***Story contributed by Taylor Jones (@TaylorJones__) of WRBN and WGHC***
2A No. 10 Rabun County 79, 3A Dawson County 59
The Rabun County Wildcats opened the 2015-16 season with a big win over fellow mountain region foe, Dawson County. While starting the season with an impressive victory is important, that is not the story, here.
Rabun’s Matthew Addis had a phenomenal game… scoring 39 points — all (13 makes) from the beyond the three-point line — to help his team knock off Dawson County, 79-59 on Saturday night.
Addis’ performance will be one that Wildcat fans will talk about for years to come, but two other teammates contributed in huge ways to this win. Tevan Brown scored 17, while Ethan Dickerson ended his night with 13.
While the offense was stellar, Coach Jeff Page said that defense is what won the game.
“The whole team played great defense and played unselfish,” explained Page. “It was a great team win.”
Rabun County will travel to Piedmont College in Demorest on Monday to take part in the Thanksgiving Tournament.
First up? East Hall at 8:30PM
St. Francis High School was host to the Verizon Hoops for a Cure Classic which featured No. 5 Sandy Creek and a Westminster program coming off an 18-8 season. Right away the up-tempo Patriots established their dominance with Gardner-Webb signee Christian Turner hitting Elias Harden on the left wing for a three-ball to open the game. Harden drilled three deep balls all in the first half and finished the game with 15 points.
As good as Harden was from distance, it was Turner who powered the Patriots. He helped ignite a 10-1 run in the first quarter that would give Sandy Creek all the space it needed as Coach Anthony McKissic’s team took a 17-11 lead into the second quarter. Turner scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the first half and bullied his way to the bucket at-will against the smaller Westminster guards.
The Wildcats managed to hang around in the first half with big man Mikael Sampson in foul trouble. The junior picked up his second foul at the 1:21 mark of the first quarter and didn’t score in the first half. Dual-sport star Will Benson was quiet as well in the first two quarters before slamming home a dunk in the final minute of play in the second quarter to give him the team lead with seven points entering the break as Westminster trailed 32-22.
In the third quarter it seemed like momentum would finally swing in favor of the Wildcats as rim protector Keith Heard II picked up his fourth foul at the 4:18 mark of the third with Westminster down 36-26, but McKissic elected to leave him in and seconds later he was rewarded when Heard caught an alley oop and laid it in. Heard fouled out with 1:48 to play in the third with the Patriots holding a 42-28 lead. Entering the fourth Sandy Creek was in control 46-31.
Sampson and Benson came alive in the fourth quarter, both scoring six apiece, but they could not get any help and Turner continued to control the action for the Patriots. He scored seven points in the final frame and AJ Freeman added five to keep the Wildcats at bay. Westminster was unable to cut the lead to single digits as Sandy Creek’s defense came up with the stops it needed to keep a comfortable distance.
Turning Point: Off a high miss off the backboard, Will Benson came soaring in for a thunderous putback dunk to bring Westminster within 46-33 with 7:10 to play, but the Patriots quickly raced the ball down the court and AJ Freeman converted on a three-point play to take the wind out of Westminster’s sails.
Highlight of the Night: Will Benson turned the tables on “Lob City South” as he recorded three big dunks. His putback dunk, which almost looked like a pass off the glass, left those in attendance marveling at the Duke baseball commit’s athleticism.
My Take: Sandy Creek looks and plays the part of a Top 10 team in the state. They are long, athletic, can shoot and showed discipline; all signs of a well-coached team. Their defense is what can make them a state title contender. The activeness of Keith Heard and Evan Jester inside will be something to watch all season. Christian Turner was a bulldog attacking the basket and abusing the smaller guards of Westminster. He would put his head down and attack at-will, but also was able to find open men outside. Elias Harden settled for too many threes in the first half. Once he started attacking in the second half, it was clear to see why many high major programs are after the junior. Xavier Brewer ended up being the X-factor today. The long sophomore entered in the first quarter and quickly sparked the Patriots. He finished with five points and seven rebounds. Westminster was a little shorthanded due to the football season, but the Wildcats showed flashes of promise. Will Benson didn’t get a ton of chances to create in the first half and I would have liked to see the ball in his hands some more. Mikael Sampson had a slow start to the game but came on strong in the second half. Philip Jones didn’t score much from his point guard position but he filled out the stat sheet in other areas. Tyler Barry, former NBA’er Jon Barry’s son, did not shoot well at all finishing with six points and a lot of missed opportunities. If the core of Jones, Benson and Sampson can control the offense and have it run through them, the Wildcats should have another successful season.
