Tag Archives: Game Stories

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.

Hiram stings previously undefeated No. 7 Villa Rica

Hiram 63, No. 7 Villa Rica 57

With Region 7-AAAAA nearly all sewn up, lone Class AAAAA unbeaten No. 7 Villa Rica traveled to Hiram with their perfect 17-0 record in tow. After dropping in the Week 10 Class AAAAA poll, the Wildcats had an opportunity to pass the eye test and earn yet another road win. Instead, the Hornets (12-7, 6-3) stung Villa Rica (17-1, 10-1) and handed the Cardiac Cats their first flatline of the year, 63-57.

Hiram jumped out to an early 12-3 lead with 1:26 remaining in the first quarter. 6-foot-8 junior center Nathan Presnell hurt the smaller Wildcats inside. The football quaterback set the tone early with seven first quarter points including a put-back slam to get the crowd into it.

Villa Rica was able to compose themselves and clawed back into the game on an 8-0 run to close the quarter. Caleb Smith finished through contact for an And-1, as did JJ Franklin, but both missed their free throw attempts. Franklin was able to grab the carom off his miss and added a lay-up to effectively cap off a four-point play, cutting the Hiram lead to 12-11 after eight minutes.

Threes from Raphael Rogers and sophomore Arshard Crepsac expanded Hiram’s lead to 26-18 at the 3:37 mark of the second quarter. Just when it looked like the Hornets would pull away and push their lead into double digits, Villa Rica would answer back. Latrell Swanigan scored eight points in the second quarter and gave the Wildcats their fourth And-1 opportunity of the half, converting on the free throw to cut the lead to five at 26-21.

Hiram carried a 37-27 lead into the half, led by Presnell’s 11 points and Crepsac’s three threes. Darius Johnson scored eight of his nine points in the frame to give Coach Darius Hodge’s team some cushion.

Crepsac knocked down his fourth three-pointer of the game to give Hiram a 42-31 advantage at the 5:45 mark.

With the game slipping away, Coach Jason Robinson turned to senior guard Javonte Hart. After a quiet two-point first half with no field goals made, the 5-foot-11 playmaker began to go to work. Hart sparked an 8-0 run, fueled by his two threes and an assist.

As Hart came to life, so did 6-foot-6 junior Micah Hodges. The Wildcat used his length on the offensive glass and scored five of his 11 points in the quarter.

The quarter ended on Hart’s 10th point of the stanza, scoring on a buzzer beater to bring the deficit to 48-44.

It looked like momentum was finally swinging into Villa Rica’s corner, but the Wildcats were never able to seize a fourth quarter lead.

Jayden Henry finished on an And-1 off a put-back to grow the lead to seven points and then Presnell found Khalil Baker on a high-low feed to make it 53-44 with 5:57 to play.

Slowly, the Wildcats started to inch closer but were burning clock in doing so. Hart drove and dished to Franklin for a three to make it 56-52 at the 47.3 mark. After a Johnson five-second call, the Wildcats regained possession, but subsequently turned the ball back over on a travel.

With Hiram leading 59-55 with 17.8 seconds remaining, the Hornets threw the ball away on the inbound and Hart came away with the steal and was sent to the foul line. Hart split the free throws and Crepsac was fouled and hit two free throws to seal Villa Rica’s fate, the lefty going 6-of-6 from the line for the game, 4-of-4 in the fourth quarter and finishing with a game-high 18 points.

My Take

I was expecting a very competitive game and that’s exactly what I got. I think this week’s Spielin’ & Dealin’ hit the nail on the head with Villa Rica, so there’s no need to beat a dead horse. Javonte Hart was impressive and nearly willed his team to victory, finishing with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. He made winning plays and took advantage of Hiram’s smaller/less physical guards. One thing Villa Rica has going for them, is that they are very balanced, seeing four players crack double figures. At the same time, I’m not sure they have a true “go-to guy” that they can put the ball in his hands and he can get them a bucket whenever they need it. Hart was the closest thing to that tonight, but outside of Region 7, the competition is much different and much tougher. No. 1 Buford was in the house scouting – it’s imperative for anybody in the region to avoid the Wolves. Villa Rica doesn’t have much size outside of 6-foot-6 Micah Hodges, who showed flashes in the paint. Wings Latrell Swanigan and JJ Franklin hit two threes apiece.

