Vorhees

Justin Slocum (Southwest-Macon)
16 GP – 21.4 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2 spg, 2.1 bpg

Class AA


Jordan Harris (Seminole County) – Georgia
14 GP – 31.6 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 6 apg, 3.6 spg, 2.2 bpg

Photo By Jason Vorhees
Photo By Jason Vorhees

William Jarrell (Crawford County)
7 GP – 26.3 ppg, 12.6 rpg, 8.7 apg, 5.7 spg, 4.3 bpg

Class A

Photo By Ty Freeman
Photo By Ty Freeman

Kobi Simmons (St. Francis)
15 GP – 26.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.2 spg

1499391Robert Baker (Walker) – Harvard
14 GP – 23.9 ppg, 12.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.9 spg, 1.8 bpg

SmothersLorenzo Smothers (Marion County)
12 GP – 27.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.9 apg, 3.1 spg

The Leader In GHSA Basketball Coverage