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6A No. 2 Harrison controls tempo, but 7A No. 2 Collins Hill grinds out 42-39 win

Contributed by Rob Grubbs  (@RCGJr226070)

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

7ANo. 2 Collins Hill 42, 6ANo. 2 Harrison 39

Harrison was able to neutralize Collins Hill’s size advantage for most of the game

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. – In men’s basketball, most games are won with athleticism and skill, the tallest players and those that leap the highest usually determine the outcome.  But the ladies game has more room for diversity of style, it can be more of a tactical match of wits and the ability for the head coach to relate and motivate his team.  In the nightcap of the Queens of the Hardwood Classic, two of the best teams in the state faced off with completely different roster styles. The Harrison Lady Hoyas (7-2), who lost the state championship last season to Mays by one point, are currently ranked No. 2 in Class AAAAAA while Collins Hill (9-1) is ranked No. 2 in Class AAAAAAA. Harrison has a small quick line-up, they start four guards and a forward, while Collins Hill is exactly the opposite, they start four forwards and one guard. The game was a low scoring affair as the Lady Hoyas dictated the pace, but the Lady Eagles held on for the 42-39 win.

Collins Hill has All-State forward 6-foot-2 Jada Rice (NC State) and University of Georgia-commit 6-foot-3 Jayvn Nicholson and as Head Coach Brian Harmon said, “We prefer to work our offense inside and which opens up our outside shots.”

That is how the game started, Nicholson scored the first basket in the paint for Collins Hill to set the tone early. The Lady Hoyas prefer to run a motion offense with multiple passes and controlling the ball for long periods of time. Their typical possession contained up to 15 passes as they looked for the open shot, with the entire team working in orchestrated precision that resembles synchronized swimming in some instances. You could sense that the Lady Eagles’ height inside was affecting Harrison, as most of their shots had a much higher arch than normal and at the halfway mark of the first quarter, the Lady Hoyas still had not scored a point. Senior Harper Vick finally broke the ice with a three at 3:34 mark in opening quarter to tie the game at 3.

The change of pace from Harrison caused frustration for Collins Hill, with the Lady Hoyas controlling offensive possessions for long periods of time, they effectively took away what the Lady Eagles do best. The patience was paying off for Harrison as they jumped out to a 10-8 lead after the initial quarter.

With their post players effectively neutralized, Collins Hill showed that to be a champion you must adapt, and junior guard Bria Harmon (Purdue) took control of the Lady Eagle offense, hitting a runner early in the second quarter to tie the game up. Harmon, who is a Gwinnett Daily Post Super 6 pick (along with Nicholson) and Coach Harmon’s daughter, continued to look for scoring opportunities throughout the game.

Coach Harmon called upon junior Katherine Fourie off the bench to supplement the scoring and she came up big. She entered the game with the Lady Hoyas up 16-14 and scored six points in less than two minutes, including a three to push Collins Hill to a 22-16 halftime lead.

Coach Harmon said, “Katherine can provide instant offense for us, which we needed, I just had to figure the right moments to get her in there.”

When he put her in, she came through, as she led all scorers with 15 points, all of them clutch.

Harrison continued the game plan in the third but behind Harmon, the Lady Eagles were slowly growing the lead behind Harmon and with the clock clicking down in the third quarter, Lady Hoya senior guard Sarah Woghiren hit a three at the buzzer to turn a 9-point deficit into a more manageable 31-25 game entering the fourth.

After a Jaron Stallworth basket, the Lady Eagles were up 37-30 with 4 minutes remaining, but Harrison head coach Steve Lenahan, in his 10th season, saw his plan coming into focus as the Lady Hoyas scored six unanswered to pull within one point with two minutes left.

Harrison had two possessions to take the lead but could not convert on either one and then “instant offense” Fourie hit a three-pointer with 1:13 remaining that seemed to ice the game at 40-36.

The Lady Hoyas didn’t bring the word quit with them on the bus from Kennesaw and when Vick converted a free throw to complete a three-point play to bring the game to 40-39 with 37 seconds, they were just a turnover away from another chance to snatch a win. However, Collins Hill broke the press and Nicholson hit two free throws to ice the game for the 42-39 win.

