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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. Ashley 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.


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.


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.


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.

Gainesville press frustrates Miller Grove


No. 2 Gainesville 84, No. 2 Miller Grove 65

It didn’t take long for the 2016-17 GHSA season to give us a doozy of a matchup, albeit still just a scrimmage. Class AAAAAA Preseason No. 2 Gainesville hosted Class AAAAA No. 2 Miller Grove as the Wolverines took to the floor for the first time without familiar face and seven-time state championship winning coach Sharman White leading since the program’s inaugural season in 2005.

The Miller Grove machine piloted by Rasul Chester looked like it was ready to keep clicking, jumping out to a quick 8-0 lead against the hosting Red Elephants behind two Jalen Mason threes. Gainesville got off to an inauspicious start, Kajuan Hale blowing a wide open layup off the tip and struggling with turnovers, but the Elephants quickly put the slow start behind them and began to gain their footing thanks to their potent junior class.

Jarred Rosser got Gainesville on the board at the 5:33 mark and Bailey Minor chipped in the first of four three-pointers on the night to steady Gainesville. Miller Grove stifled the Elephants early, altering shots at the rim. 6-foot-7 junior Kevin Paige swatted away six shots on the night and pitched in a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. A bucket along the baseline gave the Wolverines a 16-7 lead at the 1:30 mark of the first quarter, Miller Grove humming along.

Things changed.

Gainesville ratcheted up the pressure with their full court press and saw Miller Grove start to breakdown. The Wolverines were hampered with early foul trouble, 10 to 2 in the first quarter and Gainesville capitalized, closing the quarter down 18-16.

The length between Jarred Rosser, Jarrel Rosser and KJ Buffen disrupted Miller Grove. The Elephants consistently trapped the first pass and continued to harass the Wolverine ball handlers in the half court as well. The end result was a 31-to-5 Gainesville run that swung into a 38-21 advantage.

Hale started to assault the basket with his quickness. He scored seven points from the line in the second quarter while Minor punished Miller Grove for leaving him open in the corners, dropping in 14 of his game-high 20 points in the first half.

As the turnovers forced by the Gainesville press and the fouls continued to pile up, the flustered Wolverines unraveled, picking up two technical.

Senior Tae Hardy, an explosive scorer who will be counted on to pour in points, was held scoreless by Hale and the rest of the Gainesville defense before his first hoop at 2:16 in the second quarter, Miller Grove down 43-25.

Giving the Wolverines a pulse was Lorenzo Anderson. The junior guard tossed in seven of his team-high 18 points in the first half.

Traditionally a strong three-point shooting team, Miller Grove’s only deep balls came in the first minutes of the game via Mason as the likes of Hardy and George Wilson struggled to find the range. Miller Grove limped into the half down 48-27, Hardy unable to connect on a tough lay-in at the buzzer.

But as any proud program goes, the Wolverines didn’t go down without a fight in the second half. Gainesville led 52-29 with 5:55 remaining in the third quarter before Paige sparked life into the Wolverines. The big man met Buffen at the rim and rejected a dunk attempt, igniting the fast break. Hardy turned it into an And-1 and missed the free throw, but that was all the microwave needed to will his team back into the game.

Hardy went off, scoring 12 of his team-high 18 points in the frame. The Wolverines chipped away with an 18-to-7 run to bring the game to 59-47 with 50 seconds left, but Austin Long banked in a straight away three and Miller Grove picked up their fourth technical of the game.

Brent Kelly followed up a Mike White miss at the buzzer and all of a sudden, a once narrow 12-point game was ballooned back up to 67-49 entering the fourth.

My Take:

