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Nationally ranked powers ignite capacity crowd at Holiday Hoopsgiving Day 1 nightcap

Contributed by Joe Chapman (@Joe_Chapman3)

The most anticipated night in the 3-year history of the Holiday Hoopsgiving did not disappoint as four of the top-50 high school basketball teams in the country showed out for the standing room only crowd at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. This night had been hyped up since the September 30th schedule release and it clearly lived up to the anticipation, as there was not an empty seat in the arena and 3+ rows of people standing courtside as well as on the upstairs track. The post-Thanksgiving entrée was obviously the dream-matchup between the top two point guards in the country, Collin Sexton and Trevon Duval, but the appetizer of Georgia powers, Norcross and Greenforest, was not one to miss.

No. 5 Norcross 57, No. 1 Greenforest 46


Friday night provided us with a rematch from last year’s Hoopsgiving, where Greenforest dominated Norcross, 77-48. The Blue Devils were determined to garner revenge as they led from start to finish in a low scoring, grind-it-out 57-46 affair. Neither team shot the ball very well (both at 30.5%) but Norcross gained the edge at the free throw line, going 17-21 from the stripe. Norcross capitalized all night by catching Greenforest off guard with the fast break. Their lightning quick guards, Jordan Goldwire and Kyle Sturdivant, were getting past the giants of Greenforest and attacked the rim all night. Four Blue Devils scored in double figures and were led by Goldwire with 13 points. The 6’2 senior guard shot 5-13 from the field (1-3 3pt, 2-2 FT) and added 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Goldwire not only produced on the offensive end but was also very stingy on defense as he led the team with 4 steals.

5’10 junior guard, Dalvin White, followed up with an 11 point performance of his own on 3-8 shooting (2-5 3pt, 3-3 FT) while also adding an assist and 2 steals. Rayshaun Hammonds and Lance Thomas each tallied 10 points and were crucial as always for the Blue Devils. The UGA commit Hammonds, also added a huge 9 rebounds in the win. Hammonds and Thomas were integral on the defensive end for Norcross as they made it difficult for the Greenforest guards to feed their big men inside. They didn’t put up huge numbers offensively, but were the X-factors in the win on the defensive end. Look for Norcross to make some noise this season in the new AAAAAAA classification and don’t be surprised if you see the Blue Devils crash the Final Four as they certainly have the talent to do so.

Greenforest was shorthanded in this game as senior point guard Justin Forrest was out due to a foot injury. Leading the way offensively for the Eagles in his place was senior combo guard, David Quimby. Quimby put up 15 in the loss, shooting 6-18 from the field (3-12 3pt). The power trio of Ikey Obiagu, Victor Enoh and Abayomi Iyiola only combined for 11 points on 10 shots. None of the three got enough touches, but credit Hammonds and Thomas of Norcross for helping prevent any easy entry passes to the post. Clearly Greenforest is not the same team without Forrest as they are with him. When he returns, expect this team to return to its dominant ways in Class A-Private as he provides a significant spark that’s just lacking right now. 

IMG Academy 99, No. 2 Pebblebrook 94


Friday night closed with a bang as the top two point guards in the country, Trevon Duval and Collin Sexton, put on a show for the max-capacity crowd in the main gym at Holy Innocents’. This high scoring affair saw highlight plays on almost every possession as there were explosive dunks, deep 3’s and powerful blocks all night. The crowd “Ooohed and Awed” all night as some of the nation’s top talent proved why this was one of the most anticipated games of the high school season. Both teams shot extremely well (IMG – 61.5%, Pebblebrook – 51.6%) which led to such a high scoring affair.