A talented Riverwood program looking to establish itself as a playoff regular in Class AAAAA got off to a great start by beating rival Holy Innocents’ in an exciting affair. The Bears entered ranked No. 6 in Class AA and had to travel all of 0.9 miles to make it to Riverwood. In my preview of the game, the center of attention was split between big men Brent Duncan of Holy Innocents’ and Kohl Roberts of Riverwood. In the end, a particular X-factor I singled out helped keep the Bears in the game while Duncan struggled inside.
Riverwood held a 13-12 lead after the first period and drilled three three-pointers, an aspect of the Raider offense that wasn’t necessarily a strength in 2014. Charnchai Chantha provided a major lift off the bench for Coach Buck Jenkins’ team, hitting three treys on the night and finishing with a team-high 13 points. While Chantha and the rest of the guards were cooking on offense, Roberts picked up his second foul at the 6:35 mark of the second period with the Raiders leading 13-12 still. He would sit the remainder of the half and enter the break with just two points.
The Raiders extended their lead with Roberts on the bench and went on an 8-0 run to make it 21-12 before Cole Smith would score the Bears’ first points of the second quarter at the 2:54 mark and would go on a personal 5-0 run to draw closer. Holy Innocents’ cut the lead to 21-20, but Isaiah Gaddy, who’s play and energy while Roberts was on the bench was paramount to victory, drilled a three at the buzzer to take a 24-20 lead into the half.
Much like the second, the Bears hit another early dry spell to open the half while Roberts began to dominate inside. He scored seven of his 11 points in the third and finished the night with seven boards. The Raiders went on a 16-5 run to go up 40-25 and had Holy Innocents’ on the ropes as entering the final quarter it was a 47-31 advantage for the host Raiders.
In the fourth quarter, Jules Erving took over. Three and-ones in the period helped spurt a 10-0 Erving run all by himself as he drew the Golden Bears within seven at 47-40 with under five minutes to play. Erving went off for 11 of his game-high 19 points in the final frame and willed the Bears back into the game.
Roberts however, would silence the run with a coast-to-coast drive inside and began matching Erving play for play with incredible skill, blocking shots and leading the charge down the court. Roberts’ bucket stunted Holy Innocents’ momentum and Coach Terry Kelly’s team would never get closer than six points, 52-46 with 33.6 seconds remaining.
Turning Point: With the lead cut to 47-40 with under five minutes to play, the Golden Bears had all the momentum behind Jules Erving’s play. It was the veteran big man who was saddled with foul trouble in the first half that would make one of the biggest plays of the game. The 6-foot-6 Kohl Roberts blocked a shot, led the fastbreak and hit Elijah Johnson who was rejected by Erving, but was rewarded the two points after the block was determined a goaltend.
Highlight of the Night: Jules Erving’s putback slam ignited the crowd and helped spark a personal 10-0 run in the fourth quarter that clawed the Bears back into the game.
