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Coleman and Spells power Portal past undefeated Claxton for first-place

Portal 55, Claxton 50

33 miles apart, long-time rivals Claxton (13-1, 6-1) and Portal (16-6, 11-1) met in the Turpentine City to determine first-place in Region 3 A-Public. The Tigers of Claxton rolled in undefeated with a 59-50 win over the Panthers back on January 9, using a fast pace style of play loaded with quick football players and little size to speak of. Portal counters with three high-scoring freshmen and one of the best shot blockers Georgia. In front of a packed crowd, it was Portal who was able to hold on in a nip-and-tuck game Friday night to slide into first-place with one regular season game remaining.

Claxton came out of the gate hot, leading 8-2 and then 11-4 after Jamon Mangusho hit Cameron Arthur for a three in the corner, one of his three triples of the game.

6-foot-5 freshman Amir Jackson kept Portal afloat with buckets inside and saw Claxton settle for a 15-11 lead after one following a Josh McKeever assist to Brian Bacon.

Down 17-15, Portal began to make their push at the 5:33 mark. 5-foot-8 sophomore Elijah Coleman got loose with six quick points as the Panthers started to find a groove offensively. 6-foot-7 Fred Spells, one of the top shot blockers in Georgia last season, came off the bench and immediately changed the game. He swatted five shots in the first half and had a put-back slam to give Portal a 19-17 lead.

Wilken Washington drove baseline to make it a 6-0 run mid-way through the quarter.

A pull-up jumper from Jackson capped the Panther run at 11-2 as Portal extended their lead to 26-19 with 1:20 to play in the half.

The Panthers led 28-21 going into the break but saw Claxton regroup in the third quarter and charge back behind a Mangusho jumper and an Arthur offensive rebound to cut the lead to 30-28 at the 4:00 mark.

With Spells on the bench two minutes into the third quarter with foul issues, Claxton was able to get to the basket and breakdown the Panthers off the dribble with their quickness. The Tigers broke off a 12-3 run to lead 33-31 with 2:37 left in the quarter before Spells checked back in.

Immediately as Spells returned, the tides shifted again in favor of the Panthers. Spells emphatically rejected his seventh shot into the crowd before Portal finished the quarter on a 6-3 spurt to tie the game at 37 heading into the fourth.

The final stanza belonged to Coleman. He scored 12 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter to pair with his 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. A tough bucket inside pushed Portal ahead 44-41 and the Panthers led 47-45 with 2:18 remaining before Spells fouled out with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 9 blocks. With their game-altering post out of the game, Coleman kicked it into another gear, finishing through contact to extend the lead to 51-46 with 1:14 left.

Two Coleman free throws with 43 seconds left put the finishing touches on a decisive 6-1 jolt that ballooned the Panthers’ advantage to 53-46. Arthur hit a corner three with 15 seconds remaining to trim the lead to 54-50 but Claxton’s undefeated dream season ran out of time as Portal was able to hold on for a 55-50 win in front of a raucous home crowd.