Coach Harmon was frustrated but pleased with the outcome. He closed with, “We have to do a better job of forcing our tempo instead of just allowing ourselves to play our opponents game, that is the lesson that we learned tonight.”

He had a classroom-style chat with the team on the bench for about ten minutes before they headed home.  Hopefully, it is a lesson his team learned, as the head coach of their next opponent was in the building to observe and scout.

Great teams separate themselves from the good teams by the way they adjust, Collins Hill has the roster, it us up to them to learn from tonight and move forward.

Rob’s Takeaways

  1. Junior Bria Harmon is a three-year starter at point guard and usually has the take of setting up the post players down low, but tonight, she took on more scoring responsibility and kept the Lady Eagles in the game throughout. She played excellent defense, and has extremely quick hands and feet. Being the head coach’s daughter can bring its own set of challenges, but she saw the direction the game took and understood it was her responsibility to score.
  2. I was excited to see Jada Rice and Jayvn Nicholson work inside and was disappointed they were regulated to a spectator role for much of the time. They will need to adapt, as several coaches from other top high school programs were in attendance for the game and took notes on how to neutralize their presence.
  3. The Players of the Game, as determined by the teams’ head coaches were UAB-signee Audrey Jordan for Harrison and Bria Harmon for Collins Hill.
  4. Coach Harmon had excellent utilization of Katherine Fourie, he brought her into situation when the Lady Eagles needed points and she delivered.
  5. As the region slate heats up, Harrison needs to find a consistent scorer to depend on, will that be Harper Vick, Sarah Woghiren, Audrey Jordan? Who will take the shots with the game on the line?
  6. Does Collins Hill get maximum exposure from “instant offense” Katherine Fourie off the bench or would she be better suited for the starting five? Coach Harmon will have to continue playing his hunch here as the region and playoff games get more important down the road.
  7. Up next – for Harrison, they face Lambert on Thursday night at the Hawks-Naismith Classic. Collins Hill plays Buford in the same tournament.

Top Performers

Collins Hill
Katherine Fourie – 15 points, 4 assists, 2 steals
Bria Harmon – 14 points, 4 rebounds
Javyn Nicholson – 6 points, 8 rebounds
Jaron Stallworth – 5 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks

Harrison
Amara Newsom – 10 points, 2 rebounds
Audrey Jordan – 8 points, 7 rebounds
Harper Vick – 7 points, 3 assists

Explosive fourth quarter powers No. 2 Wesleyan past Fayette County at Queens of the Hardwood Classic

Contributed by Rob Grubbs  (@RCGJr226070)

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

No. 2 Wesleyan 83, Fayette County 58

FAYETTEVILLE, Ga – In girls high school basketball, the holiday tournaments give teams the opportunity to play against competition from other classifications and parts of the state, it is a good gauge of where they are and what they need to work on before region games heat up in January.  The Fayette County Lady Tigers, who advanced to the Sweet 16 last year in Class AAAAA, have gotten off to a strong start and got the chance to face one of the most storied ladies’ programs in the state, the No. 2 Wesleyan Lady Wolves. Under the leadership of Head Coach Jan Azar, Wesleyan has won 12 state championships in the past 16 years.  The current edition is led by the talented senior duo of point guard Amaya Register who is signed to Old Dominion and Furman-signee Sutton West, but an otherwise young supporting cast. While the Lady Tigers (8-2) played Wesleyan even through the first quarter, emerging star sophomore AC Carter dominated on the offensive and defensive sides of the court and led the Lady Wolves (6-1) to an impressive 83-58 win.

The opening tip of the game gave a glimpse what was to transpire as West easily tipped the ball out to Carter who had an easy lay-up for the opening score. West would score on their next possession to go up 4-0 less than one minute in and a sudden feeling of a blow-out wafted overhead, but Lady Tiger senior forward Rikkelle Miller knocked down a three to answer, which seemed to settle her team down. Miller hit another three-pointer at the end of the first quarter to tie things up at 20. An otherwise impressive first quarter by the Lady Tigers did have one negative, the sharpshooting Miller picked up two quick fouls, the second one only three minutes into the game, it would significantly affect the way Fayette County Head Coach John Strickland rotated her in and out to protect her.