Duval finished with 24 points on 10-20 shooting (1-4 3pt, 3-7 FT) while adding 6 assists and 5 steals in the win. On the other end, Sexton, deemed by many as “the best scorer in the country”, lived up to this title as he exploded for 39 points (23 in the first half) on 11-18 shooting (5-9 3pt, 12-13 FT). Duval didn’t put up the numbers that Sexton did, but that’s in large part due to his uber-talented supporting cast. Duval controlled the offense all night and kept everything under control. He didn’t make the highlight plays that people are used to seeing but he’s such a smooth basketball player and really makes everyone around him better. He’ll go up and challenge anyone he faces at the rim, while also having the ability to step out and knock down the three. It is no wonder that he is arguably the top high school player in the country and whoever lands his services will be getting a bona fide baller.

The man that brought everyone to their feet the entire night was mega-bouncy, 6’8 junior forward, Emmitt Williams. Williams can fly and he was arguably the most athletic player that stepped in the gym all day. It was dunk after dunk that made everyone shake their heads in amazement as he threw down some of the most powerful rim-rockers that I have ever seen. He finished the night with 21 points on a ridiculously efficient 8-9 shooting (5-5 FT) while also totaling 9 rebounds. While Williams was outstanding on the offensive end, he was just as dominant on the defensive end. He altered shots all night while also totaling 5 blocks. His athleticism made Pebblebrook change their shots all night while also thinking twice about attacking the rim. Williams definitely showed out on one of the country’s biggest stages.

The combination of Williams with 6’9 junior Silvio de Sousa and 6’8, 285-pound Isaiah Stokes pummeled Pebblebrook inside all night. They just bullied their way in the post, getting layups, and snagging rebounds, all while causing the Falcons to foul them multiple times down low. As good as the guard play was for IMG, the difference maker in this game that put them over the top was the size and skill down low. de Sousa added 14 points and 7 rebounds while Stokes tallied another 12 points and 4 rebounds. The 30-14 rebounding advantage for IMG showed that Pebblebrook just doesn’t have the size down low right now to challenge IMG in the paint.

The final big performer for the Ascenders was DeAndre Osuigwe. The senior guard tallied 16 points on 5-10 shooting (4-6 3pt, 2-2 FT) while also adding 4 steals and 2 assists. Osuigwe quieted the crowd all night as he knocked down huge 3-pointers every time Pebblebrook started to make a run. He was a great defender as he battled with Sexton and Drue Drinnon all night while also helping facilitate the offense smoothly. He was very key in the Ascenders victory.

For Pebblebrook, aforementioned Collin Sexton obviously led the way with 39 points and 5 rebounds. He continued to do what he does best by attacking the rim and getting to the line a whopping 13 times. He started off the game ridiculously hot, knocking down three after three to give Pebblebrook the early lead. From the games that I’ve watched during the high school season and travel ball circuits throughout this past year, Sexton is without a doubt the most entertaining player to watch. There’s so much that has already been said about him but his high-energy and high-enthusiasm style of play is just so fun to watch. Avery Johnson and Alabama are getting a downright stud that can easily help turn around a program next year.

Following Sexton in the scoring category was Elias Harden with 16 points on 6-14 shooting (4-10 3pt). Harden can stroke it from just about anywhere on the court and every time he pulls up, you expect it to go in. He hit big shots all night, including a 3-pointer to tie the game at 89 late in the fourth quarter. This kid can definitely make a big impact at Xavier next year as his shooting ability fits in perfectly with their system.

Drue Drinnon also made a solid impact for the Falcons with 13 points on 4-11 shooting (5-6 FT). The 6’0 junior made some big shots all night and fearlessly attacked the rim. He added 5 assists and 2 rebounds in a losing effort but definitely had flashes of brilliance that showed why he is such a highly sought-after recruit.

All in all, this night was just a special evening for all who attended. The enthusiasm the crowd showed all night made the atmosphere that much more entertaining. Even teams like Wheeler and Milton, who had games at different locations earlier in the day, showed up at Holy Innocents’ for the night session to witness some of the best basketball that the state had to offer. Now, Saturday night’s slate features some of the top teams in the state and country in Wheeler and Westlake. If it is anything like the Friday night session, then we are all in for a treat.