My Take

Portal has a chance to be scary good by the time their 2024 core is seniors. While they will mightily miss the game-changing shot blocking of 6-foot-7 Fred Spells, the cohesion the trio will build playing together year-round at the high school and travel level will be invaluable. The head of the snake is 5-foot-8 Elijah Coleman. He’s very skilled for a freshman, especially at the Class A-Public level. He can get into the lane and finishes with strong body control. Coleman is a shifty creator that can squeeze in tough passes off the dribble to open teammates. The way he controlled the game down the stretch was impressive. He went 6-9 from the line in the fourth quarter and 11-21 for the game to finish with 23 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. 6-foot-5 Amir Jackson doesn’t look like a freshman. He has a strong frame that should pack on muscle over the course of his career. He finished around the basket and brought a tough rebounding presence. Jackson showed touch from the perimeter on a pull-up jumper. He has room for growth with his ball handling. Jackson contributed 13 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals. The third-head of Portal’s freshman triumvirate is Joseph Thomas, who’s father played at Indiana.  Thomas had an off night, but you could tell he has the shot-making gene in him. He’s got a projectable body on the perimeter at 6-foot and can score from the mid-range and beyond. He took some tough off-balance shots on Friday but managed to chip in 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block. Spells was the difference-maker for the Panthers. With a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Spells erases every shot remotely close to his area. His length lets him tap out rebounds and earn second chances. He will need to get stronger to play at the next level. He didn’t finish very well around the rim, but his athleticism and elite shot blocking make him an intriguing prospect that JUCOs have already taken notice of. Although their record isn’t as sparkling as Claxton’s, I really think Portal is the scarier team in the postseason due to their pieces. Spells, if he can stay out of foul trouble, can completely lock down the paint and if opposing teams don’t have enough floor spacers to pull him away from the basket or at least the ability to knock down open shots from the perimeter, they will struggle against Portal inside who also has Jackson’s strength around the rim. Portal’s 1-2-2 press and 3-2 zone are long and I could see Coleman and Thomas getting hot and causing some issues in the state tournament. They may not be true state title contenders just yet, but in three years don’t be surprised if Portal becomes a consistent threat to play in Macon.

Claxton is loaded with dual-sport athletes. Shakari Denson (Ohio) and Karon Taylor (Mercer) are two D-I football players. In fact, their entire starting five outside of Jamon Mangusho signed to play football in college earlier this week. The Tigers come at you in waves. While their tallest player stands just 6-foot-2 in Cameron Arthur, the Tigers make up for it with their pace of play and overall scrappiness. They attack on defense and rebound the ball well considering their lack of size. Arthur was their best scorer on Friday, totaling 16 points, 10 rebounds and 2 assists while hitting three threes. His effort around the rim and his ability to space out the floor hurt Portal. Mangusho excelled when he played the high post against the Portal zone. He hit a handful of jumpers and I liked his overall versatility and willingness to play a little bit out of position in order to help his team. The 6-foot-1 guard with a 3.85 GPA finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. Denson, 5-foot-11, added 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal while providing tough on-ball defense, helping hold Joseph Thomas to eight points. Claxton will feast on teams that don’t have above average guard play. Their footspeed and pound-for-pound strength make them tenacious on defense. Their size and lack of true skilled creators may hurt them in the long run, but their toughness and quickness will pose problems for teams in the state playoffs.

Top Performers

Elijah Coleman – 23 points (11-21 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals
Amir Jackson – 13 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
Fred Spells – 8 points, 7 rebounds, 9 blocks
Joseph Thomas – 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

Cameron Arthur – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists
Jamon Mangusho – 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals
Shakari Denson – 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal

Juniors ignite Redskins in three-point barrage against No. 3 Towns County

Social Circle 74, No. 3 Towns County 64

Winners of three-straight heading into Tuesday night’s rematch with No. 3 Towns County (12-3, 6-1), Social Circle (9-8, 4-2) looked to muck things up in Region 8-A and climb closer to the top of the standings before letting Towns County run away with the region. With a 64-58 win over the Redskins in tow, the Indians took to the floor for the first time since cracking the Top 3 in Class A-Public.

It was a fluid start for both offenses as Social Circle set the tone early draining three of their 10 three-pointers against Towns County’s 2-3 zone, but trailed 8-7 mid-way through the first quarter.

The Indians went on a 5-0 spurt keyed by Kolby Moss to extend the lead to 13-7 and lead 19-13 after eight minutes following Moss’ eight points.

Moss and Kabe Ellis continued to do damage in the second quarter and kept the Indians in front at 26-21 with 3:15 to play but KJ Reid would catch fire and ignite a 10-0 run to surge ahead 29-26 and never trail again.

Reid, who finished with a game-high 26 points and 6 rebounds, drilled three of his five three-pointers in the opening half and went into the break with 15 points as the Redskins led 31-28.