My Take: I knew Riverwood had a horse inside, but I wondered what they could do from the outside. It was baptism by fire for Coach Jenkins’ bunch as Kohl Roberts hardly made an impact in the first half due to foul trouble. Elijah Jenkins, Charnchai Chantha and Elijah Johnson did a wonderful job of controlling the tempo and swinging the ball around the perimeter for open looks. The Raiders hit seven big threes on the night. The unsung hero for me was Isaiah Gaddy, who’s athleticism took over defensively. Gaddy finished with six points on two deep balls (one at the buzzer) and also added four rebounds, two steals and four blocks. Roberts is deserving of Division-One looks. He might not be as athletic as some other top flight athletes, but he understands how to use his body and is extremely strong. His ball handling skills are underrated as he was not afraid to speed the ball down the floor and find the open man. On the Holy Innocents’ side of things, Cole Smith proved deadly from deep and finished with 13 points. Ibrahim Shabazz started out strong with five first quarter points but did not score again. Both Harrison Cobb and Richard Surdykowski hit the boards well. Jules Erving showed that he is dripping with potential. Brent Duncan struggled inside, trying to dunk everything close, but would get stripped or blocked at the rim. He scored the Bears’ first two points of the game and didn’t score again until 33.6 seconds left. It was a tough opener for him, but I’m confident he will be able to bounce back and the Golden Bears should be just fine.
The Hoyas managed to hang around with the Bucs in the first half, trailing 16-14 at the end of one and 25-22 at the half thanks to strong starts from big men Austin York and Ryan Boler, who scored 6 and 7 points respectively in the first two quarters. But once the second half rolled around, it was all Allatoona.
The full court trapping defense of the Buccaneers collected 10 first half steals and eventually wore down on the Hoyas who were without guard DJ Rowe. In the first 16 minutes of play alone, Ephraim Tshimanga of Allatoona had 6 steals to his credit while Trey Doomes pick-pocketed 3. The duo of Doomes and Tshimanga was relentless all night as Tshimanga finished with 8 steals while Doomes collected 5.
The Bucs busted the game open in the second half using a 10-0 run to open up a 35-22 advantage they would never be threatened to relinquish. Harrison found its first points of the second half on a York bucket inside at the 4:33 mark. York scored six of the Hoyas’ eight third quarter points and would score 15 in the half to total a game-high 21.
Allatoona outscored Harrison 16-to-8 in the third quarter to take a comfortable 41-30 lead into the fourth. Coach Markus Hood and the Bucs cruised to victory in the final frame and were able to play its bench big minutes to prepare for the regular season.
Turning Point: A 10-0 run to start the second half changed the momentum of the game and gave Allatoona the cushion it needed to hold off the Hoyas. The constant pressure defense applied by the Allatoona guards, primarily Ephraim Tshimanga and Trey Doomes, helped account for 17 Buccaneer steals.
My Take: Allatoona will once again be a dangerous team come state playoff time. The Bucs lost a lot of seniors from last year’s state runner-up team, but in talking with Assistant Coach Craig Gaskins before the game, a few players are ready to step up and shoulder a bigger load. The Bucs’ trapping press was ultra-effective tonight. Ephraim Tshimanga and Trey Doomes were like pitbulls at times, hounding the Hoya ball handlers and not letting them advance the ball without harassing them. Kevin Perry, who signs with Coastal Georgia tomorrow morning, looked great as well tonight and showed a feathery touch, sinking two threes and going 6-of-6 from the line. As it did in the state championship last year, size inside could be the achilles heel for Allatoona. The cohesion along the perimeter will be as strong as it gets in the state, but Randy Legros will need to hold his own down low and give the Buccaneers second chances on the offensive glass and alter shots on defense. Chima Ogboi, a sophomore transfer from Mt. Paran Christian, impressed me with his hustle off the bench and could help spark the team at times this season. He finished with 6 rebounds. For Harrison, I am not aware of where DJ Rowe was (unless someone put another player’s name in his place in the scorebook). He was expected to be a big piece of the puzzle this season at the guard spot. Austin York performed admirably and carried the Hoyas. He can bang inside and showed nice footwork. York can also step outside and knock down the jumper. If someone can step up and help take some of the offensive burden off of York, the Hoyas have a chance to be sneaky team this season.
HOSCHTON — The No. 1 Miller Grove Wolverines made the 72-mile trip up I-85 to take on the No. 4 East Jackson Eagles in a scrimmage that had everyone around the state of Georgia buzzing.
The Eagles had a very tough task coming into the game, but they weren’t going to let that get to them.