It’s only logical for Miller Grove to be a little down this year, but even after tonight’s performance I don’t think the Wolverines are a team to overlook. Joshua Jackmon should return by January after tearing an ACL in the offseason. His leadership from the bench was apparent tonight. Miller Grove would have loved to have the senior out there on the court. But even without the defensive ace, they played aggressive pressure defense with their guards in the half court early on, but once fouls became a problem and Gainesville was able to dictate tempo with their full court defense, everything changed. Tae Hardy was kept in check with two points in the first half. He tried to put on his cape in the third quarter, but too many turnovers and emotions for the entire team deterred their comeback. Miller Grove has talented guards, but aside from Hardy, the simple fact is they haven’t played big time meaningful minutes at the varsity level. This was a good test for them against a strong Gainesville team. The talent is there, but it will take time for the Wolverines to put it together. The lack of a lead guard that could clear out and break the press all by himself hurt Miller Grove. I’m not sure whether or not that’s a lack of expertise ball handling or just great Gainesville length on defense. The two bright spots throughout the night for Miller Grove were juniors Lorenzo Anderson and Kevin Paige. Anderson did a very nice job in the open floor and was able to finish at the cup. He looks like a guy that could emerge. He came off the bench and took a ton of minutes away from sophomore Maurice Harvey who hardly saw the floor after starting. Not positive whether it was foul trouble, injury or just getting lost in the shuffle, but Harvey didn’t tally a single stat when he was on the floor. Paige is a guy that has gotten better every time I’ve seen him. He didn’t play a whole lot down the stretch during Miller Grove’s state title run last year. I got my first glimpse at him over the summer and he has come a long way. Not just a big space eater anymore, Paige showed a great motor flying in for rebounds and turning back six shots on defense. His double-double was a pleasant surprise. Miller Grove doesn’t really run any set plays for him and let him get the ball off the glass. If he develops some post moves, he could be an interesting piece come his senior year.

Well, well, well. Gainesville has all the pieces you want to be considered a serious state championship contender in Class AAAAAA. Five players cracked double figures with two more on the verge. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Bailey Minor is a college basketball player. I cannot fathom how teams let him drift to the corner unguarded for open threes. Not only did Minor can four deep balls, he showed a nice baby hook in the lane and collected seven rebounds and three blocks. KJ Buffen, Jarred Rosser and Jarrel Rosser are long glasses of water. Jarrel played atop Coach Benjie Wood’s press and made it nearly impossible for the Miller Grove guards to get past him when he would double team with Kajuan Hale and others. The Rossers and Buffen play above the rim. Buffen showed an all-around floor game with a couple smooth glides to the basket. He picked up six rebounds and five assists in the win. Hale had a shaky start to the game but he picked it up once Gainesville’s defense started to translate into offense. He’s a quick guard that has good court vision. He alongside Xavier Bledson will be sure to dish out some highlight dimes this season. Mike White came off the bench and played with a wrapped hand. Once he’s healthy, he brings another strong wing athlete that can shoot it. Definitely can’t forget about the play of Austin Long. The epitome of a role player, Long did good things when he was on the floor and hit a huge three to stymie Miller Grove’s third quarter push.


Top Performers

Bailey Minor – 20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks
Kajuan Hale – 12 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
Jarrel Rosser – 11 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
KJ Buffen – 10 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block
Jarred Rosser – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks
Xavier Bledson – 8 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals
Austin Long – 7 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal

Miller Grove
Tae Hardy – 18 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals
Lorenzo Anderson – 18 points, 6 rebounds
Kevin Paige – 11 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks
Jalen Mason – 8 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 steals

Chase Walter Slams McIntosh Into History

No. 3 McIntosh 87, No. 6 Gainesville 84

In front of a sellout crowd at home, No. 3 McIntosh (28-2) survived No. 6 Gainesville (21-6) to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history as a program-changing senior class played its final game at The Tosh. It was only fitting that over the emotional roller coaster of a season which included Isaac Kellum’s crosstown transfer from neighboring Fayette County High School to be red-flagged causing him to miss the first 13 games of the season, that his presence late in the fourth quarter along with the rest of a battle-tested senior class and a finish you had to see to believe, would lift the Chiefs to a date with No. 5 Riverwood at Columbus State on Friday.

Even with the electricity in the air, an imposing obstacle stood in McIntosh’s way in the form of the D’Marcus Simonds-led Gainesville Red Elephants. Simonds, a Georgia State signee, and the rest of Hall County’s finest came out firing. After Wofford signee Dishon Lowery got the Chiefs on the board with a physical move inside against Bailey Minor, the Red Elephants began to spread the Chiefs out on the perimeter and started knocking down open looks created by Simonds who finished with four assists.


The break-neck pace resulted in Lowery picking up his second foul just seconds after throwing down a vicious one-handed slam on Minor. Gainesville held a 19-8 lead late in the first thanks to three three-pointers – two from Harry Oliver – but Will Washington sparked a 4-0 run to end the quarter trailing 19-12.

