Mountain View (8-1)
I praised the team chemistry of Mountain View throughout the summer with the Georgia Heat Check program and their year round commitment has paid dividends so far this season, making it not much of a surprise. Mountain View’s only loss has come to Class A-Private No. 1 Greenforest, 67-49 at the Jared Cook Classic. Outside of that lone defeat, the Bears have already picked up two victories against ranked teams, beating Class AA No. 7 Butler 64-48 and No. 9 Duluth this Tuesday, 72-56. The 8-1 start is the best start in school history, the young seventh year program in search of its first postseason appearance. The sharpshooting of Spencer Rodgers has paced the Bears but the growth of Miles Long at the point guard position has been crucial as he has flourished since Donell Nixon’s transfer to Buford. Long dropped 20 points in the Bears’ win in Augusta over Butler.
South Gwinnett (5-1)
“I know we got the guys that want to compete and get better. We’ve got the pieces. I’m excited, I think we have a special year in store for us,” is what first-year head coach Ty Anderson said at Gwinnett County Media Day. His proclamation has come to fruition thus far as the fiery leader already has tied last year’s win total. The Comets’ only loss came to against Parkview at the Parkview Tip-Off Classic, 62-55. Wins over Woodstock and Lambert highlight the resume. Seniors Brycen Lee and D’onte Torrence have led the renaissance under Anderson’s guidance. The Comets face their biggest test of the season on Friday as they host No. 2 Newton.
Richmond Hill (6-1)
Following a season-opening loss at Class AAAAA No. 10 New Hampstead, the Wildcats have played well. They were shutout of the postseason last year in disappointing fashion and were tasked with replacing leading scorer Isaiah Hill (20.3 ppg) heading into 2016-17. Richmond Hill scored a signature win this Tuesday, upsetting defending state champion and current Class AAA No. 4 Liberty County, 58-56. The Panthers were without Davion Mitchell and the ‘Cats took advantage, using Trey DeLoach’s 18 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 blocks to stun Liberty County. DeLoach is averaging 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3 blocks while fellow senior Montest Bumpers is chipping in 10.1 points and 3 steals.
Bradwell Institute (5-1)
William Douberly has turned around Bradwell Institute in his first year at the helm. The Tigers won just 10 games in the past two seasons before Douberly’s arrival. Bradwell Institute has won five straight after losing at Class AAA No. 4 Liberty County to open the season. They have drilled Savannah 70-42 and blew out a tough Long County team 86-54. Senior point guard Darryll Johnson has been on a scoring binge averaging over 18 points per game while 5-foot-8 backcourt member Anthony Vicente has tossed in 10 points on average his final season. The Tigers test themselves against Region 2 power Brunswick on Friday. Bradwell Institute and Richmond Hill will fight for playoff position all year long in the tiny five team region.
A blowout 66-47 loss against Stockbridge to open the year at the Southwest DeKalb Showdown has been the worst outcome of the season for the Bulldogs. Chamblee nearly upset No. 7 Miller Grove, 61-56 in their only other loss. They beat Class AAA No. 10 Redan 59-55 as their best W of the year. Seniors Odell Ferrell, Dazz Riggins and Glen Robinson have been crucial to the ‘Dogs’ turnaround.
Maynard Jackson (6-1)
The Jaguars snuck into the playoffs last year by upsetting a then 22-2 Westminster team in the region tournament. There will be now more sneaking around this season however as former Tennessee State head coach Travis Williams now has the group playing to their full potential. The Jags’ lone loss came at No. 8 Riverwood, 68-67. Senior forward 6-foot-6 JaQuavius Hayes has been a monster inside, averaging 23.7 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1 steal and 1.3 blocks a night. As good as he has been, the Jags have taken their game to the next level thanks to an improved supporting cast. Juniors Marquavis Carter and Keshun Byrd have provided scoring around Hayes. Carter is hitting 47% of his threes and is averaging 15.3 points while Byrd is pitching in 10.7 points.
