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No. 10 Etowah earns Cherokee County bragging rights on Senior Night against Creekview

No. 10 Etowah 60, Creekview 51

Good boys basketball in Cherokee County has been at a premium over the past decade. No. 10 Etowah (16-2) and Creekview (15-2) have tried to change that narrative this season. The Eagles, ranked in Class AAAAAAA, hosted the Grizzlies out of Region 6-AAAAAA, a team still on the search for a real resume building win, while Etowah already had scored wins over Southwest DeKalb, Peachtree Ridge and Lithonia. With their 15-game winning streak snapped last night in a 43-38 overtime trap game against Walton, the Eagles were focused on Saturday to make sure there were no lingering effects on Senior Night.

Etowah opened the game starting five seniors; regular starters Adrian Cohen (Tusculum), Carter Ingersoll (Claremont McKenna) and junior Jaxon Etter on the bench. Just 40 seconds into the game, Coach Jason Dasinger called timeout before the Eagles even had a chance to advance the ball into the frontcourt as the Grizzlies opened with a zone press.

Creekview took advantage of the situation and led 7-4 with 4:22 left in the first quarter before Dasinger subbed in his usual trio. Etter quickly hit Cohen for a corner three while 6-foot-7 Julian Baldwin had his way around the rim as Creekview’s 6-foot-6 James Wall watched from the stands, suspended after getting ejected for two technicals in Wednesday’s 74-71 win at Sequoyah. Baldwin was aggressive, knocking down two jumpers before attacking the basket and scoring 10 of his 16 points as the Eagles led 17-15 after eight minutes.

Dynamic scorer KJ Jenkins, the No. 4 ranked senior point guard in the GHSA, netted five points in the opening frame, but it was apparent that Etowah was committed to making someone else beat them. That someone else was nowhere to be found in the second quarter as the Eagles outscored the Grizzlies 16-3 in the frame.

Everyone got involved as things were clicking on both sides for the Eagles. Ingersoll knocked down a jumper to ignite a 16-1 run.

The Eagles forced countless turnovers and converted on the other end. Nick Nagy hit Za’ki Lowe for a late three to help Etowah carry a 33-18 lead into the half.

In the third quarter, it was more of the same. Etowah led by 22 at 43-21 at the 4:38 mark as Cohen bombed away from deep. The 6-foot-5 wing drilled two of his four three-pointers en route to eight of his game-high 18 points.

Creekview was on the verge of packing it in until a 39-second stretch changed the entire complexion of the game. Jenkins scored his first bucket of the second half with 39 seconds left. Grant Potts completed a 4-point play from deep. Then, after a wild inbounds, the Grizzlies came away with a Paxton Nayman steal which led to a Jenkins three at the buzzer, a 9-point spurt that turned a 23-point deficit into a manageable 50-36 hole heading into the fourth.

The madness continued in the fourth quarter as the celebratory home crowd grew quieter and quieter. Timmy Davis knocked down a corner three, followed by a Grayson Baker triple in the same spot. Baker scored nine of his team-high 12 points in the opening 3:43 of the final quarter, bringing the Grizzlies to within 52-48 with 4:17 remaining.

With flashbacks of the previous night coming all too true, the Eagles turned to Etter and Cohen to stem the tide. Etter and Cohen finished with back-to-back lay-ups to cushion the lead to 56-48 at the 2:38 mark.

With a 21-to-2 run now behind them, the Grizzlies ran out of firepower. Etowah responded with an 8-to-3 run to close a 60-51 victory, clinching their claim as the best team in Cherokee County.

My Take

The game played out how I thought it would – kind of. Etowah was the better team with more size and better wins. After paying homage to their seniors, the Eagles took off with their usual starters in the game. Julian Baldwin was at his best, attacking Creekview’s limited front line. Seeing two early jumpers fall through really gave the 6-foot-7 unsigned senior a boost of confidence. He set the tone in the first quarter and was Coach Dasinger’s cornerstone as they waited for the cavalry to arrive at the first substitution. Carter Ingersoll did what he does inside – the dirty work. I’m a fan of the 6-foot-6 post’s old school game. He collected 9 points and 7 rebounds and did it without the flash and frills. Adrian Cohen is major grab for Tusculum at the D-II level. Once primarily a slasher, Cohen has improved every season. He knocked down four three-pointers and picked up 7 rebounds. Jaxon Etter was quiet with 8 points, but he impacted the game where the scorebook doesn’t show. His steadiness played a big role in Etowah closing out the victory while it seemed everything was unraveling. He had four points in the fourth quarter, had a few nice passes and moved his feet well defensively, especially on top of the defense.