No. 2 Norcross Gets Lost In No. 1 Greenforest’s Trees

1ANo. 1 Greenforest 77, 6ANo. 2 Norcross 48

No. 1 Greenforest put together one of the most impressive two days out of any team in the entire nation at Holiday Hoopsgiving as the Eagles pounded No. 2 Norcross, 77-48. The game was never in question. Greenforest raced out to an 18-5 lead after the first period while Norcross could find zero offense outside of Jordan Goldwire, who scored all five points in the opening frame and finished with 11 points all coming in the first half.

The size of Greenforest troubled the Blue Devils all game. Norcross would attack inside with forwards Rayshaun Hammonds and Lance Thomas but the interior defense of Ikey Obiagu (five blocks) and the rest of the Eagles would swallow their shots up. At one point in the first half the foul count was 7-0 in favor of the Eagles which had Norcross Head Coach Jesse McMillan steamed and rightfully so.

In the second quarter Norcross showed some fight and cut the lead to 29-16 using a full court press and some half court traps to temporarily slowdown the Eagles. McMillan finally got tagged with a technical foul after numerous drives to the basket ended with a shot being blocked or altered and no foul being called. When the half rolled around Greenforest held a 37-21 advantage while the majority of the half Coach McMillan was seen pacing back and forth on the sidelines trying to keep his composure and think of a way to help his team back into the game.

Hammonds finally scored his first bucket of the game in the third quarter off a free throw and finished with a season-low five points and eight rebounds. His partner down low, 6-foot-7 Lance Thomas, was shutout, not scoring a single point. With Norcross’ best two players and largest post presences being a non-factor, it turned into a rout for the Eagles. Greenforest out-rebounded Norcross 44-to-17 and bullied their way to second chance points while limiting Norcross’ opportunities at offensive rebounds.

Justin Forrest scored a game-high 21 for Greenforest and added four assists while New Hampshire-commit John Ogwuche pitched in 12 points, six rebounds and eight assists.

John Ogwuche had a great all-around game | Photo By Ty Freeman
John Ogwuche had a great all-around game | Photo By Ty Freeman

My Take: Domination. After watching Greenforest annihilate two of the very best programs in the state, I can’t envision this team losing a game. Take into account that Montverde (FL), the No. 2 ranked team in the entire nation, beat No. 6 Pebblebrook 76-70. What did the Eagles do to them yesterday? 87-59. They say transitive property doesn’t work in sports, but how can your jaw not drop when you see that? Back to Saturday’s game, it was just like watching grown men against boys. That is not a knock on Norcross. The Eagles literally look like grown men inside and even on the perimeter with John Ogwuche, Justin Forrest, Precious Ayah, Mohammed Abdulsalem and Victor Enoh looking like they live in the weight room. That doesn’t even include 7-footer Ikey Obiagu, who has a nice frame for a big man and Abayomi Iyiola, who is slender but has been all over the place this weekend. Iyiola’s stock has gone through the roof after a 17-point, 12-rebound performance on Friday and Saturday’s 13-point, 5-rebound game. It’s easy to talk about the Eagles’ size, but what I think truly makes this team elite is the guard play of Forrest and Ogwuche. They work extremely well together and are physical guards that aren’t afraid to use their body and fly in for rebounds and also, once they get their shoulders past you on a drive, the rest is history. I saw them feed each other for assists countless times this weekend and nearly never make a mistake.

Like I said earlier, the bigs inside were just physically too big for Rayshaun Hammonds and Lance Thomas. Both are great players but they could get nothing going at all. Holding that duo to five total points is astounding. Greenforest has now spanked a top backcourt in the state and a top frontcourt as well. Jordan Goldwire played well for Norcross and I thought freshman Kyle Sturdivant looked good also. Robert Sims battled hard for Coach McMillan and was up to the task to pick up the slack left by Thomas and Hammonds. He fought for seven points and blocked three shots.