Nathan Presnell should be on college programs’ radars. The 6-foot-8 junior averages 15 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He is the quarterback of the football team. He is a good athlete with nice footwork in the low post. If he focused all his time into basketball, he could be a guy that receives D-I interest. He has a little current Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket and former South Forsyth star Evan Cole in his game, but he’s not as refined. He was comfortable taking 15-footers, although his shot was flat tonight. He was active on defense, not just blocking shots but getting deflections and saving loose balls. In a state that’s often been starved for true size in the post, Presnell could be an option in 2019. Sophomore Arshard Crepsac caught my eye as well. The sophomore is 6-foot tall and possesses a pretty lefty stroke that was on point. He showed his mettle going 4-of-4 from the line late in the fourth quarter as well. He has some smooth qualities but will have to be able to get to the hole more, as on Thursday, all his points came from beyond the arc or the foul line. Khalil Baker hurt the smaller Villa Rica frontline at times too. He’s not as polished as Presnell in the post and didn’t look like much of a threat when on the baseline from 10-15 feet, but Baker worked hard on the glass and had a nice left-handed hook on a duck-in seal off a high-low. Baker is a guy who’s not afraid to mix it up in the paint and can scratch out some good minutes.

Top Performers

Hiram
Arshard Crepsac – 18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals
Nathan Presnell – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Khalil Baker – 10 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Darius Johnson – 9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Jayden Henry – 7 points, 1 rebound

Villa Rica
Javonte Hart – 15 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks
Latrell Swanigan – 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks
JJ Franklin – 12 points, 5 rebounds
Micah Hodges – 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks

No. 8 Elbert County withstands 11 three-pointers to sweep No. 9 Banks County, 61-56

No. 8 Elbert County 61, No. 9 Banks County 56

Wins don’t come easy in Homer, Georgia for opponents that enter the jungle. Heading into Tuesday’s Region 8-AA Top 10 clash, No. 9 Banks County (18-4, 7-2) held an 11-1 record at home and a 34-5 mark over the past three seasons in their friendly confines, often covered in blue. The defending region champs welcomed in No. 8 Elbert County (19-3, 9-1) as the two teams held a share of first-place with the Blue Devils defending their homecourt back on January 5th with a 61-50 win, jolting Elbert County into the rankings. After finishing 14-15 (6-6) in Year 1 under longtime Etowah head coach Don Hurlburt, the upstart Blue Devils have taken on Hurlburt’s style of play and have found success and swagger. But to officially announce themselves as the team to beat, they would have to find a way to win in Banks County, where they lost 65-47 and 52-45 a season ago.

It was a slow start for both teams offensively as Banks County’s 3-2 zone forced Elbert County into lengthy possessions, typically upwards of 10 to 15 passes before the Blue Devils could take a shot, but even then, there were no promises it would be a good look. Elbert was tentative in attacking and getting all the way to the basket due to 6-foot-7 shot-blocker Dylan Orr lurking in the paint and the Leopards’ team defense, Gaitlin Lunsford drawing two of Banks County’s five charges in the opening quarter.

Carl Cleveland opened the scoring for the Leopards. The 6-foot-5 sophomore and coach’s son, drilled two threes while Orr provided a lefty hook off the glass to give Banks a 10-8 lead after 8 minutes.

Elbert County edged ahead at the 4:34 mark, 14-13, behind an AJ James bucket in the paint.

With a major size advantage inside, Coach Mike Cleveland wanted to play inside out. Carl spun in the lane and dumped down an assist to Orr.

Soon after, Orr returned the favor by drawing a crowd on the block and swinging it to an open Cleveland for a three to take a 20-16 lead.