Coming into the game, I was concerned about who would be able to create their own shot outside of KJ Jenkins. Etowah locked down the potent scorer, holding him to a pair of threes, finishing with 10 points. Jenkins had no easy looks and no free passes to the basket. With deep range and the green light to pull, Jenkins tried to warm himself up with a couple tough, long threes that were contested. He was never able to get it going, which is why the Grizzlies were down big. Grayson Baker came to life in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t sustainable for the length of the game. Creekview’s most constant offense came from bruising Paxton Nayman inside. He had 11 points and 6 rebounds. For the Grizzlies to continue winning at a high clip, they will have to free up Jenkins more. If he’s not creating for himself, he must rely on finding spot up shooters. Creekview sank six threes on the night. Coach Casey Gramling’s offense is predicated on ball-movement as they just don’t have enough options that can consistently create their own shot outside of Jenkins.

Top Performers

Etowah
Adrian Cohen – 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Julian Baldwin – 16 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Carter Ingersoll – 9 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
Jaxon Etter – 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block

Creekview
Grayson Baker – 12 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Paxton Nayman – 11 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
KJ Jenkins – 10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal

Peach State Stops of the Week (1/8-1/13)

People always ask me, “What’s the best game in town this week?

Peach State Stops of the Week will highlight some of the best basketball being played in Georgia for the current week. Whether it’s a tournament/showcase, a region rivalry, a Top 10 showdown, or a seldom heard sleeper, Peach State Stops of the Week will let you know what gym you need to get into

TUESDAY

No. 3 Sandy Creek at No. 9 Cartersville

Right now, it looks like Region 5-AAAA will boil down to No. 3 Sandy Creek (11-3) and No. 9 Cartersville (10-2). The two teams had a couple wars last year with the Patriots winning at home 86-80 and in the region tournament 60-53 while Cartersville won a wild game in Bartow County in overtime 94-88. While some faces have changed, especially on the Sandy Creek side, expect this long distance rivalry to continue. Kam Miller, Chris Porter and Jarred Godfrey will have their hands full trying to corral Furman-signee Jaylon Pugh. TJ Horton’s aggressiveness in the backcourt will test the Patriots as well. TJ Bickerstaff will have to be the difference maker for Sandy Creek. The 6-foot-7 junior wing has come on strong this season and will need to hunt his shot and crash the glass to take advantage of a smaller Hurricane lineup.

No. 8 Banks County at No. 4 Rabun County [G]

The Lady Leopards (13-3) and the defending Class AA state runner-up LadyCats (12-2) have blossomed into one of North Georgia’s most heated rivalries on the girls’ side. The two meet for the first time this season after Rabun County beat Banks County in the Region 8 championship 78-67 last year after splitting the regular season series. Banks County has challenged themselves early this year, playing three ranked teams twice apiece, going 4-2 against Hart County, West Hall and Madison County. Jaycie Bowen has led the attack from the paint along with Amber Williams while Maddie Thomas and Allison Smith provide matchup problems with their size on the perimeter. Rabun County already has a region loss in the form of an 82-53 defeat at Putnam County, but the emergence of junior guard Georgia Stockton has helped keep the Cats stay afloat without Brooke Henricks. Stockton has poured in the points averaging upwards of 25 per game while receiving help from Laken Stiles and Kaitlin Coleman. Expect an intense high-action game with Rabun County trying to set the tone with their press and challenge the Leopards’ ball handling.

FRIDAY

No. 2 Manchester at No. 1 Central-Talbotton

Coach Anzy Hardman has turned No. 2 Manchester (11-0) into a Class A-Public contender and now has a chance to take over the mantle as the team to beat if they can stop No. 1 Central-Talbotton (13-0) and its high-powered offense. Defensive pressure keyed by Jah’nile Hill, Kalil Brawner and Carlos Dixon will try to disrupt the powerful trio of Tayne Smith, ZyTavian Hill and Javares Copeland. Inside, the Blue Devils have physicality around the rim to deny any free runs from Hill or Smith in the form of 6-foot-4, 295-pound Jerquavion Mahone, a defensive tackle heading to Kentucky. While the Hawks have the size advantage on the perimeter, they will still have to chase around Hill, a lightning rod of energy that thrives in transition and creates offense from his pesky defense. It will be a sell-out crowd over in West Georgia with the potential for a break-neck pace.

