Tag Archives: jonesboro

Liberty County rides youth to first-ever state title

No. 2 Liberty County 58, No. 1 Jonesboro 52

Youth was served on Friday night in the Class AAAA state championship as No. 2 Liberty County held on and knocked off two-time defending state champ No. 1 Jonesboro 58-52 for the program’s first title. The Panthers (28-1) held the Cardinals (28-5) to 33.3 percent shooting and limited Jonesboro to just one offensive rebound in the first half. The Panthers, known for their firepower, proved they could grind out a defensive battle with one of the state’s most hard-nosed groups.

Juniors and sophomores led the way for Liberty County. Five-star UGA football-commit Richard LeCounte attacked early and often. After three ugly misses to start the day, the uber-athletic guard began to settle in and netted 14 of his team-high 20 points in the first half while grabbing nine boards on the night. The Panthers took a 14-10 lead after the first period and extended their advantage to 22-13 before Jonesboro ripped off five straight. At the half, Liberty County held a 26-22 lead. MJ Walker Jr., Jonesboro’s star junior guard, was harassed into a 6-for-17 night after pouring 30 on the Panthers in last year’s 71-43 semifinal win. He scored the final four points of the half but never caught fire.

Auburn-commit Davion Mitchell was held scoreless in the first half on 0-of-4 shooting but it was sophomore Will Richardson who stepped up big time for Liberty County, scoring seven of his 19 points in the first 16 minutes. In the third quarter it was time for Mitchell to shine. His first points came in the open court on a fastbreak one-handed jam that made it 30-22. Next with 5:20 to play in the quarter, Mitchell splashed a three-pointer and was fouled to cap a 7-0 run to start the half. He scored the seventh of his 14 points on the night with seconds left on a layup making it a 37-30 lead heading into the final frame.

Davion Mitchell found a way to win on an off night
Davion Mitchell found a way to win on an off night

Jonesboro, battled-tested so many times before, was not about to lie down and die. Walker buried a three with 3:35 remaining to cut the deficit to 43-39. With 2:58 left, the officials missed a charge on Mitchell. It looked like Zerrick Cooper was set early and took it on the chest, but instead Mitchell was sent to the line and drilled both foul shots to make it 47-41.

Walker split a pair of free throws with 1:48 left closing the gap to 50-48, the closest the Cardinals would get. From there the Panthers finished the game on an 8-4 run sparked by a LeCounte jumper and free throws from Richardson and Mitchell.

Youth was a reoccurring theme throughout the game. Mitchell and LeCounte, both juniors who combined for 34 points, will return next season to defend their crown. Sophomore Will Richardson is also a blossoming prospect, but maybe the most impressive of all was first-year head coach Julian Stokes, a 24-year-old.

One title in one year. Not a bad start for Julian Stokes.
One title in one year. Not a bad start for Julian Stokes.

The game plan for Stokes was simple.

“We had to force him [MJ Walker] to beat us by himself. Just not letting the others get their opportunities and I think our defensive execution was great,” explained Stokes. “We pulled everything out that we prepared for and we came out with the trophy.”

The stars were expected to get theirs. Walker, Mitchell and LeCounte all scored the ball well for their teams, but it was Richardson who was the X-factor for the Panthers.

“This was a moment I’ve been waiting for. He stepped up and made a name for himself tonight and I’m proud of him for that. I’ve been waiting all year for him to wake up and he’s finally awake. He’s going to be a great kid. Look out for him.”

As well as Coach Stokes prepared his team he reflected all the praise to his players.

“All I can say is it’s all about the guys. They put in the work day in and day out. They work together, they play together and we came out with the W.”

Region upsets shake state picture

Just a day after defending Class AAAAA state champion Brunswick fell to Statesboro in the Region 3 tournament, eliminating the Pirates from postseason contention, more madness rocked the state.

The Statesboro Blue Devils struck again, defeating No. 9 Effingham County, bouncing the Rebels to the consolation game after Effingham had not lost a region game all year. The fifth-seeded Blue Devils now meet two-seed Camden County for the region title and a number one seed heading into state.

Stunners rattled the landscape of Class AAAA. Region 1’s top-seed No. 9-ranked Monroe was hammered by fifth-seed Westover 61-43. The Patriots advance to the region title where they will matchup with two-seed No. 10 Bainbridge. Tyree Crump (UGA) and the Bearcats are peaking at the right time, winners of six-straight. They advanced to the championship after dispatching of three-seed Worth County 80-59.

Region 1 gets Region 4 in round one. No. 1 Jonesboro blew past the second-seeded No. 8 Eagle’s Landing Eagles 70-52. In the championship the Cardinals meet opposite number one-seed and No. 7-ranked Walnut Grove. The Warriors rallied past three-seed Eastside 51-47 last night. The two-time defending state champion Cardinals are the favorite to three-peat this year and are expected to win their region, but the first round of state won’t be a cakewalk as they will draw either No. 9 Monroe or Worth County, a team which has spent time in the top ten and boasts one of the best frontcourts in the state with 6-foot-8 power forward Anfernee McLemore heading to Auburn and 6-foot-5 Brandon Moore, who posts over 22 points and 12 rebounds per game.

In Region 6-AAAA No. 4 St. Pius blew a 50-38 lead heading into the fourth quarter against No. 5 Grady. The Knights were fouled attempting a three with 1.6 seconds left in a tied game and sank all three free throws to overcome a 15-point deficit and win 59-56. Grady now plays No. 2 Lithonia in the region championship while St. Pius plays fifth-seed Columbia.

Class AA’s defending state champ No. 2 Seminole County lost to No. 9 Early County 73-66 in Region 1. The Indians will face fourth-seed Fitzgerald in the consolation game while No. 1 Thomasville draws the Bobcats with the top-seed out of one of the state’s toughest regions up for grabs. If things go chalk in Region 4 with No. 4 Crawford County advancing to the region title game and beating No. 8 Macon County, if Seminole County were to lose to Fitzgerald, or if the Indians won and Crawford County lost, the opening round of the state tournament would see a 2015 state title rematch between Seminole County and Crawford County, a high-flying game the Indians won 76-71.

The upset of the night took place in Region 4-AAA. No. 7 Westminster entered its game with Jackson-Atlanta, winners of 21-straight and holding a 22-2 record. After dispatching of four-seed Jackson-Atlanta in the middle of January, 52-44 at Jackson, the Wildcats looked like a lock to advance to state. The Jaguars entered at 14-11 overall and 4-6 in region play, but it did not stop them from stunning the Wildcats 53-48 and in the process eliminating Westminster from making the state playoffs.

21-straight wins, only three losses on the year and all Westminster has to show for it is nothing at all. That is the definition of playoff basketball and that is what makes the March to Macon, or February Frenzy, so unpredictably great.