Tag Archives: GAC

GHSA State Championship Recaps

March 7 – Macon Centreplex

Class AA

Laney Wildcats basketball

(G) R4 #1 Laney 63, R4 #2 Josey 40 The Wildcats ripped off a 12-0 run after trailing 16-15 to find the cushion they needed to blow past Josey for a fifth time this season and win their second-straight state title and 62nd game in-a-row. Alabama-signee De’sha Benjamin was unstoppable with 19 of her game-high 26 points in the first half when it mattered most. She finished with 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Laney led 29-20 at the half, holding the Eagles to 22.7% shooting. Jhessyka Williams tacked on 19 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Jaiden Hamilton tallied 14 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists as the third head of the Wildcat attack. Josey finished just 29.5% from the field and 3-of-14 from deep. Tykedra Rolland (10) and Rhykeria Rolland (7) were held to 17 points total. Ebony Clark led the Eagles with 12 points and 7 rebounds.

Thomasville Bulldogs basketball

(B) R1 #1 Thomasville 66, R2 #3 Vidalia 31 It was a blood bath from the opening tip as the bigger and more athletic Bulldogs ran wild with a 13-0 start. Sloppy Indian ball-handling led to turnovers while lazy transition defense accounted for six Bulldog first half dunks. The Indians shot 4-of-24 from the field (16.7%) and 1-of-14 from deep in the opening half as the Bulldogs led 41-10 at the break. McDonald’s All-American and Mississippi State-bound forward Reggie Perry finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks. Vonterius Woolbright added 17 points, 7 assists and 3 rebounds. Titus Wright had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. Vidalia was led by Tahj Jones’ 10 points. The Indians finished 2-of-25 from three. Thomasville outscored Vidalia 40-20 in the paint and had 22 points off turnovers.

Class A-Public

Greenville Lady Patriots basketball

(G#4 Greenville 73, #3 Marion County 52:  While Marion County came out double-teaming reigning Class A-Public Player of the Year and Mississippi State-signee Brittany Davis, the rest of the Lady Patriots picked up the slack, helping Greenville grab a 21-10 first quarter lead and building it to 43-26 at the break. Davis finished with 30 points (5-20 FG; 19-20 FT) 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 1 block in her final game. Freshmen Shabrica Leslie and Jabrika Leslie came up big, Shabrica posting 14 points and 5 rebounds while Jabrika had 12 points. Nuriyah Slaton finished with 8 points, 16 rebounds and 5 steals. The Lady Patriots grabbed 24 offensive rebounds and put up 26 second-chance points. Greenville out-rebounded the bigger Eagles 54-46. Marion County was led by Torriunna Myers’ 15 points. Jameisha Williams chipped in 8 points. Ansley Whitley battled for 7 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks.

Wilkinson County Warriors basketball

(B) #3 Wilkinson County 71, #5 Montgomery County 68: The Blue Storm took over the Macon Centreplex again, as the Warriors completed the three-peat, captured their 10th state title in school history and their sixth in the last eight years. Wilkinson County survived a gutsy performance from senior wing Jahleel Wilson who nearly willed the Eagles past the Warriors who are now 10-0 in state title games. Wilson had 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 blocks as he carried the Eagles. Daveaun Coglin finished with 19 points but shot 7-of-24 from the field while Shaw Robinson, who scored 22 in the Final 4, finished 2-of-11 from the field with 5 points. Wilkinson County showed they could play a fast pace game, running up and down with the Eagles in the first quarter, taking a 21-18 lead after one. The two teams entered the half tied at 38. 6-foot-6 senior center Tylan Grable came off the bench to give Wilkinson County 11 points and 14 rebounds. Montgomery County fell behind 62-54 at the 2:44 mark of the fourth quarter but Wilson powered the team back into it, getting help from Daquan Jackson who netted two late hoops. Robinson came away with a steal and a layup to cut the lead to 67-66 with 29.2 seconds left. Having to foul, the Eagles sent Raequan Smith and Brandon Mayes to the line, who went 4-for-4. With 10.7 seconds left, Coach Christopher Owens drew up a three-point look for Robinson, who struggled all night. The guard that averaged 19 points per game on the season, shot an air-ball, sealing the Eagles’ fate. Wilkinson County was paced by Jaylen Lamar’s efficient night, shooting 9-of-14 from the field for 22 points. Devin Jones chipped in 12 points and 4 assists in the win. Montgomery County out-shot the Warriors 72-to-50, but Wilkinson County sank 50% of their shots while Montgomery connected at a 36.1% clip and just 3-of-18 from three.