Top Performers:

Justin Forrest – 21 points, 4 assists
Abayomi Iyiola – 13 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block
John Ogwuche – 12 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals
Mohammed Abdulsalem – 9 points
Victor Enoh – 7 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block
Ikey Obiagu – 6 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks
Precious Ayah – 3 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block

Jordan Goldwire – 11 points
Kyle Sturdivant – 11 points, 2 assists
Chris Curlett – 8 points, 3 steals
Robert Sims – 7 points, 3 blocks
Rayshaun Hammonds – 5 points, 8 rebounds

Will Washington Lifts No. 2 McIntosh Over IMG

5ANo. 2 McIntosh 61, IMG Academy (FL) 53

A game marred with questionable calls was eventually won by the play on the court. The fourth quarter belonged to Will Washington as the Chiefs rebounded from last night’s heartbreaking loss to down the internationally flavored Ascenders.

IMG Academy led 11-9 after one and rode star sophomore Emmitt Williams all game long. The big time athlete scored a game-high 24 points and pulled down 16 rebounds to keep the Ascenders in the game. He and guard Arseniy Andreev, who finished with 13 points, did most of the damage.

Emmitt Williams will only get better and that's scary
Emmitt Williams will only get better and that’s scary

The game was close throughout, but early in the third the momentum could have potentially swung all the way into IMG’s corner when Washington, for the second night in a row, ran into foul trouble as he picked up his third foul on a charge at the 7:17 mark of the third quarter. Just over two minutes later, he picked up his fourth foul on one of many controversial calls made by the officiating crew. On an inbounds, he and Andreev were jostling for position, not uncommon for guards, but for some reason the referee blew the whistle for a double foul and in the process saddled Washington with another foul causing him to sit at the 4:58 mark of the third and McIntosh up 33-32.

The Chiefs entered the fourth up 40-36 after Dishon Lowery cleaned up a miss and scored inside. The Wofford signee finished with five points and battled Williams inside all night and pulled down 15 rebounds of his own.

Minutes into the fourth with 5:08 left, Brendon Rowan took a big charge and Washington re-entered with the Chiefs trailing 43-42. From that point on, it was all Washington. He scored 16 of his team-high 18 points in the final quarter, going 12-of-16 from the line. With both teams in the bonus from the 4:55 mark on, Washington knew what to do. He went on a personal 9-0 run to extend the lead to 51-43 before Williams hit a free throw to break the drought.

With 1:59 remaining in regulation, the Ascenders cut the lead to 53-49. Furman signee Jordan Lyons hit Cole Guenther inside who finished a huge layup inside over Williams to put the game out of reach.

My Take: Jordan Lyons got cooking in the second quarter and hit three three-pointers and played an all-around strong floor game. Will Washington’s performance proves just how valuable he is to Coach Jason Eisele’s team. He is always in control of the ball and rarely makes mistakes. When he turned it on in the fourth quarter, IMG had no answer. From my two games watching the Chiefs, it just solidifies my opinion of them being a major threat to challenge Miller Grove for the title. If they can establish their low post presences in Chase Walter and Dishon Lowery, they will be tough to beat.  Lowery gobbles up rebounds at a major rate and finished with 15 more after a 20-board night on Friday. Ulysses Brown only scored three points, but he did an outstanding job while Washington was on the bench. He played good defense and didn’t force anything on offense while keeping his head when the Ascenders tried to get physical. He, Brendon Rowan and Cole Guenther are nice role players off the bench that help the flow of the offense and defense stay intact while the starters sit. Emmitt Williams of IMG is still just a sophomore and that is scary. He’s an exceptional athlete who can hang and glide to the basket. He doesn’t have too much help around him, but that will just help him gain experience as being “the man” while he moves on to the college ranks.

