No. 6 GAC (3-3) at No. 5 Holy Innocents’ (3-1)
This Region 6-AA rivalry features two top ten teams. No. 6 Greater Atlanta Christian has shown flashes of being a region title contender, but a tough schedule and injuries have left the Spartans at 3-3 early in the season. GAC kicked off the year with a 73-61 win against 1A-Private No. 8 Lakeview Academy, 73-61. At the Verizon Hoops for the Cure Classic, Brewbaker Tech (AL) downed the Spartans 64-53. After a pair of wins, they ran into 5A No. 9 Riverwood in the North Forsyth Thanksgiving Tournament championship and lost 51-40. That same Riverwood team handed No. 5 Holy Innocents’ its only loss of the season on opening night, 54-46. GAC enters riding a two-game skid after taking a loss and some injuries to Seneca (SC) on Tuesday, 80-67.
Leading scorer, point guard Brian Coffey Jr. and starting center Charlie O’Briant are both expected to miss tonight’s game. O’Briant suffered a bad laceration to his lip when he took an inadvertent shoulder to the mouth, and Coffey, who has been on crutches the past two days, endured a deep bone bruise to his right knee and bruised a nerve which may keep him sidelined for up to a week. With the injuries, the onus to score will fall heavily on Garrett Covington and Jacob Hoffman’s shoulders. Both players are capable however as Covington averaged 16.5 points and Hoffman 12.1 as juniors. Covington is a Gwinnett Daily Post Super Six selection for the 2015-16 season.
GAC took two of three against the Golden Bears last season, winning 58-49, losing 82-78 and defeating Holy Innocents’ 73-68 in the region tournament.
The Golden Bears opened up their season with a loss against rival Riverwood. Since that game, Brent Duncan has picked up his play and is back to being a handful inside. In a 61-60 win over Duluth at Holiday Hoopsgiving, the 6-foot-7 forward went for 30 points and 10 rebounds including the game-winning free throw with .1 seconds remaining. He, Cole Smith, Ibrahim Shabazz and Jules Erving make up for a nice core, with Harrison Cobb and Richard Surdykowski doing the dirty work. Holy Innocents’ enters on a three-game win streak, defeating Sacred Heart (AL) 64-62 and No. 6 SWAC, 61-46, along the way.
Key Matchup: Jacob Hoffman of GAC and Cole Smith from Holy Innocents’ have the capability to match each other stroke for stroke from beyond the three-point line. Smith scored 13 points when I watched him play Riverwood and has the mentality of a microwave, able to heat up at the flick of a switch. Hoffman also doesn’t shy away from the long ball and has been known for his clutch sniping.
X-Factor: Jules Erving has been tasked with guarding other teams’ best players, getting the call on De’Andre Ballard of SWAC on Tuesday and held him to 17 points. If he gets lined up against Garrett Covington, he will be sure to make him work for every bucket. Erving’s athleticism and size allows him to guard multiple positions.