SATURDAY

Creekview at No. 10 Etowah

When was the last time Cherokee County had two boys teams with one loss this late into the season? If someone knows, I’d love to hear the answer. The golden days of boys basketball have been fleeting, but there’s a glimmer of hope between Towne Lake and Owens Store Road. The Eagles (14-1) have hovered around the bottom of the Top 10 in Class AAAAAAA, a great honor after their trip to the Sweet 16 last season. Jaxon Etter has begun to garner D-1 interest with his play on the wing. The junior teams up with Tusculum-signee Adrian Cohen, 6-foot-7 senior Julian Baldwin, D-3 commit Carter Ingersoll and defensive specialist Nick Nagy, who has already clamped down the likes of Devin Vassell (Florida State) and KD Johnson. The Eagles have won 14-straight with their calling card being tough-nosed defense that allows just 44.8 points per game. Creekview (13-1) carries a 12-game winning streak in Class AAAAAA behind KJ Jenkins, the No. 4 senior point guard in the state. Jenkins has proven to be a human torch that can catch fire from deep. Ty Allen along with posts Paxton Nayman and James Wall have helped balance the offense while Barrett Patterson supports from the outside. Etowah will be Creekview’s toughest task since their 68-49 loss to Mt. Bethel Christian.

Etowah makes statewide statement with upset of undefeated No. 9 Peachtree Ridge

 

Contributed by Cody Butler  (@CodeMan10x)

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

Etowah 49, No. 9 Peachtree Ridge 46

Etowah (8-1) closed the door late on Peachtree Ridge in a 49-46 win Saturday at the Gwinnett Daily Post Metro Atlanta Challenge. Etowah made plays down the stretch to escape Gwinnett County with a Top 10 win over the previously unbeaten Lions (8-1). 6-foot-5 wing Adrian Cohen delivered the game winning three for the Eagles with under a minute left in regulation.  Etowah executed their game-plan of defending Florida State-signee Devin Vassell for most of the night, holding him well below his 25-point per game averaging, scoring just 11 points. Vassell went scoreless in the first and fourth quarters, the two pivotal periods Peachtree Ridge struggled to knock down shots as a team.

Etowah took a 12-3 lead in the first after the sensational play of 6-foot-4 junior wing Jaxon Etter. Etter scored eight points quickly setting the Eagles out front of a struggling Lions offense.

Peachtree Ridge head coach Keith Arrington was critical of his team’s shot selection during a timeout, citing too many missed threes and not enough penetration. Etowah guard Nick Nagy frustrated Vassell most of the game leaving no room for separation, making the future Seminole work for every basket.

Peachtree Ridge went on a run of their own as the score tightened to 16-12 with 5:26 to go in the half. The plan to feed Vassell in the second quarter became more successful as he scored six of his 11 total points in the next few minutes.  An Etowah timeout created adjustments though as the Eagles put themselves in control again up 27-19 at halftime.

Cohen, a Tusculum-signee, made his presence known in the second quarter with six consecutive Etowah points. Cohen possesses combo guard skills to drive the basketball and knock down the open shot.

The undefeated Lions wanted no part of losing their first game as they turned up the intensity down eight in the third quarter. Constant pressure on the ball forced Etowah into mistakes.  Back-to-back three-pointers from Vassell and guard Devon Higgs cut the Etowah lead to 32-31 with 2:18 left in the third. The Eagles scored only eight points in the quarter as momentum flipped to the Lions heading to the fourth.

Peachtree Ridge took their first lead of the game on a Hirum Maxey three-pointer making it 36-35 with 5:05 remaining. While Vassell struggled to find open looks in the final frame, Maxey stepped up and made shots to keep the Lions in it. The 6-foot-1 guard finished the game with 12 points, six in the final minutes down the stretch.