In the third quarter Coach Robert Benson came out of his zone, but Social Circle remained hot from deep with three more deep balls. As the Redskins started to pull away, the Indians began to get the ball inside. Collin Crowder hit Moss on a face cut to make it 39-34.

After dealing with some foul trouble and a fast pace game, Towns County decided to get 6-foot-7 junior Jake McTaggart involved. He would score eight of his 13 points in the frame, attacking middle and getting to where he could shoot over the defense from a few feet away.

With Taggart establishing himself inside, Social Circle still managed to hang onto a 47-40 lead after three behind the play of Reid and Tyrhell Branch.

Towns County cut the lead to 50-45 at the 4:49 mark but the Redskins would quickly extend the lead using the three-point shot as Cam Gaither got a fortunate bounce to make it 56-45 with 4:11 to play.

Gaither scored 11 of his 19 points in the final quarter as the Redskins would burry the Indians from the foul line when Towns County started to intentionally foul down 59-48 with 2:47 remaining. Social Circle sank 26-39 from the stripe including 17-25 in the fourth quarter with Branch hitting 6-11, Reid 5-6 and Gaither 6-8.

A trio of late threes, two via Aidan Berrong and one from Ellis accounted for Towns County’s only three-pointers of the second half after netting just one in the first.

My Take

I was a bit bullish on Social Circle heading into the season but was cautiously optimistic. The 2022 core of Preseason All-State 5-foot-9 point guard Tyrhell Branch, 6-foot-1 KJ Reid and 6-foot-1 Cam Gaither is a strong nucleus. Add in the size of 6-foot-6 sophomores AJ Vinson and Logan Cross along with 6-foot-2 junior jumping jack Amarion Russell and Coach Taylor Jackson has plenty to work with in Year 2 as head coach after guiding the Redskins to a 20-8 mark in Class 2A a season ago, their first 20-win campaign in over a decade. Sitting at 9-8, the Redskins are currently waiting outside the Class A-Public Top 10, but its not due to a lack of talent. Social Circle scheduled a grueling non-region schedule for an A-Public school and may be better for it, turning a corner with four-straight wins. Reid was great on Tuesday. I felt like Social Circle was settling for too many threes early on against Towns County, but they successfully shot them out of the zone with Reid sinking five and finishing with 26 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. He’s a wiry lefty that can create separation off the dribble to get clean looks from the mid-range and beyond. Branch is a more compact guard with muscle on him. He uses a quick burst to the basket and was able to drive and kick to shooters. He didn’t force any bad shots and was effective when he got in the paint, drawing fouls and going 13-18 from the foul line as he poured in 24 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal. Gaither and Russell were key. Gaither, another long lefty, provided offense at all three levels. He posted 19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal while Russell brought tremendous athleticism and effort in the paint. The bouncy southpaw plays bigger than his size with how he can attack rebounds and snatch them away from bigger players. If Social Circle can shoot anywhere near as well as they did against Towns County, they will be a tough team come state tournament time with how Branch and Reid are able to play off one another and create their own offense.