The Wolves struck quickly to start the second half, they went on a 9-0 run over the first 3 minutes. Register and Carter scored during the run that put the Lady Wolves up for good. The Lady Wolves may have stars, but their roster is strong from top to bottom and minutes are spread out.  When West sat down in the second quarter, Sophomore Izzy Larsen got productive time and scored off an offensive rebound and put back. Another sophomore, Lauren Hill, hit a three from the top of the key and Register followed suit. Fayette County senior guard Trinity Brown, who had the task of answering the Wesleyan press all game, kept the Lady Tigers within striking distance, she slashed to the basket on two occasions for lay-ups to keep her team close. At the half, the Lady Wolves were up 40-31.  After the 9-0 run to start the quarter, the Lady Tigers matched points the rest of the half.

The third started like the first, Carter hit a triple on the first play. It was the start of a surgically precise third quarter where the Lady Wolves operated at will. They hit six three-pointers in the quarter alone, Carter and Register with two each, and Nicole Azar and Hill also getting one. Maegan Barkley was a bright spot in the second half for the Lady Tigers, she made an athletic steal at mid-court and a drive for the basket plus the foul to keep Fayette County within reach at 58-45.

By the fourth quarter, the game was decided. It was an opportunity to showcase some skillsets and get some younger players some playing time. Carter impressed the crowd with a strong defensive rebound and then drove the length of the floor for the lay-up. She was almost unguardable throughout the game.  Miller would add one more three with 6 minutes remaining, but the Lady Wolves closed out strong for the 25-point win.

Coach Azar was proud of the effort afterwards, “We have not played in 11 days, so I was really impressed at our shooting, we shot the ball really well. And made shots on the offensive end allow us to set up the press. Fayette County is a good team, we just hit the shots that let us jump out to a big lead and put it away.”

The Lady Wolves are going to be sending a lot of good teams home with 25-point losses as the season progresses.

Rob’s Takeaways

  1. The Wesleyan Lady Wolves arrived at the gym 25 minutes prior to game time, they literally walked off their bus, put on tournament tee-shirts and started their warm-up routine.
  2. Senior Sutton West is a state championship machine, she currently has 7 (two in basketball, once in soccer and four in track). She has the chance to get four more this year. She is their best defender and usually draws the opponent’s best player. She can bring the ball up court, effectively maneuver the press and score off the dribble.
  3. The Lady Wolves offense runs through AC Carter, Amaya Register typically makes an entry pass to her at the free-throw line and she either drives to the hoop from a spin move, passes to a cutter headed to the basket, or back out to Register who resets the play.
  4. Early foul trouble on Fayette County’s Rikkelle Miller hurt the Lady Tiger game plan. Her ability to score from beyond the three-point line was paramount to keeping the Tigers in the game.
  5. Fayette County’s senior guard combo of Trinity Brown and Meagan Barkley have been in Coach Strickland’s system since freshman year and are athletic and physical.  Their play and leadership make them the favorite in Region 3-AAAAA.
  6. Wesleyan freshman Alyssa Phillip has been getting increased playing time in Coach Azar’s system. There is a lot of depth in front of her, but you can see her potential. Great size and physical around the basket.
  7. Coach Azar’s daughter, freshman Nicole is a three-point sharpshooter and another weapon off the bench for the Lady Wolves. She had two in the game.
  8. At one point during the game, Coach Azar and Register were having a strategy conversation during a Fayette County free throw about the technical aspects of the upcoming possession. The discussion sounded like a graduate level class lecture. The Wesleyan basketball IQ is off the charts.
  9. Fayette County has two post players that are getting their first significant playing time, sophomore Naomi Franco and junior Celine Akande. They have great potential to improve and give the guard-laden team more options as the season progresses.
  10. Regardless of what the PA announcer said – it’s Wesleyan – not Wesley-Anne.
  11. The Players of the Game, as determined by the teams’ head coaches were Maegan Barkley for Fayette County and Amaya Register for Wesleyan.
  12. Up next – for Wesleyan, they face Miller Grove on Tuesday at the War Eagle Classic @ Woodward Academy. Fayette County travels to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the Crescom Invitational.