Banks’ cushion didn’t last long as the Blue Devils closed the half on a 7-0 spurt to regain a 23-20 lead. Lefty Jacquavious Ramsey scored five points in the quarter while Jamison Syphore’s activity on defense gave Elbert the late advantage.

Only Cleveland, Orr and point guard Darius Bonds scored in the first half for the Leopards while Elbert County saw five players crack the scoring column.

Banks County quickly took back the lead at the 6:18 mark up 25-23 following a Gabe Martin trifecta. Elbert County, not panicked, tightened up their full court press with junior guard Ty Hill picking up the pressure on Bonds, collecting two steals and an assist while James, who scored 22 points in their first meeting, knocked down a three as the Blue Devils took their largest lead of the game on an 11-0 run, 34-25, before a Cleveland three sliced the lead back down to six with 3:20 remaining in the third.

With the deficit nearing double digits, the Leopards came out of their zone and attempted to match up man-to-man, an advantage for the quicker Blue Devils. But while the defense was leaking points, Bonds made up for it with three threes in the frame, cutting the lead to 36-34 with 1:18 to play.

Elbert County, who hit only three three-pointers on the night, received an answer from Jaqirus Harris right before the horn to nurse a 41-37 lead into the final quarter.

Both student sections were on their feet and the crowd in full throat as first-place in Region 8 came down to the wire. The Blue Devils pushed ahead in front of their raucous fan base to take a 47-40 lead with 5:16 to play.

Ramsey and Kobe Gaudelock found life easier with Banks County out of their zone, combining for nine points in the quarter, but it was James who did the heavy lifting for the Blue Devils. The 6-foot-4 junior scored nine of his game-high 19 points in the final frame, working the post and getting to the line, going 7-of-8 from the stripe.

Always dangerous with the three-ball, hitting 11 for the game, Banks County still had life as they crept closer on Martin’s second of the night, bringing the score to 51-47 with 2:50 left.

Down to 1:29 remaining on the clock, the Leopards began fouling trailing 55-49, but the Blue Devils were 6-of-6 from the line in the quarter at that point. The strategy began to work as Elbert went 6-of-12 in the final 89 seconds and three Martin free throws had the score at 56-52 at the 1:15 mark.

Banks County’s last chance to make things interesting came with 29.5 seconds to play when a Bonds three-pointer was half way down before popping out, which nearly made it a two-point game, but instead the score read 57-52 with Ramsey heading to the line to help ice it and secure a season sweep for Elbert County.

My Take

Class AA is probably my favorite classification to cover. Small school basketball with the vast majority of the kids growing up through the pipeline. The atmosphere at Banks County is unlike any other with the gym packed from the opening tip of the girls game to the final buzzer of the boys game. The strong tie to the community is apparent as little Leopards watched their favorite players and knowledgably cheered them on.

But on Tuesday, it was Elbert County’s night. The Blue Devils don’t jump off the court with major size, with AJ James their tallest at 6-foot-4, but the effort and tenacity are there. They battled the bigger Leopards and after landing a few body blows throughout, finally knocked out the defending region champs, sweeping the season series. Elbert was extremely patient and almost shy when probing the Banks County 3-2 zone. It took them a while to adjust, but they did. Instead of forcing up bad shots, they were content with swinging the ball around until they got an open look. James was the man inside and provided physicality and toughness in the post. Jamison Syphore is very active and rebounds well for his size, collecting 11 on the night. Elbert County doesn’t have a ton of floor spacers, hitting three threes as Kobe Gaudelock, one of their best shooters who had 18 points in their first meeting, was held to six points. Elbert will likely be more of a by-committee three-point shooting team with a handful of players able to knock one down here and there. Once Banks County came out of their zone, Elbert County’s athleticism took over and they were able to find much easier looks. The Blue Devils’ press really exploited Banks County’s lack of ball handlers outside of Darius Bonds. As a team, Elbert County came away with 12 steals.