In the loss, Towns County still looked good. Between All-State 6-foot-1 guard Kolby Moss, 6-foot-7 Jake McTaggart and 5-foot-10 Kabe Ellis, all three can lead the team in scoring any given night. Taggart, a junior, moved in from Hayesville, NC while Ellis, a senior, transferred from Andrews, NC, giving Coach Robert Benson a suddenly deep and diverse team from last year’s 18-9 unit that was beat by GMC 77-57 in the first round of state. Moss finished with 24 points and 9 rebounds. He is the senior leader of the team and plays with a composed fire. He scores in a variety of ways. He’s a crafty finisher that has exceptional footwork when attacking off the dribble. He uses his body well to avoid shot blockers and can finish with either hand, using both his right and left to drop in floaters. Away from the ball, he cuts hard and looks to score when doing so. A majority of his points came in the paint but he is a capable outside shooter that has a high release that can be difficult to defend. Moss is the school’s all-time leading scorer and just received an offer from Young Harris. McTaggart is a bruising forward with skill. He posts hard and can attack off the dribble and can push the ball on the fast break. He finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block, but I thought he could have done a little more. Looking back, I don’t think he scored one bucket with his back to the basket on any drop steps. McTaggart uses the same move. He likes to spin into the middle where he can turnaround and shoot short shots over the defense. He has a nice touch but I would have liked to see him play with more power and go into the defense instead of fade away. His shot is nearly unguardable at the A-Public level with not many teams big enough to defend him, but in college it will be tougher to convert those shots when they are contested. McTaggart did do a nice job of drawing fouls on Social Circle but most of them were when he was posting up. He went 1-3 from the line. What gives McTaggart an advantage on most big men prospects is his versatility. He can get creative with the ball on the perimeter and can shoot the three. He’s a little heavy footed when he attacks but with his size and strength it doesn’t negatively affect him. McTaggart is a solid prospect. D-II programs should be on him hard. With a strong travel season, he could really gain some major attention. Another player I liked was Kabe Ellis. I thought he didn’t get to hunt his shot enough in the second half after scoring seven points in the first. He’s a quick guard with tight body control. He’s able to make plays off the dribble and get to his spots in the mid-range. I like his shooting touch and his overall skill level. He’s extremely tough at the A-Public level and he and Moss will give teams fits.

Top Performers

Social Circle
KJ Reid – 26 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Tyrhell Branch – 24 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Cam Gaither – 19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal
Amarion Russell – 5 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal

Towns County
Kolby Moss – 24 points, 9 rebounds
Jake McTaggart – 13 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
Kabe Ellis – 12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists
Collin Crowder – 7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block

Phoenix rise up to edge Warriors in The Furnace

Free Preview Week

No. 10 Sonoraville 55, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 51

In a season that has felt anything but normal, Friday night harkened back to the age of COVID-free basketball as No. 10 Sonoraville (16-0, 10-0) hosted Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (9-4, 7-3) in an important Region 6-3A battle. The Furnace was packed as the heat of the crowd helped spur the Phoenix to a 55-51 win continuing Sonoraville’s best start in the school’s 15-year history as they approach their record 23 wins behind a senior-laden group.

Coming off a statement win over No. 6 LaFayette 65-40, the Phoenix took to the floor for their third game in five days against a talented young Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe team. Sonoraville, who starts five seniors that have seen the good, the bad and the ugly over the course of their career, has risen from the ashes of irrelevancy to be the best team in Northwest Georgia this season enjoying a magical run. Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe on the other hand, is led by a trio of talented sophomores that turned the Warriors from a 12-14 team to a burgeoning 23-5 power a season ago.

Led by Kevin Morrison and Orry Darnell, Sonoraville got off to a good start. Darnell, a 5-foot-11 point guard, scored from the mid-range to knot the game at 5 early on before Morrison sank a long jumper to make it 8-8 at the 2:41 mark.

Morrison hit a pair of threes and scored eight of his 12 points in the quarter to give the Phoenix a boost, but the Warriors answered with three three-pointers and entered the second quarter trailing 15-11.

Super sophomore 6-foot-1 point guard Jamichael Davis got loose in the second quarter for LFO getting a slam dunk to spark him and then taking his man off the dribble to keep the Warriors within reach at 21-17 mid-way through the quarter.

While Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe looked to speed the game up and take advantage of their athleticism, Sonoraville was comfortable playing at their own pace and following the lead of Darnell, who would finish with a game-high 19 points and 5 assists. He would score on a lefty finish and then net a mid-range jumper to help keep the Phoenix in front 27-24 at the half.