Top Performers

Wesleyan
AC Carter – 27 points, 15 rebounds
Sutton West – 10 points, 10 rebounds
Amaya Register – 18 points, 6 assists

Fayette County
Maegan Barkley – 15 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
Rikkelle Miller – 16 points, 4 rebounds
Trinity Brown – 10 points, 6 assists
Sydney Sims – 4 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists

Fayette County Lady Tigers impress with cross-county win over Sandy Creek

Contributed by Rob Grubbs   (@RCGJr226070)
Photo by CD Photography (@FayetteSports)

Fayette County 58, Sandy Creek 32

Trinity Brown
Trinity Brown || CD Photography

FAYETTEVILLE, Georgia – Two teams that had impressive finishes to last years’ season faced off in an early inter-county rivalry game. The Sandy Creek Lady Patriots made it to the Class AAAA Final 4 where they would lose to eventual champion Columbus. Graduation was not kind to Coach Janie Hodges and the Lady Patriots as they lost their dynamic backcourt duo of ShanQuaylia Stanton and Kasey Toles from last year’s team. This year’s team will be focused more on a strong inside game from their star post players, Daija Powell and Paris Thompson.

Fayette County Coach John Strickland also lost a key player from last year’s Class AAAAA Sweet 16 team, Darryl Langford who is at the Naval Academy now, but brought back a deep roster with strong senior leadership. In contrast to Sandy Creek, the Lady Tigers bring experience to the backcourt but are young inside. The matchup was a classic opportunity for both teams to see where they are and what needs work. Since this is was a non-region game, one team was going to win while the other was going to learn more about themselves.

Sandy Creek jumped out to an 8-5 first quarter lead with all points scored by Powell.  The new guard tandem of Nina Lum and Jania Hodges were constantly feeding the ball down low, and Powell was moving in the paint with ease. As the game progressed, the Lady Tigers continued to rotate players, making wholesale changes at almost every break.  Guards Maegan Brantley, Sidney Sims and Trinity Brown were playing fast and they slowly turned the defensive pressure up which wore down the Patriots. After taking a 22-18 lead into the half, the Lady Tigers dominated the third quarter with their full court press and depth to pull away.

Afterwards, Strickland was proud his post players who were getting the first significant playing time of their career. “Naomi Franco and Celine Akande played outstanding against their inside players, who are really good. We know what we have in our frontcourt, we know what to expect from Maegan, Trinity and Sidney, but I was really encouraged with how Naomi and Celine played. If they continue to progress, that will open up more of our offense.”

Strickland also wanted to brag more on his ladies latest academic feats than the game, he said, “This has the potential to be a special group.”

In the end, it was Fayette County 58-32 with Brown and Barkley leading scorers with 15 each. Franco played a solid game in the post, just missing a double-double with 9 points and 9 rebounds. Powell led the Lady Patriots with 15; look for them to improve as the season goes along and their guard play gets more comfortable and confident.

Top Performers

Fayette County
Maegan Barkley – 15 points, 3 rebounds
Trinity Brown – 15 points, 3 rebounds
Naomi Franco – 9 points, 9 rebounds
Sidney Sims – 8 points, 9 rebounds

Sandy Creek
Daija Powell – 14 points, 8 rebounds
Paris Thompson – 10 points, 3 rebounds

No. 1 Northview escapes Towne Lake with season-opening win over scrappy Wolverines

No. 1 Northview 61, Woodstock 51

The Class AAAAAA No. 1 ranked Northview Lady Titans hit the road to visit a new-look Woodstock Wolverines team with Jared Hughes at the helm, his first official game on the sidelines after coming over from Rome to replace long-time head coach Julie Crowe. Last season it was the Titans who hosted the Wolverines to open the year with Northview scoring a dominant 57-44 victory. The tables were nearly turned on Tuesday as Woodstock pushed the Titans to the limit before falling 61-51.