March 8 – Macon Centreplex

Class AAA

Johnson Atomsmashers girls basketball

(GR3 #2 Johnson-Savannah 62, R7 #1 GAC 50: The Atomsmashers atoned for last year’s state title game flop by locking down the paint and shutting down a potent GAC offense with three D-I commits. 6-foot-5 senior Giana Copeland swatted 7 shots in the first 6-plus minutes of the game and finished with 3 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks total.  GAC shot 1-of-15 in the first quarter and just 22.1% for the entire game.  Down 52-39 in the fourth quarter with 2:27 left, the Spartans finally made their move, sparking a 9-1 run to close to within 53-48 with 1:27 left. But from that point on, Bubbles Williams, J’Mya Cutter and Jasmine Thompson combined to go 9-of-10 from the line to ice it. Cutter finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds while Thompson added 13 points and 8 rebounds. Williams finished her career with 12 points and 4 assists. Caria Reynolds (Hofstra) led GAC with 13 points and 11 rebounds on 3-of-15 shooting. Taylor Sutton (MTSU) scored 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting and Wofford-bound forward Mary Martha Turner had 6 points and 18 rebounds. Kennedi Williams gave the Spartans a spark at guard with 10 points and 7 assists.

Greater Atlanta Christian basketball

(B) R7 #1 GAC 67, R3 #2 Jenkins 53: The Spartans turned a 25-20 halftime deficit into a state title under alumnus David Eaton. Ben Sheppard keyed a 24-point third quarter by sinking two of the Spartans’ four trifectas in the frame. Sheppard scored 8 of his 15 points in the quarter as the Spartans edged ahead with a 44-38 lead and would never trail again, bouncing back from a 15-1 run that gave Jenkins the lead at the half. Hunter McIntosh iced the game from the line in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of his game-high 19 points in the final eight minutes including finishing 14-of-19 from the stripe. Michigan football-commit Chris Hinton piled in 12 of his 16 points in the second half and collected 4 rebounds and 4 assists in the process. Roy Dixon scored 13 points to help the cause. Jenkins was led by Sai Fisher’s 12 points and Mye’on Williams’ 11 points and 6 rebounds. Matthew Sams netted 10.

Class AAAAA

Buford Lady Wolves basketball

(G) R8 #1 Buford 60, R8 #2 Flowery Branch 49: Buford defeated Flowery Branch for the fourth time this season and seventh in the past two years as the Lady Wolves repeated as state champs and won their sixth title in school-history. Buford held Flowery Branch under the magic number of 50 — all three of the Wolves’ losses this season coming when they allowed over the half century mark. Michigan State-signee Tory Ozment poured in 15 of her game-high 28 points in the first half to go along with her 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Ebony Grant added 12 points. Flowery Branch was paced Alabama-signee Taniyah Worth who finished her career with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists before fouling out with 1:11 remaining down 60-48.  Caroline Wysocki struggled from the field going 1-of-7 to finish with 10 points.

Warner Robins Demons basketball

(B) R1 #1 Warner Robins 67, R5 #3 Miller Grove 64: In a tug-of-war game to finish a less than competitive week back at the Macon Centreplex, Jacolbey Owens drilled a three with 1.3 seconds left to give Warner Robins their first-ever state championship. Miller Grove got off to a hot start, up 15-6 in the first quarter behind eight quick Lorenzo Anderson points. At the end of one, the Wolverines held a 15-10 lead and kept Georgia State-commit Nelson Phillips scoreless. Phillips scored his first basket at the 5:31 mark with the Demons down 19-14 in the second quarter. At the half, Miller Grove maintained a slim 31-29 lead. While Phillips was 3-of-8 from the field, Jacolbey Owens led the charge with nine points but shot just 3-of-7 from the line. In the third quarter, Phillips flew in from the left baseline corner to throw down a one-handed put-back jam to push the Demon lead to 39-35. A Jaydon Norman layup capped a 12-2 run for Warner Robins, giving them a 43-35 lead at the 2:44 mark. The Demons carried a 51-44 advantage into the final frame, but Miller Grove would not go away. After a quiet third quarter, Anderson scored 8 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth. With 2:33 left on the clock, the Wolverines caught up to the Demons at 60-60. Owens was sent to the line where he was 3-of-10 at the time and as a team, Warner Robins was 18-of-32 at that point. Owens sank both free throws and did the same at the 1:54 mark to make it 64-60. The Demons finished 22-of-36 from the line (61.1%) while the Wolverines didn’t fare much better at 66.7% (16-of-24). Down four, Anderson got to the line and converted both attempts. Less than a minute late, Maurice Harvey, who finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals, did the same, knotting the game up at 64 with 51 seconds remaining. The Demons held for one shot. Instead of getting the ball in the hands of star Nelson Phillips, who finished 6-of-15 for 16 points and 10 rebounds, Coach Jamaal Garman saw Owens control their destiny. Owens went to his left, pump faked, and sailed a three over the outstretched arm of TJ Stargell, drilling it — Warner Robins’ only made three of the game (1-for-11) — sending the crowd into a frenzy. Warner Robins went out to celebrate, but the Wolverines got a second chance at life, as the referees added 1.3 seconds back on the clock. Miller Grove’s final inbound heave was fumbled away, giving the Demons a state championship just 21 miles away from home. Owens finished with 24 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Jaydon Norman added 13 points and 5 rebounds. The Demons collected 18 points off turnovers and out-rebounded the larger Wolverines 43-to-36, grabbing 22 offensive rebounds. Miller Grove received 11 points from Terrence Edwards and 7 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists from TJ Stargell.