Etowah remained poised and answered the Lions run with key three-pointers from Nagy and Cohen to close out the game. Peachtree Ridge led 40-38 with less than four minutes left before Nagy caught and released a three from downtown to regain the lead, 41-40. Peachtree Ridge went back in front 45-44 on a Maxey turnaround with 1:15 remaining but the celebration was short lived.

After a quick timeout and whiteboard session with Etowah head coach Jason Dasinger, the Eagles made the biggest play of the night and proved to be the better team on this Saturday.  Cohen called for the ball and sank the game winning three with 40 seconds left to put Etowah up for good. Cohen finished the game with 16 points and five rebounds.  Etowah kept the ball out of Vassell’s hands down the stretch and left Gwinnett County with the Lions stunned.

Top Performers

Etowah
Adrian Cohen – 16 points, 5 rebounds
Jaxon Etter- 10 points
Nick Nagy – 9 points

Peachtree Ridge
Hirum Maxey – 12 points
Devin Vassell – 11 points

2017-18 Dark Horses

Ten Dark Horse teams that will be battling for statewide recognition and a playoff berth this season.

Etowah

R4-AAAAAAA
(20-10; 4-6)
Sweet 16

The Eagles finished 20-10 with a Sweet 16 appearance but struggled in Region 4, going just 4-6. Much of the continuity returns except at head coach where Jason Dasinger steps in to build on the quick momentum constructed by now Milton head coach Allen Whitehart. Dasinger racked up a 25-4 record at Alpharetta in his only year on the job and now turns to a new cast at Etowah to replicate his success. Tusculum-commit Adrian Cohen and junior Jaxon Etter power the Eagle offense. Cohen has size and versatility as a 6-foot-5 wing while Etter, a burgeoning college prospect, popped onto opposing teams’ radars last year as he surged his way into becoming a First Team All-Region 4 selection. The 6-foot-3 swingman is a crafty scorer and underrated athlete who can takeover games. Inside, Etowah is anchored by agile 6-foot-7 senior Julian Baldwin and 6-foot-5 dirty work rebounder Carter Ingersoll. Nick Nagy provides the outside shooting and rounds out the core of Etowah’s senior class. Playing to their potential and not down to competition will determine whether or not the Eagles can become a dangerous team come February.

Kennesaw Mountain

R3-AAAAAAA
(10-18; 4-6)
First Round State

All the ingredients for a winning recipe are in Coach Jesse Bonner’s kitchen this season. Following a 10-18 season out of Region 3 with a 64-51 road state playoff loss at Colquitt County, the Mustangs now have the experience and extra help ready to push them over the hump to fight for a top two seed. Senior guard Josh Strong really ignited his season after exploding at the Lake City Classic, averaging 22 points per game and dropping in 23 points in a win over state-ranked Riverwood. The Second Team All-Region pick has some homerun hitters to run with in 2017-18. Jalyn McCreary is now eligible after missing all of his sophomore season. The 6-foot-7 junior is a Preseason First Team All-State selection that can go toe-to-toe with any of Georgia’s premier stars. Junior Khalil Shaheed should bring a major boost to the backcourt come January, a transfer from Wheeler that likes to get out and run. Still in the mix are quality guards Jordan Barnes and Christian Ramsey along with forward Jalen Knight.

Douglas County

R5-AAAAAA
(10-15; 8-8)
No Playoffs

The Tigers sunk to 10-15 overall but finished a respectable 8-8 in the difficult Region 5. Douglas County has more than enough guard play to shake up the region and earn a state tournament berth but it won’t be easy. The tandem of junior Malik Battle and senior Rodney Lewis is a formidable one. Lewis at 5-foot-10 has a slight frame, but can drill threes when left open and also does a good job of getting his teammates involved, averaging a Tiger-best 3.8 helpers a game last year. 6-foot-3 senior Rickey Clark shot 44% from three while 6-foot-5 Ernest Randle brings a physical presence heading into his senior season.

Grovetown

R3-AAAAAA
(5-19; 3-7)
No Playoffs

Augusta-brand basketball hasn’t always translated well to the rest of the state in the bigger classifications lately, but in the weak Region 3, there’s no reason why Grovetown can’t grab a state playoff bid and improve from their 5-19 overall mark. The senior trio of Eric Graham II, Emmanuel Bryson III and Nick Tolbert bring experience to the backcourt. Graham is a steady producer that can shoot the ball and make the right decisions. Bryson relies on his defense to convert into offense. 2016 Class A-Private All-State Honorable Mention point guard Jelani Shakir moves in from Aquinas while 6-foot-8 project Jeremiah Smith is a load at 230 pounds that will help from Minnesota. The Warriors have more than enough talent to finish near the top of a region that saw only two teams finish above .500 and had all four teams swept in the first round of the state playoffs.