Arriving just 15 minutes before game-time after an hour and 45-minute commute, Northview opened up slow with fouls piling up. Starting point guard Asjah Inniss was ushered to the bench with two fouls in just a minute and 50 seconds, immediately testing Northview’s depth.

The Titans managed to push the lead to 10-4, but at the 3:46 mark, it was Maya Richards’ turn to pick up her second foul and head to the bench. With two key cogs on Coach Chris Yarbrough’s bench, the Wolverines made their move. Freshman point guard Kayden Montgomery sparked a 7-0 run to take an 11-10 lead, hustling to earn second-chance points by hitting the glass and deflecting an assist to physical post Ivana George, who scored all six of her points in the first half.

In search of a basket to stem the tide, Coach Yarbrough knew to punch it inside to All-State forward Ashlee Austin.

Woodstock had opportunities to take a lead heading into the second quarter but three turnovers in near succession held the score at 13-13 after one. Highly touted freshman combo guard Eden Sample carried the offensive burden in the first quarter with Inniss and Richards sidelined and the Titans already with nine team fouls. The smooth shooter scored six points and netted 12 of her team-high 16 in the first half.

Playing with two fouls, Inniss reentered to start the second quarter and ignited the Titans. A quick steal led to an And-1 and before long Northview found itself leading 22-14 with 5:37 left to play, a 9-1 run.

Coach Hughes’ Wolverines settled down and cut the lead to 27-22, George and Montgomery working an inside-out game. On the other side, Austin continued to pound away inside. She went 5-of-6 from the line and finished the night with 16 points, 14 rebounds and four steals.

Down 10 with seconds remaining, Montgomery banked in a three at the buzzer to keep the Wolverines in striking distance heading into the half down 34-27.

Northview came out of the locker room with something to prove in the second half. Clamping on a diamond press, the Titans ripped off a 13-0 run to put the Wolverines on the ropes, now down 20 at 47-27 less than three minutes into the third.

Just a few more baskets away from Goliath landing the knockout punch to David, the underdogs found their stone in the form of 5-foot-11 sophomore Sophia Singer. After scoring just four points in the first half, the potential laced wing poured in 10 of Woodstock’s 11 points in the frame including back-to-back threes to put the Wolverines’ upset bid back on life support, heading into the fourth quarter down 54-38.

The Singer onslaught continued in the final frame as Woodstock sparked a 7-0 run to bring the score to 54-45. The closest the Wolverines would draw would be at the 4:06 mark after Singer put in two of her game-high 21 points off an offensive rebound to make the score 55-48.

From that point on, the Titans finally got a hold of Singer and contained her to one point the rest of the way and was able to nurse a healthy 8-to-10-point lead to the finish line. Northview scored all their fourth quarter points from the charity stripe, going 7-of-10.

My Take

It wasn’t the prettiest way to start the season – a foul fest – but No. 1 Northview was able to hang on. There looked like upwards of four future D-I players on the court. Ashlee Austin is still the most consistent player for Northview and she will be asked to become even more of a cornerstone now that Shannon Titus is at Mercer. The 2019 6-foot-2 forward crashed the glass hard as always and looked even better on the perimeter than last year, comfortable going between her legs and off the dribble to create for shooters in the corner. In due time, I’d like to see her finish those drives through defenders instead of kicking out, but she did a good job of not forcing any bad shots. As good as Austin was, Asjah Inniss was the energizer bunny and the straw that stirred the drink for Northview. The quick and wiry sophomore looked like the game slowed down for her after she tended to play a little too fast as a freshman. Inniss has great hands on the perimeter and can get to a ton of 50/50 balls. Her 13 points and nine steals were a major difference maker. The Titans didn’t function nearly as well on both sides of the ball while she was in foul trouble. Freshman Eden Sample has a pretty stroke and good body control when she finds herself on the low block. She’s able to finish through contact. She stepped up big time with Inniss on the bench and will be counted on to stretch defenses. She has a bright next four years. An unsung hero was undersized senior post Camil Butler. She saw sporadic minutes last season but had to play a big role right away with Maya Richards on the bench. She finished with five points (5-of-6 FT), three rebounds, one assist, two steals and two blocks. She was automatic from the foul line and very composed when she found the ball in her hands. Great lift off the bench.