March 9 – McCamish Pavilion

Class A-Private

Wesleyan Lady Wolves basketball

(G#6 Wesleyan 61, #1 Holy Innocents’ 44  After beating the Wolves three times in the regular season, Holy Innocents’ kryptonite rared its ugly head again on the biggest stage. After blowing a 17-point lead last year in the title game, this time the Golden Bears trailed through out and lost to Wesleyan for the third time in the past four state championships. The Wolves’ repeat was led by Furman-signee Sutton West’s 17 points and 8 rebounds. AC Carter had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Old Dominion-signee Amaya Register scored 12 points and freshman Paige Lyons added 10 points and 6 rebounds. UGA-signee Kaila Hubbard finished her Holy Innocents’ career with 18 points and 4 rebounds.  Jada Farrell  had 13 points and 9 rebounds while freshman Jillian Hollingshead tallied 5 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks. Kennedy Suttle, a Penn-signee that had 16 points and 13 rebounds in last year’s final, was held to 4 points and 7 rebounds. As a team, the Golden Bears shot a woeful 27.1% from the field.

(B) #6 Aquinas 65, #4 St. Francis 60: St. Francis missed three three-pointers in the final 33 seconds as Aquinas won their first-ever state title. The Knights led 33-26 at the half, weathering a 12-to-4 foul count and a 13-of-15 free throw shooting effort, but in the third quarter, the game came to a screeching halt. The Irish outscored St. Francis 25-to-9 in the third as both Tre Gomillion and Trent Bowdre scored 8 apiece in the quarter. As a team, the Irish connected on 10-of-12 field goals in the third after shooting 6-of-19 in the first half. Aquinas controlled a 51-42 lead heading into the fourth. Dwon Odom scored nine of his game-high 22 points in the quarter. At the 6:47 mark of the fourth quarter, the Irish held a 55-48 lead. The Knights fought back and cut the deficit to 61-60 after Odom collected a steal and drained a three-pointer in transition with 48.7 remaining. The Knights had Daniel Parrish trapped in the corner on the press, but were called for a foul that sent the South Carolina move-in to the line. Parrish missed the front-end of the one-and-one, giving the Knights one last look with 8.9 seconds showing on the clock. Coach Drew Catlett designed a misdirection play that found CJ Riley open in the corner for a good look, but his three-pointer was off and Parrish secured the rebound, knocked down both free throws and clinched the title. As a team, the Irish went 24-of-27 from the line. St. Francis opened up 15-7 in the first quarter going 4-of-9 from deep, but finished just 6-of-26 for the game. Gomillion led Aquinas with 16 points and 14 rebounds after having just four points at the half. Dajuan Hill added 15 points and 5 rebounds while Parrish (14) and Bowdre (10) each hit double figures. Riley finished with 18 points and 4 assists for the Knights. Chase Ellis was quiet with 10 points.

Class AAAAAA

Lovejoy Lady Wildcats basketball

(G) R4 #1 Lovejoy 57, R6 #1 Harrison 41: Lovejoy used a 12-0 run to start the fourth quarter, outscoring the Lady Hoyas 23-to-5 to gain control and win their first-ever state title. After being held to 1-point in the first half, Genesis Bryant scored nine in the third quarter to spark the Wildcats, but Lovejoy still trailed 36-34. In the fourth quarter, it was fellow sophomore Anaya Boyd’s turn to carry the load. Boyd finished with 20 points and 5 rebounds, scoring nine in the fourth quarter. Bryant finished with 14 points. Avanna Preston scored 8 points while Kayla Brown collected 8 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks. The Wildcats cut down on their turnovers after committing 12 in the first half and finished with 16 on the night. Harrison turned it over 17 times, seven times in the second half. The Lady Hoyas were led by GCSU-signee Harper Vick’s 10 points and 4 assists. Sarah Woghiren had 8 points and 7 rebounds. Eastyn King and Amara Newsom each had 6 points. UAB-signee Audrey Jordan fouled out and was held to just three shot attempts, finishing with 4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