Paulding County

R7-AAAAA
(11-18; 8-8)
First Round State

The Patriots earned a state playoff bid with an 11-18 record in Region 7 and have a chance to improve on that mark in 2017-18. Second Team All-Region selection Tyron Summerour paces the backcourt along with fellow seniors Vance Anderson and McEachern transfer KJ Shade. Junior Michael Seymour has seen success as a part of a growing stable of guards. The Patriots have some size as well with 6-foot-6 junior Josh Broughton returning and 6-foot-7 Elijah Brown-Kane transferring in from Minnesota for his senior season.  6-foot-3 sophomore Kevin Brown has impressed at forward this fall. Region 7 is up for grabs with Carrollton the slight favorite, but don’t be surprised if Paulding County crashes the party and posts their best win total in years.

Woodland-Stockbridge

R4-AAAAA
(10-13; 7-9)
No Playoffs

It will be a climb to grab a top four seed in the competitively deep Region 4, but the Wolfpack have reason for optimism coming off their 10-13 (7-9) season with junior point guard Jalen Mason taking over the reins. The former Miller Grove Wolverine is an outstanding athlete that has already made an impact on the football field as a wide receiver, but his long-term potential is on the hardwood. The highlight maker will join forces with 6-foot-6, 266-pound offensive lineman Shakeel Shaw who takes up space in the lane.

Dougherty

R1-AAA
(15-7; 3-3)
Not Eligible For Postseason

Quietly, Dougherty was one of South Georgia’s better programs last season but due to multiple infractions under former head coach Ty Randolph’s watch, the Trojans had to forfeit their 2016-17 postseason eligibility. Legendary head coach Rufus McDuffie, a five-time state champion at Mitchell-Baker High School, stepped in and guided the Trojans to impressive wins over state playoff teams Westover, Lee County and Glynn Academy, along with beating all four state tournament teams from Region 1 at least once including region champ and Sweet 16 finalist Crisp County. Dougherty is anchored by Georgia’s biggest blow up prospect from the summer, 6-foot-11 senior Carlos Curry. The mobile center has received offers from Power 5 conferences and will get a chance to prove his worth his senior season. Curry is comfortable taking the outside shot and rebounds well. He will need to finish stronger around the basket. He will team up with 2019 6-foot-5 banger Justin Jackson, another tough player to keep off the glass. As seen at the high school level, you don’t win with big men, so Dougherty’s guards will have to play a major role for the Trojans to have more success. Sophomore Rod Jones and junior Jordan Green, a transfer from Albany, are expected to see major minutes.

Monroe Area

R8-AAA
(15-15; 6-4)
Sweet 16

Only two seniors graduate from a mildly disappointing 2016-17 team that never quite cemented itself as the second-best team in the region behind state runner-up Morgan County. The Hurricanes still earned a postseason victory over Sonoraville before meeting their demise against Westside-Macon. All-Region 8 performers 6-foot-7 Elijah Goodman, Devin Sheets and Isaiah Glasper are set to return with major experience now under their belt. Bolling DuBose will be roaming an unfamiliar sideline after coaching 41 years at Jefferson. A fast start will be imperative for Monroe Area after they stumbled out of the gates to an 0-5 start last year.

Rabun County

R8-AA
(11-15; 5-7)
No Playoffs

They aren’t in a friendly region, but Rabun County returns nearly everybody back from last season’s streaky three-point shooting team. All-Region pick Bailey Fisher is coming off of a 17.3-point-per-game campaign and will be joined by fellow senior Tevan Dixon, who tore his ACL after 11 games. Dixon averaged a team-high 21.7 points while adding 6.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game before going down. A healthy Dixon provides an aggressive scorer that isn’t afraid to shoot from all three levels. Junior guard Chase Buchanan is a three-point specialist that drained 40-of-95 threes (42%) while attempting just 13 shots inside the arc. Rising sophomore Braxton Hicks averaged 9.7 points per game while senior Grayson Lane was the Wildcats best post presence chipping in 8.4 points, 5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a night. With Fisher and Hicks on the football field to open the season, Rabun County might take a while to hit their stride.