The Warriors came out of halftime with purpose, turning to a 2-2-1 press to try and speed up Sonoraville and force some live ball turnovers. Davis thrived in transition and helped the Warriors gain momentum. He would finish with 17 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 steals and 1 block and set up Amari Burnett for a layup on the break to edge ahead 32-31.

Up 36-33 with 3:31 remaining in the third quarter and things starting to go LFO’s way, the tide turned on a game-changing play. Sonoraville had a fast break opportunity and Burnett hustled down the floor to clean up a potential miss, but his right knee buckled before he could go up for the rebound and he tumbled into a heap. Burnett would be helped off the floor and have ice applied, ending his day prematurely after leading all scorers at the time with 14 points, scoring inside and out and giving Sonoraville fits with his versatility and physicality.

With Burnett injured, 6-foot-2 forward Murray Somers started to take over. He would net nine of his 16 points in the quarter and finish with 10 rebounds. Somers got busy on the glass and hit a three at the buzzer to push Sonoraville to a 42-38 lead after three, closing on a 9-2 run after the loss of Burnett.

Without one of their most important pieces, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe continued to fight and nip away at the Sonoraville lead. Davis broke free for a transition slam to ignite a 5-0 run that would put the Warriors ahead 43-42, but Darnell and Somers hooked up for an And-1 to regain control at 45-43 with 3:57 remaining following Somers’ bucket and free throw.

In crunch time, it was Darnell and Somers’ time to shine. Sonoraville took the lead for good with 2:07 left on a Darnell three before Morrison got a putback with 1:58 remaining to extend the lead to 50-45.

Without a bucket in almost two minutes and scrambling for points, instead of a much-needed hoop, the Warriors saw Darnell come away with a steal with just 37.2 seconds to play. Following a pair of free throws, Cameron Gregg drilled a three to cut into the lead with 23.7 seconds left at 52-48. From there, Somers helped ice the game going 3-4 from the line to secure the 55-51 win.

My Take

While they may not be a state title favorite, Sonoraville will still be a tough out in the state tournament. Region 6-3A traditionally hasn’t been a juggernaut come playoff time, but there are a handful of solid teams. Sonoraville and Murray County are senior-heavy teams while Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe has the best young backcourt in the pocket of the state and LaFayette has big-game experience in February and has a star in 6-foot-7 Aidan Hadaway. With that being said, Sonoraville hasn’t compiled the resume that LaFayette has, who has won every game by double digits, but the Phoenix’s 65-40 destruction of the Ramblers speaks volumes. Aside from that win, Sonoraville has won games close and sometimes ugly. Out of their 16 wins, seven have come by 7 points or less. Their experience in tight games and their ability to know how to win when the game is on the line bodes well for a veteran group on the verge of making history. Orry Darnell is the head of the snake. The point guard plays with poise and very little flash. He orchestrates the offense and doesn’t need the extra razzle-dazzle to be effective. He excelled at getting to his spots in the mid-range and finding the open man. His timely play makes him the go-to guy when the game hangs in the balance capable of either being a scorer or facilitator. I thought Murray Somers was crucial down the stretch and is a versatile X-Factor. Listed at 6-foot-2, with his strong college-ready body and nose for the ball, Somers plays bigger than his size and can hurt teams inside and out. He was instrumental in helping shutdown Hadaway in their rout of LaFayette and on Friday, it was his 15 second half points that carried the Phoenix during stretches. Kevin Morrison stands 6-foot-4 and provides a similar inside-out diversity. He hit two early threes and crashed the glass inside.  Sonoraville is a team that plays hard and understands where their strengths and weaknesses lie. There is a synergy between the players and the staff led by Coach Brent Mashburn that helps the Phoenix when facing adversity. On the hunt for their first ever win in the state playoffs, if Sonoraville can secure home court advantage the Phoenix will be tough to beat in The Furnace.