Langston Hughes Panthers Basketball

(B) R5 #1 Langston Hughes 85, R8 #1 Gainesville 78: In front of alumnus Deshaun Watson, Gainesville led by as many as 14 points at 42-28 at the 2:05 mark of the second quarter and carried a 45-38 lead into the half, but the Panthers of Langston Hughes would not be denied, as Coach Rory Welsh and company repeated as state champs. Saddled with foul trouble the entire game, the Red Elephants were able to control the tempo and slice up the Panthers defense in the first half. Kajuan Hale scored 13 of his 15 points in the half while Gainesville made Virginia Tech-signee Landers Nolley work for everything he got, scoring 16 points but also facilitating with five assists. Down seven points, Langston Hughes needed players other than Nolley to step up. Tyrel Morgan scored eight of his 14 points in the first half to provide support, but Tyler Smith was quiet with just three points and two rebounds.  Following a dormant opening 16 minutes, Smith brought a spark, scoring eight points in the third as the Panthers surged past Gainesville to take a 65-59 lead into the fourth. Gainesville’s final lead of the game came at the 2:16 mark of the third quarter up 57-56.  Middle Tennessee State-signee KJ Buffen scored all 13 of his points in the first half but sat in the second with foul trouble, only managing to take two shots in the second half. Not tested since their 83-81 comeback win at Buford on January 20, the Red Elephants faced adversity for the first time in a long time.  At the 1:47 mark of the fourth, Langston Hughes captured their largest lead of the game at 78-67 after a Tyler Smith And-1 and a technical foul on Brent Kelly that gave Nolley a pair of freebies. Instead of rolling over, the Red Elephants fought back in Coach Benjie Wood’s final game on the Gainesville sidelines. Bailey Minor completed a 4-point play, Hale split a pair of free throws and Rafael Rubel finished a layup to make it 78-74 with 1:13 remaining in the blink of an eye. Rubel would then add a three to make it 80-77 with 48 seconds to play, but that would be as close as the Red Elephants would get as Langston Hughes went 8-of-9 from the foul line in the fourth quarter. Nolley finished his illustrious career with three state titles — two in Georgia and three in a row including a sophomore championship campaign at Curie, IL. The future Hokie poured in 34 points (17-of-20 FT), 10 rebounds and 6 assists. Smith added 17 points. Gainesville was led by Minor’s 17 points. Rubel chipped in 12 points.

March 10 – McCamish Pavilion

Class AAAA

Spalding Lady Jaguars basketball

(GR2 #1 Spalding 58, R4 #1 Henry County 46: Sophomore forward Corriana Evans exploded for 19 points and 17 rebounds as the Jaguars raced past Henry County. Kirah Milner scored 9 points and Kiana Banks added 8 points and 9 rebounds. In the loss, Auburn-signee Brooke Moore had 21 points. Amaiya Jackson tallied 10 points and 8 rebounds. As a team, the War Hawks shot 6-of-29 from deep and 26.8% overall.

Upson-Lee basketball

B) R2 #1 Upson-Lee 70, R8 #1 St. Pius X 54: 63-straight. The Knights repeated as state champions, racing past the Golden Lions in the second half after trailing 33-32 at the break. With JaCorey Smith suspended, junior guard Jarrett Adderton stepped up. In his first showdown with the Golden Lions after transferring in from Florida in the off-season, the 6-foot-2 sparkplug provided the Knights with 16 points (7-11 FG) — 10 in the first half — 5 rebounds and 5 assists. St. Pius held their largest lead of the night at 33-25 after back-to-back Everett Lane threes with 1:04 left in the second quarter, but the Knights closed on a 7-0 run, capped by an Adderton block which led to a Tye Fagan layup with two seconds left. The Golden Lions drilled 5-of-14 threes in the first half and got eight points from Troy Stephens. But in the second half, the Knights slammed the door shut, St. Pius going 1-of-9. With the deep ball not dropping, the Golden Lions still harassed the Knights and trailed 44-40 with 1:19 left in the third before a Fagan layup and an Adderton jumper pushed the lead to 48-42 heading into the final quarter. In the fourth, the Knights ran wild as the Golden Lions’ tank was on E. A 14-2 run saw contributions from everyone, growing the lead to 64-47 with 2:49 showing on the clock. Fagan, a MTSU-commit, finished his high school career with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. Travon Walker helped the Knights dominate the paint for a second-consecutive time against the Lions, collecting 11 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks as the Knights out-rebounded St. Pius 43-to-28, blocked 11 shots and outscored St. Pius 40-28 in the paint. Zyrice Scott netted 14 points to go with his 4 rebounds and 5 assists. The X-factor in last year’s game, Everett Lane, finished with 11 points to pace the Golden Lions. Cameron Traylor drew the defensive duties and helped keep Lane in check as he took his first shot attempt at the 6:46 mark of the second quarter. Matt Gonzalo had 8 points and 4 assists while Zach Ranson added 9 points. The Golden Lions scored 19 points off 18 Upson-Lee turnovers. The Knights now await a call from the GEICO Nationals.

Class AAAAAAA

Westlake Lady Lions basketball

(GR2 #1 Westlake 60, R8 #1 Newton 45: Westlake led 39-32 at the end of three and pulled away late to claim their first state title. Anastasia Warren poured in 22 points while freshman Raven Johnson had 15 points and 11 rebounds including grabbing her own missed free throw and finishing a bucket inside to put the game out of reach at 50-41 with 1:13 remaining. Taylor Hosendove added 10 points and 6 rebounds. Newton was powered by Jurnee Smith’s 25 points and 6 rebounds. Lexii Chatman added 13 points and 7 rebounds.