Northeast-Macon

R3-AA
(6-21; 3-9)
No Playoffs

It’s time. It’s time for Northeast-Macon to come of age and battle for a playoff spot. Juniors Darius Dunn and Ty’ree Gilbert are both locks to pass the 1,000-point plateau this season. There’s no debating that the slight-of-build guards can fill it up offensively, but now it’s time to rack up the wins. Dunn, 6-foot-1, poured in 20.7 points per game and is coming off of a hot summer while Gilbert dropped in a cool 17.3 as a sophomore. The third-head of the attack is sophomore Cameron Cherry, a 6-foot-3 guard that has all the physical tools to be the best of the bunch when all is said and done, but he has to lock in and not rely on his potential to carry him. The big three will be relied upon to score early and often. With Dunn and Gilbert now upperclassmen, youth should no longer be an issue.

Georgia Tech team camp analysis

I made it out to Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Here are the camp’s biggest takeaways.

The Return of the Messiah

Messiah Thompson was one of the top performers at camp. The 5-foot-9 2019 point guard started his career at North Atlanta before transferring to Pebblebrook for his sophomore season. Now back home at North Atlanta, Thompson resumes the role as lead dog. Thompson plays with a chip on his shoulder and is the unquestioned engine for the Warriors. He posted 18 points, five assists and three steals in a blowout win over Harrison and followed up with a 17-point showing against Dacula. Thompson has a good feel for the game and court vision which allows him to make his teammates better. He scored from beyond the arc and when attacking the basket.

North Atlanta should be much improved from their 7-18 mark not just because of the return of Thompson, but the addition of fellow Pebblebrook transfer Andrew Robinson, who brings energy at 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-4 junior Joshua Johnson who was mightily impressive in his first impression. Josh is extremely active and athletic which helps him finish around the basket and rebound. He had 11 points and eight rebounds against Harrison. The nucleus of 2019 players could have North Atlanta competing in Region 7-AAAAAA sooner rather than later.

Fitting In

Quincy Ademokoya suited up for Dacula after recently transferring in as a highly touted 2020 prospect from Illinois, but it was easy to see that Ademokoya is not yet a finished product, though he showed flashes of a solid skillset. He was passive in Dacula’s 54-53 win over North Atlanta. The 6-foot-6 wing finished with three points, seven rebounds and two assists. Both Dacula and Ademokoya are still in the feeling out process as to where he best fits in. Once he finds his role and synergy with his new teammates, Ademokoya should be able to gel. He is in good hands with Dr. Russ Triaga and an established core of Falcons.

Arusha Hunter

One player who had no trouble taking charge was 2018 shooting guard Arusha Hunter. Hunter has continued to rise his game to the next level. After averaging just 4.2 points per game as a sophomore, Hunter turned in 17.3 a night his junior season leading to Class AAAAAA Most Improved honors. Against North Atlanta the 6-foot-2 scorer poured in 26 points, assaulting the basket. Hunter went 16-of-18 from the foul line, crafting his way into the paint at will. With Mekhail Bethea sidelined with a leg injury, Hunter shined and got buckets when needed.

See Ya Seniors
Coach Eugene Brown addressing the Panthers after a win over St. Pius

Four seniors with major experience and a combined 29.8 points per game between them have left the Southwest DeKalb program. The mass exodus is quite ponderous, but Southwest has more than enough to be competitive with talent dripping from the Class of 2020.

Point guard KD Johnson is a fierce competitor that makes all the plays down the stretch. Johnson seemingly has a magnetic pull to the rim, always finding a way to slice and dice his way to the cup and finish strong. Johnson has the chance to be one of Georgia’s best finishers by the time he’s a senior. While he is a respectable three-point shooter, if he can improve his stroke even more, it will be tough to stop him.

Eugene Brown III is still a gazelle on the floor and looks taller every time I see him. Brown is about 6-foot-3 and has a chance to squeeze at least two more inches out of his frame. Brown can handle the ball in transition and covers ground quickly with his long strides. Playing key minutes as a freshman alongside Johnson will bode extremely well over the course of the twosome’s career.