Banks County drilled 11 threes at home but still lost – a tough pill to swallow. Carl Cleveland came out firing, hitting four from deep to finish with a team-high 18 points along with Bonds who also drilled four. Dylan Orr was a non-factor in the second half, held to zero points and two rebounds after posting seven points and six rebounds in the first half. Orr plays above the rim and blocks shots, but he went 1-of-6 at the foul line and was unable to impose his will. North Georgia Head Coach Chris Faulkner was in to see him. Darius Bonds shot the ball extremely well from deep. He has a ton of pressure on him to handle the ball handling duties and Elbert County’s Ty Hill and Tay Huff really dug into him in the third quarter and forced some turnovers. Banks County’s zone was very effective, but once pulled out of it, there were some holes. Their ability to draw charges makes their zone that much more effective, but when in man, it’s harder to be in position to take them on the chest. Banks County has been dinged up with injuries this year but are getting healthy at the right time and will be a tough team to beat if they can clinch home court advantage.

Top Performers

Elbert County
AJ James – 19 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal
Jacquavious Ramsey – 14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals
Ty Hill – 9 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 4 steals
Jamison Syphore – 8 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal

Banks County
Darius Bonds – 18 points (4 threes), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
Carl Cleveland – 18 points (4 threes), 6 rebounds, 2 assists
Gabe Martin – 9 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist
Dylan Orr – 7 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks

Troup County “Trusts the Process” in 65-62 upset of No. 7 Cartersville

Troup County 65, No. 7 Cartersville 62

There’s no better way to start your work week than with some Monday night basketball, afforded to us by last week’s snow-outs. Class AAAA No. 7 Cartersville (14-3, 7-1) entered with a perfect Region 5 record while host Troup County (9-8, 4-3) was in search of a signature win in Year 1 of the Blake Craft era. A successful defensive game plan coupled with red-hot shooting helped the Tigers weather a late Hurricane surge to send shockwaves through the rest of the region.

Cartersville opened with an early 5-2 lead with Isaac Gridley causing problems inside defensively, swatting away two shots in the first four minutes of the game. After seeing the interior temporarily closed down by Gridley, the Tigers turned to star senior guard Jay Jefferson to set the pace.

The unsigned 6-foot-2 playmaker created offense for his teammates, finding Tristen Ware for two of his eight points.

From that point on, Jefferson took it upon himself to carry the offensive load. He poured in 12 points including two threes that would give Troup a 16-12 lead after one.

While Jefferson paced the Tigers, senior TJ Horton led the Hurricanes. Known primarily as a slasher, the athletic 6-foot-3 guard got loose for two of his four three-pointers in the opening quarter, while Furman-signee Jaylon Pugh was held to two points on a pair of free throws.

Troup made a concerted effort to hone in on Pugh and forced the potent scorer to take contested shots, firing two air-balls in the first half.

As Pugh struggled, Jefferson continued to shine. He knocked down two more threes to finish with 18 first half points. He received help from sophomore point guard Trey Williams, who orchestrated the offense, collecting seven assists on the night and teaming up with Lenntavis Harper and others to slow down Pugh.

After trailing 28-18, on yet another Jefferson three-ball, Cartersville started to fight fire with fire. The Canes knocked down three straight from distance, two via Perignon Dyer and one from Luke Schiltz to close the gap to 32-27 with 1:20 remaining in the first half.

Troup County hit their sixth three of the first half and the 11th for the two teams combined with 12 seconds to play as Jarell Smith entered for the first time and immediately sank one from the corner to give the Tigers a 35-27 lead at halftime.

As both teams retreated to their respective locker rooms, the Cartersville coaching staff took about three minutes to collect themselves on the bench while their team had a players-only gathering. Whatever was said, didn’t effectively make a difference right away as the third quarter followed suit of the first two, as Jefferson came out firing with two more of his six three-pointers.

At the 4:58 mark, Pugh finally broke through with his first field goal of the game after a two-point opening half, bringing the deficit to 42-35.

The Tigers responded with a quick 5-0 spurt, capped by a Montez Crowe put-back to hold a 12-point advantage.