In the second quarter Gainesville sophomore Xavier Bledson entered the game for Coach Benjie Wood and made an immediate impact. He drove the lane and went behind the back to KJ Buffen for a flush before later receiving a pass atop the arc, ball faking causing his man to fly by and calmly sinking one of his two triples in the frame, giving Gainesville a 30-20 lead.

As Bledson was making plays off the bench, the capacity crowd slowly started to quiet as a raucous Gainesville following cheered on the Red Elephants. Gainesville took its largest lead, 37-24 midway through the second before Furman signee Jordan Lyons drained one of his three deep balls in the game to bring the deficit back to 10.

Washington, Lyons and Kellum combined to score 23 of McIntosh’s 25 points in the quarter as the Chiefs entered the half down 46-37 after Simonds pumped in nine points in the quarter while the Red Elephants drilled six threes in the opening 16 minutes. Eight players scored for Gainesville in the first half causing headaches for Coach Jason Eisele who at the moment looked as if he had finally run into a team that could match his own’s firepower.

The first three minutes were crucial coming out of the break. Either Gainesville was going to step on McIntosh’s neck and not let them back in the game, or the Chiefs would find one last way to go out with a bang in front of the Peachtree City faithful.

The Chiefs opened with a quick 4-0 spurt sparked by Washington’s theft of Simonds near midcourt, closing the lead to 46-41. After the two teams exchanged buckets, Coach Wood called for timeout while the home crowd roared in full throat.

McIntosh continued to crawl back in the game, but Simonds did everything in his power to thwart the comeback, catching back to back alley oops from Messiah Dorsey with a layup sandwiched in between.

Washington netted six points in the first four minutes to draw McIntosh within striking distance before it was Lyons’ turn to swoop in for two quick acrobatic finishes to give the Chiefs their first lead since 2-0, 54-51 with 4:11 remaining in the third.

Back and forth the two teams battled. Simonds rejected Washington on a fast break.

Soon after, Lyons splashed a three to tie the game back at 58 followed by a Washington steal and two-handed throw down on a fastbreak to make it 60-58 in favor of McIntosh. The Chiefs pushed the lead to 63-58 with 26 seconds left when Lowery gobbled up one of his game-high 15 rebounds and outletted a perfect ball to Washington for an And-1 layup; Washington exploding for 13 points in the quarter and a team-high 31 for the game.

But of course, Gainesville, who had battled its own share of adversity all season long, quickly tied the game at 63 with a Dorsey layup at the buzzer after a steal.

The fourth quarter will become folklore in the McIntosh history books and a bitter pill to swallow for Gainesville.

Again, both teams battled trading bucket for bucket with highlight finishes galore. Buffen gave Gainesville a quick lead on a putback dunk making it 65-63. Over a minute later Lyons connected on back to back hoops to regain a 70-69 lead. Every time it looked like one team would take a comfortable lead, the other squad’s star would take over. Simonds poured in 13 of his game-high 34 points in the final quarter scoring at will while attacking the rim.

At the 3:23 mark, Buffen fouled out with six points and seven rebounds with Gainesville trailing 74-73. Kellum sank both free throws after the foul pushing the lead to three points with just over three minutes separating each team from an Elite Eight appearance.

Gainesville edged back ahead on consecutive baskets via Simonds, highlighted by a dunk making it 77-76.

On the right block Lowery felt pressure in the post and kicked out to Kellum in the corner for a potentially momentum shifting three-pointer making it 79-77 with 2:24 left, Kellum’s 12th point of the game. Gainesville tied it back up at 79. Washington streaked to the hoop and laid off a pass for Lowery for an easy finish regaining McIntosh’s lead at 81-79. Bledson picked up his team-leading fifth assist off the bench coming off an inbound to Michael White for Gainesville’s only three-pointer of the second half, the Red Elephants back on top 82-81 with 1:11 remaining.

Washington snaked his way into the lane to snatch the lead back and after a Gainesville miss and a Lowery rebound, the big man was sent to the line for a 1-and-1 with 36.9 seconds left and McIntosh up one. Lowery nailed the first, but the second hung on the rim and rolled off the front lip as if a gust of wind blew it ever so slightly causing it to fall astray, setting up the wildest finish of the GHSA season.

Simonds quickly tied the game at 84 with 21.9 left. McIntosh moved the ball up court and took a timeout with 8.4 remaining. The following play, the ball was deflected out of bounds with 5.2 seconds left, giving McIntosh a chance to throw it in underneath Gainesville’s hoop.