Meadowcreek Mustangs basketball

(B) R7 #2 Meadowcreek 56, R7 #1 Norcross 43: For a second straight season, Norcross entered the state title game with momentum and labeled a slight favorite, but again it wasn’t in the cards. After beating Meadowcreek  three times this season, twice on buzzer-beaters, the Blue Devil magic ran out as the Mustangs used a 13-1 run to open the fourth quarter and squeeze Norcross into submission, capturing their first-ever state championship. Dequarius Nicholas scored 10 of his game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, going 5-of-6 from the foul line. Brandon Boston fouled out at the 6:10 mark with Meadowcreek up 38-37. With Boston’s 13 points on the bench, the Mustangs outscored Norcross 18-6 the rest of the way. Kyle Sturdivant finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds, but his late-game heroics never came into play. Meadowcreek pounded the interior all night, outscoring the Blue Devils in the paint 30-to-16. Duquesne-signee Amari Kelly posted 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks while Detroit-signee Cory Hightower put up 6 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. Meadowcreek closed out the game with a bang at the 1:55 mark as freshman Kedrick Green delivered a behind-the-back pass to Jamir Chaplin for a big slam to make it 46-37.

Chaplin finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds while Green added 5 points. Meadowcreek tallied 12 assists on the night compared to just two for the Blue Devils. As a team, Norcross was held to 31% shooting. UGA-signee JoJo Toppin had 8 points and 7 rebounds while Issa Muhammad managed 4 points and 4 rebounds. Norcross shot 1-of-14 from three.

12-8 Top Games Preview

Norcross-CHillNo. 4 Norcross (4-1) at No. 6 Collins Hill (4-0)
The power struggle atop Region 7-AAAAAA officially begins as two early favorites to win the crown do battle. The Eagles nipped Norcross in their first meeting early last year 70-68 before the Blue Devils went on a rampage and finished 13-1 in the region. Size has always been a crucial advantage for Norcross with 6-foot-8 towers Rayshaun Hammonds and Lance Thomas, who can score inside and out. But this year, the Eagles have added some imposing size of their own down low. AJ Cheeseman is a 6-foot-6 power forward that has signed to play at New Orleans. Chris Parks is only a sophomore, but he is a big active body at 6-foot-5 and can mix it up with the longer Blue Devils. Kai Lambert, JD Ozoh and TeShaun Hightower must be X-factors and hit open shots for Collins Hill if they want to slow down Norcross, who features strong guard play of their own in Kyle Sturdivant, Jordan Goldwire and Chris Curlett.

Gaines-CedarNo. 2 Gainesville (3-0) at No. 5 Cedar Shoals (7-0)
Region 8-AAAAA has quietly blossomed into one of the best regions in the entire state behind Gainesville, Cedar Shoals and No. 6 Heritage, not to mention the always ready to take over a game, Butler signee Kamar Baldwin of Apalachee. This matchup will be the Jaguars first major test of the season. Gainesville has defeated 2A No. 2 St. Francis (without Kobi Simmons) 70-58 at the Jared Cook Classic and rallied from down 11 at the half to knock off Heritage, 85-79 last week. Georgia State signee D’Marcus Simonds poured in 26 points in the comeback while Bailey Minor added 20. The Red Elephants have plenty of pieces and can beat teams in a variety of ways. KJ Buffen is a blossoming star forward, Tae Turner is a Lakeview Academy transfer and Messiah Dorsey and Xavier Bledson have both hit big shots over their career. Phlan Fleming is usually the focal point of the offense for Cedar Shoals from his wing position, but Snipe Hall, Jerrick Mitchell and big man Stavion Stevenson have brought the Jags to the next level with their balanced play.

Pace-GACNo. 5 GAC (4-3) at No. 2 Pace Academy (0-2)
Don’t let the record fool you. Pace may be winless but they have held on tight to their No. 2 ranking for good reason. A 7-point loss to 6A No. 1 Westlake and a 56-44 loss this past weekend at Adidas Xplosion to 1A No. 1 Greenforest are as good of losses as you can get. Class of 2017 No. 1 overall player according to many pundits, Wendell Carter Jr., is a beast inside at 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball, shoot from the outside, protect the paint and may be the state’s best rebounder. Shooters Zack Kaminsky and Caleb Holifield are lethal from the outside while Isaiah Kelly brings an active 6-foot-8 body inside to pair with Carter. GAC is working its way back to full strength. Leading scorer Brian Coffey Jr. will try to give it a go at point guard after injuring his knee last week. Garrett Covington can do everything with the basketball and causes matchup problems from his off-guard position. Jacob Hoffman came down with an ankle injury in a 75-67 overtime win over rival No. 6 Holy Innocents, but when healthy, he is one of the best shooters in the state. Freshman guard Hunter McIntosh is tough to rattle as shown when he poured in 27 points in Coffey’s absence. Charlie O’Briant stands 6-foot-8 and will be a game-time decision after a severe laceration to his lip. He and big man Chris Hinton, 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, will need to put a body on Carter the entire game and try to push him outside like Greenforest did successfully.

Grayson-BerkmarGrayson (5-0) at Berkmar (3-3)
There is a long line of talented teams waiting to crack the top ten in Class AAAAAA. Berkmar opened there, but quickly dropped out. Grayson now might be the next in line to seize the opportunity. Some of the best guards in the state will be going head-to-head in this Gwinnett County Region 8 slugfest. Austin Dukes and Alphonso Willis is a pair of lethal senior guards for Coach Geoffrey Pierce’s team. Dukes scored 23 points and handed out five assists in a 58-52 win over Centennial. There also is some balance behind these two guards. Trey Sconiers, Kenyon Jackson and Hafeez Anifowoshe are all important contributors scoring and rebounding the ball. Berkmar relies of Indiana-commit Al Durham to cook up offense. The lanky yet smooth southpaw can drive the lane and burry deep threes. Running mates Jay Estime, Darius Harrison, Josh Faulkner, Leroy Jones IV and Lane Foster make the Patriots extremely deep on the perimeter.