6-foot-6 rising junior James Glisson III showed promise in the Panthers’ 47-44 comeback victory over St. Pius. Glisson finished with 13 points and six rebounds. Senior Demarion Johnson will be asked to provide leadership on a young team. He was active against St. Pius, using his 6-foot-3 build to snag nine points and five rebounds.

Same old St. Pius

With nearly everyone back from last year’s Class AAAA state runner-up roster, St. Pius is still one of Georgia’s most efficient offenses that maneuver with precision cuts and passes. Everett Lane looks ready to grab ahold of the No. 1 option title if there is one in St. Pius’ balanced attack. Lane has thrust his way into the discussion as one of the best shooters in the Class of 2018.

Floor general Matt Gonzalo enters his junior season and continues to orchestrate the offense at a high clip and handle opposing ball pressure. He is the type of player who won’t wow you with big numbers, but if you see him in person you will truly be able to appreciate what he brings to the table.

The Golden Lion forwards had a nice weekend. Zach Ranson played above the rim and finished around the hoop. Rising junior Patrick Snipes caught my eye with his work out of the post, facing up and using his quickness to get by defenders and create advantages.

Milton Maturing
Donaven Hairston

Milton is looking to restore their momentum after an interesting season resulted in just a 14-14 record, but good enough to steal a Region 5 title away from Lambert. Gone is Duke-signee Alex O’Connell, meaning the keys to the car officially belong to rising sophomore point guard Christian Wright. Wright had just six points against St. Pius, but he showed he could turn the corner and get in the lane when he felt like it. Teams will surely key in on slowing him down this year meaning Donaven Hairston will have to step up. The 2019 point guard is slight of frame but still can sneak past defenders and score in traffic. He turned it on in the second half against St. Pius, scoring 17 of his game-high 18 in the frame.

Cherokee County’s Finest
Adrian Cohen lines up a foul shot

Etowah is now the team to beat in Cherokee County after peaking at the right time and capturing a Region 4-AAAAAAA championship and a Sweet 16 berth. Coach Jason Dasinger takes over as head coach and will look to continue to ride the momentum that Milton head man Allen Whitehart put in motion. Dasinger inherits a very good group headed by Jaxon Etter, Adrian Cohen and Julian Baldwin.

Etter, a late blooming 2019 who really came out of nowhere last year, is a steady 6-foot-3 guard with deceptive quickness. He works all levels of the floor and can score the ball. Etter uses controlled dribbles, backdowns and head fakes to ensure he gets clean looks. He poured in 23 points and five rebounds in a 52-51 loss vs. Tri-Cities.

Cohen is a 6-foot-5 wing that has been putting it all together and has a chance to stamp himself as a Low Major prospect with a good senior season. His three-point shot is now a weapon after diversifying his game from just being a slasher.

Baldwin was not in attendance at camp meaning Carter Ingersoll took his minutes. The rising senior is an old school post that uses positioning and body control to score inside. He takes his time and is methodical while working the pivot and showcases some nifty post moves. He finished with 11 points and nine rebounds against Tri-Cities.

Tri-Cities Impresses
Jon Young

Tri-Cities can shoot the ball when they are on. The surprise Class AAAAAA quarterfinalist used a difficult Region 5 to prepare themselves for the state tourney. The Bulldogs have some firepower coming back and see some new faces join the roster as well.

DaMarcus Johnson is a microwave scorer at point guard. The 2019 shooter can catch fire from deep. He is 6-foot on a good day but makes the most out of his size with his quick burst and ability to create his own shot. To play at the next level, Johnson will need to continue to work on making his teammates better.

One teammate who should easily benefit is 6-foot-4 senior Eli Lawrence. The lanky lefty is lights out when he gets going. He dropped in 15 points in a win over Etowah. Lawrence will be joined by Jon Young, who was fabulous in the first half, scoring 16 of his 18 points. Young was on fire, drilling threes and scoring off the bounce. He will benefit from Johnson and Lawrence’s scoring threat. Young is now on his third school entering his senior year. He began at Westlake and bounced to New Manchester for his junior season before coming to Tri-Cities.

6-foot-7 Zachary Morgan brings an interesting dynamic to the Bulldogs. He is a grown man inside strapped with muscle. He didn’t get many opportunities to score the ball, but he showed he could face up and attack the hoop. Defensively, he can alter shots and clean the glass.