Even with the loss and sitting at 7-3 in region play, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe is a scary team that no one will want to play come region tournament time. 6-foot-1 sophomore Jamichael Davis is a budding star. His electric athleticism and all-around floor game make him a complete guard. He can get to the rim with the best of them and can outjump anyone in the region. He will have to improve his outside shot, but few are better than Davis in transition. He and Dee Calhoun caused problems with their bounce and length. Calhoun is a solid role player that can chip in on the glass and defend multiple spots. The loss of Amari Burnett changed the game. At 6-foot-3, the wide-chested sophomore is a problem for opponents. The lefty can help stretch the floor and has nice footwork inside. He drained two threes before injuring his knee. If he is out for an extended period of time, it will hurt LFO’s chances of locking down a favorable seed. It was an off night for shooters Cameron Gregg and Brent Bowman. Bowman could never get into a flow, as he sat on the bench for long periods of time presumably with foul trouble. He started the game with a three-pointer and had some nice moves with the ball in his hands, but he could never consistently find his offense finishing with 4 points and 3 assists. Bowman has a lot of skill and when he’s on, he’s a three-level scorer that can torch defenses. The 2023 trio of he, Davis and Burnett should win many games and has the potential to be a major threat come state tournament time. I think those three could go toe-to-toe with many in Class 3A by the time they are seniors. Gregg, a senior, will be key down the stretch for LFO. His ability to stretch the floor alongside Bowman will give Davis plenty of drive and kick opportunities. Give credit to the Sonoraville defense to holding Gregg and Bowman to a combined 7 points, well below their combined 25.2 point-per-game average. I foresee bounce back games for both of them in the very near future.

Top Performers

Orry Darnell – 19 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
Murray Somers – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals
Kevin Morrison – 12 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe
Jamichael Davis – 17 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 steals, 1 block
Amari Burnett – 14 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block
Dee Calhoun – 10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals

Upperclassmen Trio helps Parkview protect homecourt vs. Newton

Parkview 64, Newton 62

Tuesday night Parkview (7-3) hosted Newton (7-7) in an early Region 4-7A matchup that pitted an up-and-comer in the Panthers vs. an established program loaded with talent in the Rams. Newton, having just fallen out of the Top 10, needed to get back on track against a Parkview team that had quietly gotten off to a hot start. In a back-and-forth battle, it was Parkview who came up with enough stops to earn a signature win to move to first-place in the region at 2-0 while Newton sank to last at 0-2.

The Panthers opened quickly, dealing with Newton’s superior size and athleticism at each position. 6-foot-5 senior Avantae Harper set the tone as a battering ram, using his aggressive motor to score in the paint and give Parkview an early 8-3 lead.

Harper would score eight of his 16 points in the first quarter and collect 13 rebounds and 3 blocks over the course of the game, winning his matchup with 6-foot-7 Miokaye Grant. Newton saw TJ Clark score five points in the opening frame using his pull-up game to his advantage, able to shoot over Parkview’s smaller guards.

Stephon Castle found Jakai Newton in the corner for a late three to knot the game at 16 heading into the second quarter.

Parkview extended their lead to seven points but MJ Whitlock came off the bench for the Rams and provided energy, scoring and playmaking for others.

The Panthers switched from man to a 1-2-2 zone and disrupted the flow of the Rams. Asher Woods, who got hot with 10 points in the quarter, chased the ball up top and applied ball pressure, hindering Newton’s slashing guards from getting anything going downhill. Jason Edwards hit a pair of threes in the quarter and helped Parkview maintain a 39-31 advantage after 16 minutes.

In the third quarter the two teams traded bucket for bucket. Whitlock scored two of his 9 points on a floater to make it 45-39 with 4:17 left before Woods answered with a tough reverse layup to keep the lead at six.

A Whitlock three tied the game at 47 before the Rams stole momentum with a late Castle steal and slam before the buzzer, giving Newton a 51-49 lead.

The Panthers edged ahead in the final frame with Woods and Edwards hitting consecutive threes and would take a 61-56 lead with 3:01 remaining when Nathaniel Belete worked the high-low with Harper.