Hughes-PebblePebblebrook (3-4) at Langston Hughes (6-1)
Make no bones about it, Region 3-AAAAAA is the most athletic and exciting region in the state bar none. Expect the points to drop at a neck breaking pace and get your popcorn ready because there will be highlights galore night in and night out, especially when Pebblebrook rolls into town. At 3-4, the Falcons are much better than their record shows and are loaded with D-1 talent in Auburn signee Jared Harper, Collin Sexton and JJ Smith. Those three are the straws that stir the drink. They like to run-and-gun and pull up for deep threes, but they can be susceptible to breakdowns on defense. Harper averages over 30 points per game and Sexton went for 40 points in a 96-94 heartbreaking loss to 2A No. 2 St. Francis at Adidas Xplosion, in which the guards forgot to rotate back on Harper’s shot with 8 seconds left, allowing St. Francis to pitch the ball ahead for an uncontested Kobi Simmons dunk with 1.1 seconds remaining. Coach Rory Welsh likes to run his inverted flex offense which can pick teams apart if they aren’t fundamentally sound on defense. Junior guard Khalil Cuffee has D-1 written all over him. He may not be as flashy as his counterparts, but his steady game and his pure three-point stroke make him hard to stop. He is averaging 18.4 points per game and gets help from Derrick Cook (16.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists) and Justin Jones (10.6 points). Isaiah Green can be an X-factor with his toughness inside and his knack for doing the dirty work.

Freshman and Senior Duo Carries Shorthanded No. 6 Spartans

No. 6 GAC 75, No. 5 Holy Innocents’ 67 OT

The power struggle for control of Region 6-AA officially began Thursday night as No. 6 GAC (4-3) found a way to knock off host No. 5 Holy Innocents’ (3-2) in overtime, 75-67. The Spartans entered the game on a two-game losing streak, but more importantly, without leading scorer, junior point guard Brian Coffey Jr. and 6-foot-8 center, Charlie O’Briant. With two big pieces out, Garrett Covington and Jacob Hoffman were expected to shoulder the load, but it was a level-headed freshman that made possibly the biggest impact of the game.

To open up the night, both teams traded baskets with Hoffman knocking down a three. The senior would roll an ankle however, soon after and would gingerly walk off with the game tied at 7. While on the bench, Cole Smith of Holy Innocents’ caught fire. He scored nine of the Golden Bears’ 13 points in the first quarter and would score 19 of his game-high 29 points in the first half.

One of Cole Smith's five three-pointers on the night
One of Cole Smith’s five three-pointers on the night

Hoffman returned to action later in the first quarter and finished with eight points on the day. The Spartans trailed 13-11 at the end of one. With Holy Innocents’ committing six first quarter fouls, the Spartans seemed destined to live at the line in quarter two, but the Golden Bears didn’t pick up foul number seven until under two minutes to play in the half. GAC pushed ahead 24-19, but Holy Innocents’ used a 14-4 run capped by a Jules Erving putback dunk and a layup to enter the half leading 33-28.

With Coffey sidelined and Hoffman gimpy, someone needed to step up for the Spartans. That someone was freshman point guard Hunter McIntosh. The cool youngster scored half of GAC’s points in the first half with 14 and finished with a team-high 27.

Smith bombed his fifth three-pointer of the night with 46.3 seconds left in the third quarter to extend Holy Innocents’ lead to 48-41, and would take a six-point 50-44 lead into the final period of play…or so we thought.

The Spartans continued to chip away and stay within striking distance while the Golden Bears tried to push ahead with a student section dressed in tacky Christmas sweaters roaring them on. Coach David Eaton implemented a press at the 7:17 mark of the fourth quarter, trailing by four. While GAC was able to disrupt the Bears offense somewhat, Brent Duncan started to go to work inside. The high-flying big man scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half to try and stave off the Spartan charge, but it was not enough.

As GAC continued to inch closer and closer, the play on the court got wilder and wilder with more and more whistles. Just under the three minute mark, the craziness which got the Spartans officially back in the game and over the hump occurred. Big man Chris Hinton, all 6-foot-5, 240 pounds of him, drew an and-one bucket, but missed the free throw. His miss was kept alive by Covington, resulting in the ball bouncing back to Hinton who laid it in to make it a four-point possession and draw the Spartans within one at 60-59.

Garrett Covington was all over the court
Garrett Covington was all over the court

At the 2:05 mark, Duncan hit Harrison Cobb for a jumper to extend the lead to 62-59.

Covington would answer with a steal and a layup making it a one-point game again with 1:36 remaining. Jules Erving was fouled and sank two free throws to go up 64-61 with 48.5 seconds left in regulation.