With the best passer in school history taking the ball out, Gainesville somehow lost track of 6-foot-6, 215-pound senior Chase Walter in the corner. Walter darted into the paint as Simonds vacated the area to account for Lyons popping out to the top of the key. As he did that, Minor forgot to check his rear view mirror and Walter snuck in behind him, received the pass from Washington and stuffed in a two-handed slam with 1.1 seconds left while taking the foul from Minor, a gym-shaking And-1.


The crowd erupted, the McIntosh players went nuts and sound of the whistle was not at first heard. As everyone tried to regain their composure to figure out what just happened, valuable seconds ticked off the clock during the chaos. The three-point play and whistle occurred with what looked like 4.2 seconds left.  The referees gathered and had a decision to make. Put time back on the clock or leave the Red Elephants with 1.1 seconds.

The crew decided to stick with the 1.1 ruling, meaning Gainesville would need a miracle after Walter sank the free throw to make it 87-84. Gainesville whipped a pass to Dorsey just inside mid-court for a last second heave. The senior’s shot looked on target but fell a few feet short as the Red Elephants season ended and the standing room only crowd celebrated.

Top Performers

Will Washington – 31 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds, 4 steals
Jordan Lyons – 24 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Dishon Lowery – 13 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks
Isaac Kellum – 12 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
Chase Walter – 7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks

D’Marcus Simonds – 34 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block
Bailey Minor – 9 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Tae Turner – 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
KJ Buffen – 6 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Xavier Bledson – 6 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists
Harry Oliver – 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal
Messiah Dorsey – 7 points, 2 assists
Michael White – 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block

Double-tech does in No. 4 Gainesville at No. 3 Wheeler

No. 3 Wheeler 82, No. 4 Gainesville 69

D'Marcus Simonds was TwoSpicee at times for Wheeler
D’Marcus Simonds was TwoSpicee at times for Wheeler

A controversial double-technical spoiled what was an outstanding game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as No. 3 Wheeler held off No. 4 Gainesville 82-69.

Gainesville (11-4) entered with just one actual loss and two via forfeit at Lanierland while Wheeler (14-5) strolled in with five straight wins. The litmus test that followed was as stiff as any in the state could face; the feisty Red Elephants at the six-time state champs, highlighted by last season’s 6A title team.

Wheeler entered the game without Cam Jordan at forward, leaving much work to do for the supporting cast. The Wildcats got everything and more from Makhai Eastmond and Kenny Aninye. Eastmond scored 13 points – nine in the first half – while Aninye netted 14 and grabbed six rebounds in his new found starting role. The 13-point final score was not a reflection of how the game unfolded however.

Georgia State signee D’Marcus Simonds started the three-point barrage by hitting Messiah Dorsey to open the game. The Red Elephants sank five threes in the opening period, two apiece via Michael White and Dorsey. Gainesville would finish with seven triples in the first half, but only added one more to the tally in the second half.

While the Elephants were bombing from deep, Darius Perry and unsung hero Makhai Eastmond kept the Wildcats afloat. Perry scored seven of his game-high 21 in the opening period while Eastmond hit two threes to help the ‘Cats head into the second quarter down 19-18.

Darius Perry made all the big plays when Wheeler needed them
Darius Perry made all the big plays when Wheeler needed them

Wheeler opened the second quarter on a quick 7-0 spurt and at the 6:12 mark now up 25-19 after taking their first lead of the game with 7:11 to play, Simonds picked up his third foul. The Wildcats extended their run to 16-to-4 before Simonds checked back in, the Elephants now trailing 34-23 with 3:50 remaining in the first half. Everything seemed to click whenever Simonds was on the floor and while Georgia Tech signee Romello White took a breather on the bench, Gainesville began to attack the basket. Tae Turner, who scored all 10 of his points in the first half, drove for an And-1 and cut the Wildcat lead to 36-30 with 2:06 left.

Momentum swung back into Wheeler’s favor when Perry drilled a straight away three at the buzzer to give the host Wildcats a 43-36 edge heading into the half.

With Simonds back on the floor, Gainesville made another push. He threw down a dunk in transition then added another bucket in the open floor to make it 47-44 before picking up his fourth foul 30 seconds later at the 4:31 mark.