The Wolverines had won six consecutive state titles before falling in the quarterfinals to Warner Robins last season, but the Eagles have built one of the best backcourts in the state led by sophomores Drue Drinnon, Travis Anderson II and Lamont Smith.
East Jackson head coach David Boyd is no stranger to top competition after leading Milton High School to several state title games in the last few years and has quickly turned East Jackson into an unlikely high school basketball powerhouse on the rise.
Miller Grove on the other hand was looking forward to taking on a team built on tempo and was excited to see how they would be able to handle a hostile road environment.
Things didn’t start off great for the high flying Eagles as they found themselves in 5-0 hole after three turnovers.
The Wolverines extended their lead to 14-7 with 3:56 remaining in the first quarter, but Anderson and the Eagles would not go away.
Anderson drained two three pointers late in the first quarter to cut the lead to 21-17 heading into the second quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, the Wolverines built a 10-point lead after an Alterique Gilbert three-pointer, but Drinnon answered back with a three of his own.
The Eagles matched the Wolverines shot-for-shot from that point on and trailed Miller Grove 44-37 at halftime.
Gilbert led all scorers with 14 points at the break while Drinnon and Anderson each had 13, respectively.
Anderson nailed a three-pointer to start the third quarter to cut the lead to just four points, but the Wolverines answered with a three of their own to bring the lead back to seven points, 47-40.
Miller Grove extended their lead to nine after a quick layup, but back-to-back Drinnon field-goals cut the lead back to six points midway through the third quarter.
After Drinnon split a pair of free throws, Miller Grove’s advantage was at five, but that would be the closest the Eagles would get the rest of the way.
Miller Grove went on a 9-2 run to give the Wolverines a 58-42 lead that would eventually settle at 69-55 entering the final frame.
The experienced Wolverines wore down East Jackson and outscored the Eagles 25-13 in the fourth quarter en route to a 94-68 victory.
The story of the night was rebounds and turnovers. The Wolverines out-hustled and out-rebounded the Eagles all game long.
Despite 42 percent shooting from the field for East Jackson, the Eagles turned the ball over 22 times and managed just 28 rebounds on the night.
“Our rebounding has got to improve tremendously moving forward and we have to grow up fast because we’re young but I thought we competed well, especially in the first half and didn’t quit so I’m pleased with the effort,” Boyd said.
“We hope to get into a transition game and pick up the pace during games but the way you do that is great defense so there is a lot of work for us to do on the defensive side.”
East Jackson’s top three scorers were all sophomores and now have just one game under their belt as teammates.
Both Drinnon and Anderson praised one another for what they can bring to the table which has both players extremely excited to see where they can go.
“We don’t both have to score and I’m able to take some of the pressure he had last year off and make it easier for each of us to play better,” Anderson said.
“I’m really happy to have Travis here this year,” Drinnon said. “It’s just another scorer to work with and help me play better as well.”
Turning Point: After a great first half by both teams, the Eagles were unable to keep up with the Wolverines in the second half. East Jackson was outscored 50-31 in the second half despite shooting 44 percent from the field.
Colin’s Take: It’s safe to say that both teams will be extremely successful this season. East Jackson has an extremely loaded back court with three to four players who can all score 20 plus points a game, but none of that will matter unless they can take care of the ball and crash the boards. Coach David Boyd, Drue Drinnon and Travis Anderson all made it a point of emphasis to improve their rebounding in the coming weeks. Miller Grove on the other hand has a very balanced team. UConn-commit Alterique Gilbert is the leader of the team and will need to put the team on his back at times, especially on offense. There is a reason why the Wolverines had won six consecutive state titles. Look for them to be in the mix for another one this year.
Alterique Gilbert – 24 points
Tae Hardy – 17 points
Aaron Augustin – 14 points, 7 assists, 5 steals
Colin Young – 12 points, 10 rebounds
Drue Drinnon – 27 points (9-20 FG)
Travis Anderson – 21 points (4-8 3PT)
Lamont Smith – 10 points