Jules Erving impressed me again with his versatility
Jules Erving impressed me again with his versatility

Anthony Carter, who ended up with five points, eight rebounds, two assists and four steals, was fouled with 22.2 seconds left for GAC. Earlier, he had missed a pair of foul shots at the 3:26 mark trailing 58-55. Carter atoned for his misses. He sank his first free throw and missed his second, but for the second time in the fourth quarter, Garrett Covington crashed the offensive glass and batted the ball off the backboard. The ball landed in Carter’s hands, who was following his shot, and he was able to lay it in and tie the game with around 15 seconds to play.

Free throw rebounding was an issue down the stretch for HIES
Free throw rebounding was an issue down the stretch for HIES

Ibrahim Shabazz had a final look from the top of the key as the clock expired coming out of a timeout seen here, but the shot went awry. We were heading to overtime.

In overtime, it was all Spartans. Covington, who finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, drove the lane and kicked out a pass over his head that looked wild. That wild pass was right on the mark hitting Jacob Hoffman, who proceeded to bury the triple. Soon after, Covington drove again and found Basil Peterson for the jumper after Hinton spun baseline against Duncan and powered it up for two more on the previous possession. GAC’s quick 7-0 spurt in overtime proved to be the dagger as the Golden Bears wouldn’t threaten again, giving the shorthanded Spartans a huge 75-67 victory.

My Take: Thursday night basketball is something I can get used to. What a game this was; back and forth the whole way. Every time it looked like either team was going to pull away, the other would respond. To be honest, I had no idea who Hunter McIntosh was before tonight. Now I know. The freshman guard looked as calm and collected as it gets in a hostile environment as he had to take on the lead guard duties with Brian Coffey injured. When I found out he was a freshman, I couldn’t believe it. He wasn’t making any crazy plays or flashy moves; he was just solid and knocked down every open shot he had. Garrett Covington showed why he is a Gwinnett Daily Post Super Six selection and did everything out there tonight. In overtime alone he had two assists and a handful of rebounds to close it out. Burly Chris Hinton grinded his way to eight big points and did a good job on Brent Duncan down low. Jacob Hoffman splashed home an early three, but after hurting his ankle, he wasn’t able to be as explosive. He gutted it out and played with a grimace on his face. His big three in overtime gave the Spartans the separation they needed. After the game, Hoffman was seen limping out of the locker room with his shoe off. Hopefully it’s not too serious.

This was my second time seeing Holy Innocents’ play. They have three players that can take over a game any given night as they all showed flashes. Cole Smith might as well be called the baby faced assassin. He doesn’t look like your prototypical go-to player, but his handles are tight and his stroke is as pure as it gets. Duncan had a slow first half but began to carve up GAC inside during the second half. Jules Erving once again impressed me. He scored 12 points, grabbed nine rebounds, collected seven assists, two steals, two blocks and guarded Covington during most of the night. Talk about a busy night. Harrison Cobb played well. He fouled out with 22.2 seconds left in regulation and his calming presence yet intense play was missed in overtime. He finished with eight points, five rebounds and three assists. It will be fun to watch these two teams duke it out again this year as they jockey for position atop Region 6.

Top Performers

Greater Atlanta Christian
Garrett Covington – 23 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
Hunter McIntosh – 27 points, 3 rebounds
Chris Hinton – 8 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks
Jacob Hoffman – 8 points
Anthony Carter – 5 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals

Holy Innocents’
Cole Smith – 29 points, 2 blocks
Jules Erving – 12 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Brent Duncan – 14 points, 4 rebounds
Harrison Cobb – 8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists

Primer: No. 6 GAC (3-3) at No. 5 Holy Innocents’ (3-1)

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.

Coffey Ready To Energize Greater Atlanta Christian

In Class AA, No. 4 Greater Atlanta Christian has seven state titles to its name. After a 19-10 season and a second round exit a year ago, former two-time region champion as a player, David Eaton, steps in to try and capture the school’s eighth championship. Coach Eaton replaces Eddie Martin, the maestro behind numerous state championships, most recently during his tenures at GAC and Norcross.

With a new head coach in place, leading scorer Garrett Covington, Jacob Hoffman, Charlie O’Briant and Brian Coffey Jr. all return. Coffey, a junior, holds offers from North Florida, UNC-Asheville and Presbyterian already. When asked about becoming an upperclassman and playing for a new coach, Coffey said that learning how to play for Eaton has been an easy transition.

“So far everything has been running smooth. He definitely trusts me with the ball, so our relationship can only grow from there,” explained Coffey. “He puts his trust in me and I trust his system so as the year goes on we’ll be fine.”

Going from a veteran coach to a younger coach who has seen success himself while at Wando High School in South Carolina winning a state championship in 2013-14,  there have been some changes in coaching style and philosophy.

Photo By Gwinn Davis/Special to The Post and Courier/File
David Eaton                                                                        Photo By Gwinn Davis/Special to The Post and Courier/File

“It’s not necessarily a big transition but it’s definitely not the same. Last year I usually ran the offense and looked for the open man first. But this season coach wants me to make some of the calls and make some of the decisions on the fly when I’m out there on the court…It’s basically having a lot more freedom to lead the team and have a say.”