Woodstock is young and a little banged up, especially at the guard position. That did not stop Jared Hughes’ team from competing the entire 32 minutes. Down 20 points to the No. 1 team in the state, the Wolverines could have easily laid over and took a 30-point loss, but instead they battled and found a new go-to girl in Sophia Singer. After seeing Singer last season as a freshman, you could tell there was potential there. The daughter of Western Illinois football hall of fame quarterback Paul Singer, Sophia stands close to 6-foot tall with an agile frame and long wingspan. She long jumps 17.5 and runs the 200M, so the athleticism to go with her height is definitely apparent. She broke out last night and started to let it fly after a timid first half. When aggressive, Singer can score in the paint, mid-range and knock down the corner three. If she can stay aggressive on offense, she could be just what Coach Hughes needs to push the Wolverines back into the playoffs. She also mixed it up on defense, picking up a nice block on Austin inside and spent the fourth quarter defending Inniss up top, showcasing her ability to guard multiple positions. Aside from Singer’s big performance, freshman Kayden Montgomery played a nice floor game. Not blessed with the size or speed of her opposition, Montgomery was deceptively mobile and used her IQ to craft her way into making plays. She drained two threes and dished out five assists in her first varsity start. She will be thrown into the fire as a youngster and should come out better for it once her career is said and done.

Top Performers

Northview
Ashlee Austin – 16 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals, 1 block
Eden Sample – 16 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Asjah Inniss – 13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 9 steals
Maya Richards – 7 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block

Woodstock
Sophia Singer – 21 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block
Kayden Montgomery – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
Bree Burnett – 6 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal

No. 1 Westlake impresses in preseason romp of Fayette County

No. 1 Westlake 66, Fayette County 42

Contributed by Rob Grubbs   (@RCGJr226070)

FAYETTEVILLE, Georgia.  The top-ranked Westlake Lady Lions opened the 2017/2018 basketball season with a scrimmage on the road against the Fayette County Tigers Wednesday night. Westlake has been to the Elite 8 three years in a row, but with the talent, depth and the top ranking, this season they want more. Coach Hilda Hankerson said, “Our ladies are excited about the #1 ranking, they are ready to compete.” The Lady Lions took that first step with a convincing 66-42 win over a very good Fayette County team.

Coach Hankerson has a powerhouse lineup with three pre-season Class AAAAAAA All-State players in Texas Tech signee Taylor Hosendove, Simone Lett and Shekinah Howard to go along with All-Region guard Anastasia Warren, Carlyse Hooks and Paris Mullins. To compliment their veteran roster are two impressive freshman as well, Raven Johnson and Brianna Turnage who will be making noise in the seasons ahead.

The game was tied at 6  at the four minute mark when the Lady Lions unleashed a suffocating full court pressure defense and quickly went on a 17-0 that put things away early. It did not help that Lady Tiger leader and three-point sharp shooter Rikkelle Miller got in foul trouble immediately and missed most of the first half. With Warren putting constant pressure on the ball, Fayette County struggled to put together scoring possessions.

The Lady Tigers found some answers after halftime and with Miller connecting on several 3s, the Lady Tigers were much more composed against the constant pressure and held their own. But Coach Hankerson was rolling fresh players constantly into the game. With their depth (Coach Hankerson has 15 players and they all look like they could start), they are equipped for a season that will see fatigue and foul troubles at some point.  Warren led a balanced scoring attack for the Lady Lions with 12 and Hosendove added 11, while Miller lead the Fayette County offense with 10 points.

Afterwards, Hankerson was pleased but saw a lot of work ahead. When asked what they needed to work on after the game, she quipped, “Everything, but especially our rebounding and defensive rotations. Those areas were not where they needed to be. We have a lot of potential, but right now, we have a lot of things to work on.”

This is going to be a fun season to watch for Westlake. Leadership and the talent to raise the bar from the past three years and complete something special. The Fayette County Tigers will compete for the Region title in 2-AAAAAAA and will look to once again return to the state playoffs.