With the game slowly slipping away, Clark stepped up for the Rams and netted seven of his 16 points in the quarter helping cut the lead to 61-60. Newton had a contested layup attempt with 51 seconds left to take the lead, but he couldn’t convert and the Rams had to send Woods to the line with 27.1 seconds to play. Woods, who finished with a game-high 24 points, would coolly sink 3-of-4 from the line in the final seconds to ice the game and secure the Panther win.

Top Performers

Asher Woods – 24 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal
Avantae Harper – 16 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks
Jason Edwards – 15 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 steals

Stephon Castle – 18 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
TJ Clark – 16 points, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Jakai Newton – 11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block
MJ Whitlock – 9 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block

My Take

Continue reading Upperclassmen Trio helps Parkview protect homecourt vs. Newton

No. 7 Cherokee dunks Alexander in season opener

No. 7 Cherokee 83, Alexander 47

Heading into the season with a Top 10 ranking to their name, No. 7 Cherokee will no longer be sneaking up on anybody. After finishing 23-5 with their first-ever region title, the Warriors entered 2020-21 with a target on their back and something to prove, especially after failing to advance past the first round of the state tournament. Cherokee’s season debut went without a hitch as the Warriors outscored Alexander 65-30 over the final three quarters to race away with a highlight filled 83-47 victory.

Up against an inexperienced Alexander team, it was a back and forth first quarter as both squads traded punches. Senior guard Bennett Ulm set the tempo early for Cherokee. The unsung hero shined with his energy and defensive presence on the perimeter. He scored five of his 11 points in the first quarter and picked up steals and deflections along the way, but Alexander was game early on.

Junior Zion Fruster scored four points in the quarter including a smooth finish in transition to cut the Cherokee lead to 12-11 with just a tick under 3 minutes remaining.

Alexander would go on a 6-0 run to go ahead 15-12 after a Tayshaun Bolton transition layup.

Instead of carrying momentum into the break however, Cherokee would answer and take an 18-17 lead into the second quarter on a late Tayden Owens layup.

Turnovers became an issue in the second quarter and for the rest of the game for the visiting Cougars. Cherokee got out in transition and were energized by Richmond Hill transfer Ethan Pickett and Xavier-signee Elijah Tucker. Pickett finished with 15 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals, relentlessly attacking the basket and finishing with thunder and finesse on the break.

Tucker, who started out slow with his outside shot, started to get more comfortable as he got closer and closer to the basket. The future Musketeer helped spark a 13-3 run that pushed Cherokee ahead for good, taking a 29-20 lead on a tip-in that showcased Tucker’s freakish length and athleticism.

Tucker scored 10 of his game-high 21 points in the stanza and finished with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals on the night.

At the half, Cherokee held a 44-33 lead with Alexander barely hanging on receiving solid first halves from Sean Ivory and Jah’Kim Payne, who both scored all 7 of their points in the first 16 minutes before going scoreless the rest of the way. The screeching halt of the offense led to a 24-6 third quarter in favor of the Warriors, a run that ballooned the Cherokee lead to 68-39 after three.

Tucker continued to be effective inside with his activity, while Cherokee’s 2-2-1 press led to multiple steals and a pair of Ulm layups to pushed the lead to 20.

Taihland Owens helped salt the game away in the fourth quarter with seven of his 14 points.

Top Performers

Elijah Tucker – 21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals
Ethan Pickett – 15 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
Taihland Owens – 14 points, 1 rebound, 4 assists, 3 steals
Bennett Ulm – 11 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Tayden Owens – 8 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal

Sean Ivory – 7 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist
Tayshaun Bolton – 7 points, 1 assist, 3 steals
Zion Fruster – 7 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist
Jah’Kim Payne – 7 points, 1 steal


My Take

Continue reading No. 7 Cherokee dunks Alexander in season opener