The pesky Eastmond hit a jumper to stabilize things for Wheeler and would spark an 11-5 run to open up a 58-49 lead with 1:29 to play in the third. Then Simonds checked in. The 6-foot-4 guard willed his team back into the game. Within seconds of re-entering, Simonds picked up an assist, hitting Dorsey for a three and then picked Eastmond’s pocket for a layup to bring the score to 60-54. With seconds remaining and Wheeler holding for a last shot, Simonds played the passing lane, picked off a pass and exploded for a thunderous two-handed jam right before the horn to close the gap to 60-58 entering the fourth. His return to the floor ignited an 11-0 run and gave the Red Elephants all the momentum early in the final period as Gainesville had finally caught up to the Wildcats after Simonds came away with another theft up front and boomed home another slam.

On the next possession, Wheeler was sent to the line. The crowd and Simonds still amped up about the dunk, during the free throw attempts on the other side of the court Eastmond and Simonds were jawing. Simonds, known for his fiery play and emotions, finished the back-and-forth with Eastmond and began walking up to the other side of the floor to get ready for the second free throw. While Simonds approached the play, Eastmond followed close behind… a little too close for the referees as they blew a double-technical. With the game tied at 60 with 7:30 remaining and in the midst of an 11-0 run, Simonds was fouled out on the tech.

Simonds’ final line in limited action read: 14 points, four rebounds, six assists and five steals. With the playmaker fouling out, Gainesville had to turn to Dorsey and Michael White. The two combined for nine points in the quarter, but Gainesville would be outscored 22-to-9 with Simonds fouled out.

Anyine scored five consecutive points to push Wheeler’s lead to 71-67 with 2:54 remaining before Romello White finally began to wear down the smaller Elephant frontline. He scored back-to-back And-1s and sparked a 14-2 run to end the game.

My Take: Gainesville looked as if it were going to live and die by the three-pointer early on in the game but the Red Elephants kept coming even with D’Marcus Simonds saddled with foul trouble. A lack of elite size inside hurt Gainesville, who used a frontline of 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6 to try and counter Romello White’s legit 6-foot-8. Sophomore KJ Buffen, who is more of a three, battled valiantly alongside fellow sophomore Bailey Minor against White. Buffen showed flashes offensively with his 12 points, but struggled from the line going 4-of-11 including 0-for-4 in the fourth quarter. Michael White and Messiah Dorsey stretched the defense with their shooting and are great pieces around Simonds. Tae Turner played well with 10 points in the first half, but went scoreless in the second half. Minor blocked four shots, but was never able to establish himself offensively on the low block. Simonds was the best player on the floor today with his explosiveness and quick hands. His plus/minus numbers were through the roof. You take the good with the bad with the caliber of player he is. Some people might classify him as a hot-head with his demeanor on the court, but I liked his emotion and didn’t think any of it was over the top. To be blunt, the referees really botched the double-technical. It didn’t look as if any stern warnings were given and they blew the whistle on a costly interaction which took place in the heat of the moment. Gainesville deserves its top five ranking and will be a scary team to deal with in the AAAAA state tournament.

Wheeler found a way to win without Cam Jordan. As good as Simonds was, Perry was just as good but without the flash. He consistently got big buckets for the Wildcats and went 8-of-8 from the line. Game-ball might have to go to Makhai Eastmond. He is the weakest link for Wheeler but he stepped up big time and played one of his best games, hitting two big threes in the first quarter while Gainesville was on fire and later on baiting Simonds into his fifth foul. Kenny Aninye also played a great game and picked his spots when to attack. His 5-point spurt in the fourth helped give the Wildcats the lead for good. Romello White slammed the door shut with his size as Wheeler began to pound it down low. White posted back-to-back And-1s in the fourth, with the first coming the hard way, cleaning up a miss and powering up strong. He scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter and finished 5-of-8 from the line for the game. Al-Wajid Aminu didn’t have a ton of jaw dropping plays, but boy does the North Florida signee have a motor that doesn’t quit. He is always around the ball when it comes off the rim and is a glue guy that does the little things on defense. He finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Top Performers

Darius Perry – 21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
Romello White – 15 points, 15 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Kenny Aninye – 14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Makhai Eastmond – 13 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Al-Wajid Aminu – 11 points, 10 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

D’Marcus Simonds – 14 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals
Michael White – 14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block
Messiah Dorsey – 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
KJ Buffen – 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Tae Turner – 10 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal
Bailey Minor – 5 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 4 blocks

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.