As Pugh remained dormant, held to three points in the quarter and now five for the game, Horton’s deft shooting kept the Hurricanes afloat. Every time the Tigers would knock down a three and look to put the game out of reach, Horton would answer.

At the end of three quarters, Troup County held a 52-41 lead.

In the fourth quarter with the game on the line, the volcano finally erupted.

A seemingly innocuous put-back at the 6:49 mark with Cartersville trailing 54-43, ignited a Pugh scoring binge. Troup did a nice job of trying to put their finger in the dike, but the levee eventually broke with Pugh sensing the time and game slipping away.

Pugh went on a personal 9-0 run to bring the score to 57-50 with 5:04 remaining after his second three of the quarter.

The onslaught continued with Horton finishing in traffic with a euro-step to cut the lead to 57-56 with 2:17 left to play, the Hurricanes storming back on a 15-5 run.

With the score the same and the clock now showing 1:45, Jkobe Orr picked up a technical foul after committing a personal on Alabama linebacker-commit King Mwikuta. The 6-foot-4 center split a pair of free throws, as did Jefferson, slightly extending the lead to 59-56 instead of making it a two-possession game.

Cartersville trimmed the lead back down to one at 59-58 with 53.5 seconds left. Crowe was fouled and calmly knocked down both attempts with 33.7 seconds on the clock to push the lead to 61-58.

Pugh had a decent look from the corner with an opportunity to tie the game, but Jefferson came flying in at the last second to contest the shot, leading to a miss and sending Jefferson to the line for two free throws, sinking them both.

Down three with 6 seconds remaining, Cartersville had an opportunity at a steal on a dangerous inbound, but Pugh was unable to whip his head around in time to track the ball and Jefferson came down with it and iced the game with two more free throws before a last-second uncontested Gridley layup, giving the Tigers a crucial 65-62 home win.

 

My Take

Jay Jefferson brought it from the opening tip tonight and outplayed Furman’s Jaylon Pugh. Jefferson proved to be a reliable ball handler for Troup County and showed he could finish in the lane to add onto his locked-in three-point stroke. He went 5-of-6 from the line in the fourth quarter to seal the upset. Jefferson has the skills to help out at the JUCO and D2 level. He has good size at the point guard position, which bodes well in college. The Tiger role players put forth a strong effort. For many of them, basketball is their second sport with football being their expertise. Their football toughness was on display not only physically, but mentally as well. Quarterback Montez Crowe had five points, none bigger than his two ice-water free throws with 33.7 seconds left in a one-point game. King Mwikuta isn’t overly skilled in the pivot, but he’s a strong body that can take up space in the lane and move opponents. Tristen Ware used his athleticism on the defensive end two reject two shots. Sophomore point guard Trey Williams played extremely well for someone who didn’t score. He had four rebounds, seven assists and one block. He made good decisions when driving the lane and was able to squeeze passes into tight windows.

TJ Horton was consistent throughout for the Hurricanes while Pugh slept-walked his way through the first three quarters before turning on the microwave. Horton displayed an all-around game, hitting threes, getting to the basket and handing out four assists. Troup County did an exceptional job of knowing where Pugh was at all times, but in the fourth quarter, the scoring dynamo put on his superman cape and nearly saved the day. His 4-of-7 shooting from the foul line however, summed up his disjointed night. 6-foot-6 junior Isaac Gridley was steady as always, providing nine points, nine rebounds and three blocks. He has a nice touch for a big man and could be an option at the NAIA level or maybe higher once he’s a senior.

Top Performers

Troup County
Jay Jefferson – 31 points (6 threes), 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 block
Tristen Ware – 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Lenntavis Harper – 8 points, 1 assist
King Mwikuta – 7 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
Montez Crowe – 5 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Trey Williams – 0 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 block

Cartersville
TJ Horton – 22 points (4 threes), 1 rebound, 4 assists, 2 steals
Jaylon Pugh – 16 points (11 in 4Q), 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
Isaac Gridley – 9 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks
Perignon Dyer – 6 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists

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

No. 10 Etowah 60, Creekview 51

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Take

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

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

Top Performers

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

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