A lot graduated from last year’s playoff team, but the Seminoles are out to a quick start. Their only loss has come to Class AAAAAA No. 10 Tri-Cities, 57-51. Salem’s best win is a 67-56 home win over Arabia Mountain. Tehjuan Powell, Montez Swann, Kendrick Harris and Brandon Smith have all played important roles. They will try to keep pace with No. 3 Henry County in Region 4 as they visit No. 10 North Clayton on Friday, who is currently 0-2 in the region standings.
Although they aren’t ready to become a statewide player, LaFayette is taking baby steps to become a playoff contender in a wide open Class AAAA. The Ramblers have breezed past week competition up in Region 6, but were handed a 65-63 loss by Heritage-Catoosa, who takes over first place in the standings. Head coach Hank Peppers has rode star sophomore Alex Kelehear this season as the versatile playmaking guard projects to be an all-time LaFayette great. Tyrese Hunter, LaTrail McClinic, Andrew Pendergrass and Caleb Boyd have helped take some scoring burden off Kelehear’s shoulders.
No Surprises yet
No. 8 Therrell (6-0)
The drop to Class AA has helped Therrell who is now ranked No. 8 in the state. Wins over Mays (76-71 OT) and at South Cobb (66-57) are high quality. Sophomore guard Anthony Edwards stands 6-foot-4 and is a future D-I ball player with a high ceiling. After playing with the Atlanta Xpress, Edwards is in tip top form, pouring in 36 points against Mays and 23 points and 9 rebounds vs. South Cobb. Consistent help will be key to Therrell sustaining their early success. Deandre Brown has helped out thus far, the 6-foot-2 freshman averaging double figures.
No. 5 Glenn Hills (4-1)
Coach Travis McRae has already surpassed last year’s 3-win total. The Spartans announced their presence with a 62-56 win at Class AAAA No. 7 Richmond Academy last week, but fell at Lakeside-Evans on Tuesday, 88-83 in overtime, not a bad loss. Junior center Timmy Seller has been the anchor inside. The 6-foot-8 big man is averaging 12.6 points and 7.8 rebounds. On the wing, 6-foot-4 freshman John Whitehead is adding 9.6 points a night. CJ Bowers, Eric Farmer, Jordan Lord and Robert Drew are all scoring over 8 points per game, giving Coach McRae a dangerously balanced attack.
Tallulah Falls (7-0)
The Indians missed the Class A-Private playoffs last season and are clicking on all cylinders early on. A pair of 6-foot-5 seniors power Coach Jim Van Hooser’s offense. Josey Keene is averaging 15.4 points and 4 rebounds while Michael Van Hooser is dropping in 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Michael Weidner is a scrappy guard that is posting 9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.6 steals. The veteran group’s top five scorers are all seniors. The Indians’ best win came against White County, 78-62. They will see a step up in competition in the upcoming weeks with their toughest game coming on January 6 at No. 6 Lakeview Academy.
Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (4-1)
Derrick Mason has changed the culture of the program, already matching last year’s win total. The Chargers’ best win was their season opener against Preseason Top 10 ranked King’s Ridge Christian, 47-32. ECLA’s only loss was a 58-55 decision against Class AAAAA 6-2 Union Grove. On Friday the Chargers host No. 7 Tattnall Square Academy.
No. 6 Twiggs County (5-0)
Another case of a new coach maximizing talent, Twiggs County has skyrocketed to No. 6 in the state after a handful of impressive wins. They beat Preseason Class AA No. 9 Swainsboro 76-58 and stunned current AA No. 3 Dublin at Dublin 82-74 behind senior guard Zuri Brown’s 30 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists as well as senior Cortavious Ates’ 26 points and 6 boards. Coach Andrew Johnson has the Cobras striking with a potent offense that averages 75.6 points. Ates is averaging 20 points, Brown 19 and Juwan Brown 15. Twiggs County draws Dublin in a rematch this Friday with a chance to really solidify themselves as a Class A-Public power player.
No. 10 Schley County (4-0)
Who knows how long it’ll last, but the Wildcats have already matched last year’s win total and find themselves ranked in the Top 10. They hang their hats on wins over previously ranked Hawkinsville (51-45) and at Marion County (82-78). Both wins very well may not be all that impressive in two weeks, but for now it’s been enough to get the ‘Cats recognized.