With Coffey’s expanded role as a floor general, he feels like his leadership is ready to take the next step.

“They encourage me to talk a lot and I can sense guys looking up to me and turning to me for calls. I feel like they accept me as a leader on the team.”

No Days Off

Coffey and the rest of the Spartans will be challenged each and every night playing in the tough Region 6-AA which features the likes of No. 2 Pace Academy, No. 6 Holy Innocents’ and Lovett. Going up against some of the best talent the classification has to offer brings out the best in the competitive Coffey’s game.

“It’s definitely fun. You want to play against the best, not only to measure yourself against the best but just for the simple fact that it’s fun,” said the point guard who averaged 12.9 points and 5.0 assists per game as a sophomore.

Coffey received an early season litmus test against the defending Class A-Private state champions, St. Francis, on Saturday. The Knights boast five-star senior guard Kobi Simmons and Duluth transfer Anthony Showell, who together form one of the most potent backcourts in the state. In the end, the Spartans rallied from a three point halftime deficit to upend St. Francis 77-69. Covington led GAC with 22 points while Coffey added 21. For the Knights, Simmons poured in 23 and Showell paced all scorers with 24.

Does playing against highly touted prospects motivate Coffey?

“It gives me an extra drive. It should be a personal challenge to everybody because you’re measuring how you are against top competition. You should stand up to the challenge and not be afraid to play,” stated Coffey. “I like playing against top competition. It’s just a chance to make me more focused and more ready to play the game.”

When asked if there is one player that he enjoyed playing against or has his sights on for the upcoming season, Coffey mentioned two players.

“We played McIntosh last year. It got me going playing against [Furman-commit] Jordan Lyons. …This year I have to say Pace and Wendell Carter. We lost to them three times last year and I want to at least get a couple wins under my belt.”

This Is Sparta

Brian Coffey might be the lead ball handler for the Spartans, but he doesn’t power the offense alone. Garrett Covington a 2015-16 Gwinnett Daily Post Super-Six selection (16.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and Jacob Hoffman (12.1 ppg) are two of the team’s leading scorers and two guys he loves playing with.

Photo By David Welker | Gwinnett Daily Post
Garrett Covington                           Photo By David Welker | Gwinnett Daily Post

“All of them are great. We are all closer from last year. We all trust each other; we have fun with each other and have a great relationship on and off the court. We are all the leaders of the team. We get practice going and pick up the intensity in practice,” explained Coffey. “It’s never about one person. I can count on Garrett to score if he needs to score or Jacob to hit a big three. We have a lot of people we can depend on so it’s fun playing with those guys.”

Coffey touched on some of the Spartans’ key pieces further in depth.

“Jacob is someone who can knock down the open three whenever you need him. He doesn’t shy away from big shots when we need it. We can depend on him.

“G [Covington], he’s our toughest player on the team. He brings a lot of toughness and intensity in rebounding and on defense. He brings out our competitive spirit.

“Charlie [O’Briant] competes too. He’s going to bring us a lot of rebounds and he’s going to set good screens. On defense he is going to play hard; everyone plays hard.”

After finding out what three of GAC’s biggest pieces bring to the table, I asked Brian to assess himself and let fans know what to expect out of the talented junior.

“I don’t want a main emphasis on one certain thing, I want to able to do all things,” he explained. “I want to be able to facilitate with my guys and score when I need to. But I really want to bring leadership and confidence to the team.”

Learning From Last Year

Crawford County, the defending state runner-up, downed the Spartans 88-81 in overtime to end GAC’s season in the second round. This year, Coffey feels that the Spartans are ready to take a step further and challenge for another state championship.

“This year it’s not just about one person. I feel like just our comradery alone can help us get over that hump, because when you play for each other and not for yourself you tend to play harder.”

Brian’s unselfish play has not only gained respect from his coaches and teammates, but has also piqued the interest of college scouts. His recruiting has heated up and with a few offers already in hand, I wanted to find out exactly what the recruiting process of a high school basketball player is like. I asked Brian whether the process was what he imagined growing up or a whole different animal.

“It’s definitely different. I remember when I was a kid I was just hoping to get a letter, but now I know that letters don’t really mean anything,” explained Coffey.

“The recruiting process is something cool to go through but it can be stressful sometimes. At the end of the day you do enjoy it. I never knew it would end up like this but I’m happy with my progress so far and so far it seems to be picking up a lot and I just hope to continue to get better and earn more looks.”

As a player with realistic goals of playing Division-I basketball, does it ever get overwhelming or add an extra pressure to perform? Coffey doesn’t think so.

“When I play in the games I don’t think about colleges or anything like that. I just focus on playing for my team and getting the W. That’s all I care about: winning and playing for my teammates. It’s never just about me, it’s about the team.”

Speaking about winning, Coffey thinks the Spartans have as good a chance as anyone to make a deep run into the postseason and challenge for a Region 6 title.

“We are capable of doing it this year. If we win our region it’s going to motivate us and start us going towards the playoffs. I think we have a good shot.”

Feature Photo By Ty Freeman