Top Performers:

Will Washington – 18 points, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
Jordan Lyons – 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
Dishon Lowery – 5 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block
Chase Walter – 6 points, 6 rebounds

Emmitt Williams – 24 points, 16 rebounds
Arseniy Andreev – 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists

Greenforest’s Size Dominates Smaller Falcons Inside

1ANo. 1 Greenforest 87, 6ANo. 6 Pebblebrook 59

Before the game, Greenforest’s size advantage was one major factor as to why Pebblebrook entered as a slight underdog. That size advantage was fully taken advantage of by Coach Larry Thompson’s team as the Eagles out-rebounded the Falcons 42-to-18 to blow past Pebblebrook at Holiday Hoopsgiving. At the end of one, the Falcons tried to stay close and trailed 29-19, but the second quarter became a microcosm of the game. Sophomore wide body Mohammed Abdulsalem entered the game and posted seven points and four rebounds before finishing with nine points and nine rebounds. Greenforest pounded the glass all night and came away with second-chance point after second-chance point.

Abdulsalem’s work inside was strong, but the astronomical improvement of five-star junior center Ikey Obiagu was one of the main storylines seen. The 7-footer scored 15 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked four shots. Pebblebrook was powered by Auburn signee Jared Harper, but the 5-foot-11 guard couldn’t find much help outside of Collin Sexton and JJ Smith. Harper scored a game-high 29 points with four threes, while Sexton chipped in 12 points and Smith finished with 11.

Ikey Obiagu is a big presence in the middle
Ikey Obiagu is a big presence in the middle

Greenforest’s balance was unmatched as nine players scored led by New Hampshire bound guard John Ogwuche’s 19. Abayomi Iyiola posted a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Justin Forrest scored nine and dished out seven assists, Precious Ayah added seven points and nine rebounds and Jaden Duggan chipped in six, all from the line, to round out the Eagles’ top scorers.

My Take: Boy, oh boy. Greenforest is a terrifying team when they are clicking. They have frontcourt size that nearly every NCAA Division-One team would covet. Let’s start with the biggest of them all, Ikey Obiagu. This was just the second time I have ever seen the 7-footer play. I watched him come off the bench in the state championship a year ago and score two points, grab zero rebounds and foul out. When I heard he was a five-star prospect this summer I laughed. When I saw him tonight I was amazed. He showed a deft touch inside and some nice post moves to go along with advanced footwork for a man of his stature. I can totally see why every high major program in the country is hot after him. Abayomi Iyiola might have been the most impressive outside of Obiagu. His 17 points and 12 rebounds was just pure hustle. Put him alongside Ikey and Mohammed Abdulsalem who is an absolute bull in a china shop down low and you have a team that will massacre others on the glass. John Ogwuche and Justin Forrest did what they had to do from their guard spots and were as solid as it gets, simply making the right decisions on the floor and not trying to do too much. As far as things go for Pebblebrook, I expect them to be extremely dangerous when they aren’t playing NBA frontlines. Jared Harper is fun to watch and isn’t afraid to challenge in the lane with floaters or pull up for long threes. Against elite teams however, he will need some help. JJ Smith showed some flashes with some tough baskets, but he looks to be far too good of a player to only score 11 points. Collin Sexton will be a nice running mate and the trio should have some fun in the high scoring Region 3-AAAAAA. Productive size inside will be important to find, also a glue guy as well. Trhae Mitchell and Derek Ogbeide are missed, but so is Kevin Murph. The year is young however and I’m confident Coach George Washington will find someone to step up and fill those important roles.

Top Performers: 

Abayomi Iyiola – 17 points, 12 rebounds
John Ogwuche – 19 points, 2 assists, 2 steals
Ikey Obiagu – 15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks
Justin Forrest – 9 points, 7 assists
Mohammed Abdulsalem – 9 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block
Precious Ayah – 7 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks

Jared Harper – 29 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
Collin Sexton – 12 points
JJ Smith – 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks

Brandon Robinson’s Big Day Enough to Hold Off No. 2 McIntosh

6A Douglas County 84, 5ANo. 2 McIntosh 81

Two looks at a three-pointer for Furman signee Jordan Lyons, who canned seven deep balls on the night, did not drop as Coach Hollis Bethea’s Douglas County Tigers survived in a thrilling afternoon tilt at Holiday Hoopsgiving. The game was played at a neck-break pace as the full court pressure of the Tigers bothered the Chiefs early on. Douglas County held a 24-18 lead at the end of one and foul trouble began to hurt the Chiefs. Will Washington, McIntosh’s floor general who finished with 17 points (9-of-10 FT) and seven assists, picked up a third foul with 4:46 to play in the second and had to sit the remainder of the half with McIntosh down 34-29.  The Chiefs fell behind by as many as 10 points, but would scrap their way back, using a 7-to-2 run to finish the half sparked by Brendon Rowan saving a ball underneath his basket to teammate Ben Bryant who laid it in to bring the game to single digits.

Jordan Lyons lining up one of his seven treys
Jordan Lyons lining up one of his seven treys

The two focal points of the game were Lyons and Douglas County’s Brandon Robinson, who is signed to play at UNC. Robinson scored 20 of his game-high 35 points in the first half and scored in a multitude of ways, drilling five threes and getting to basket and using pull ups in the lane. Lyons went for a team-high 34 for the Chiefs, as both stars were expected to get theirs, it was up to the supporting cast to be the difference makers. Coach Bethea got just that, as Devarion Davis scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Kalen Clifton added 14 points and five rebounds while Khayl Waters battled for 10 points and four rebounds.

McIntosh trailed for the majority of the game, struggling to get over the hump before they finally did so on a Braxton Shaw three-ball at the 6:05 mark of the third quarter which tied the game at 44. But every time the Chiefs would make a push, Robinson and the Tigers answered back to keep them at bay. The Chiefs took their first lead of the second half when Chase Walter grabbed one of his 12 rebounds and outletted the ball out to Lyons as time was expiring entering the fourth. All in one motion, Lyons caught the ball in midair and heaved it to the hoop, drilling a three from halfcourt to give the Chiefs a 61-60 lead entering the final frame.

McIntosh held onto a narrow lead until Douglas County recaptured the lead and led 77-75 with 2:30 to play. Clifton missed a pair of free throws with under 15 seconds to play, giving McIntosh an opportunity to tie. Lyons got two decent looks, albeit contested, but could not sink the game-tying long ball to send the game to overtime.

Dishon Lowery was a monster inside
Dishon Lowery was a monster inside

McIntosh, known for its balance, did not disappoint as Dishon Lowery scored 13 points and grabbed a game-high 20 rebounds. He and Walter were both saddled with foul trouble at points in the game. Walter finished with eight points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in the loss.

My Take: Well that was fun, wasn’t it?! What a game. I said going in that Jordan Lyons and Brandon Robinson would negate each other with their points (34 & 35), and that it would be up to the rest of the gang. Devarion Davis impressed me greatly and stepped up big time. His 18 points came off active rebounding and a feathery touch. McIntosh just couldn’t take control of the game, but they were exciting to watch. Jordan Lyons has unlimited range, Dishon Lowery is an absolute beast on the boards, Will Washington is a true point guard and Chase Walter loves to bend the rim with his dunks. Coach Hollis Bethea’s defense was active all night long and harassed the Chiefs, but wasn’t wild. They took numerous charges and got Washington, Lowery and Walter all in foul trouble. It’s not even fair how good Region 3-AAAAAA is. A loss like this could be good for McIntosh to gain that laser focus as they strive for a state title, and a win like this for Douglas County solidifies them as one of the best teams in the state when they work as a group.

Top Perfomers:

Douglas County
Brandon Robinson – 35 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Devarion Davis – 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists
Kalen Clifton – 14 points, 5 rebounds
Khayl Waters – 10 points, 4 rebounds

Jordan Lyons – 34 points
Dishon Lowery – 13 points, 20 rebounds
Will Washington – 17 points, 7 assists
Chase Walter – 8 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 blocks