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Free throws ice No. 8 Maynard Jackson’s great overtime escape at No. 9 Lithia Springs

No. 8 Maynard Jackson 69, No. 9 Lithia Springs 64 OT

We need more Wednesday night games. Thanks to the snow storm of last week, No. 8 Maynard Jackson (9-0) vs. No. 9 Lithia Springs (7-1) was pushed back and thank goodness it was. With undefeated records and first-place in Region 6-AAAAA on the line, both teams left everything on the floor after a sluggish start, but in the end, it was the Jaguars finding a way to survive in overtime in front of a hostile home crowd.

There were no high-flying offensive spectacles on display at Lithia Springs, instead it was a throwback hard-nosed ugly game to start. Both teams struggled to score, especially Maynard Jackson with 6-foot-7 senior forward TJ Boykin coming off the bench with a bad back. Lithia Springs took a quick lead behind a Terrence Ashford three-ball.

Both teams pressed each other, with the Lions forcing some early turnovers while making it a point to keep the ball out of Marquavis Carter’s hands, likely the Region’s best player entering the night averaging 23.8 points. The Lions held Carter scoreless in the first quarter and took a gritty 10-8 lead into the second quarter.

Maynard Jackson got their footing and started to turn the tables with their 2-2-1 press but couldn’t quite take control of the game as a quick 4-0 spurt, which felt like much more at the time, forced a Coach Travis Williams timeout with his Jaguars trailing 16-10 at the 3:42 mark of the second quarter.

The pace quickened and the home crowd started to make its presence felt as the Lions finished the quarter on a 7-3 run sparked by 6-foot-5 freshman post Omarion Smith’s defense, helping Lithia Springs take a 25-17 lead into the half. Smith, who came in averaging over six blocks per game, started flying around, turning his defense into Lions offense, blocking four shots in the half while Ashford and Anthony Hardy traded buckets to grow the lead.

Down eight points, halftime couldn’t have come at a better time for Maynard Jackson. Carter was held to three points while Boykin entered off the bench with three quick turnovers and zero offensive production. The saving grace for the Jaguars was the play of Damari “DJ” Johnson. With Carter and Boykin held to nearly nothing, it was the 5-foot-8 senior who decided to step up. Johnson steadied the Jags with six first half points, three rebounds and three assists, but if Maynard Jackson was to remain undefeated, they would need major contributions from their horses in the second half and that is exactly what they got.

As if a switch was flipped, the Jaguars became the aggressor in the third quarter. Maynard Jackson cut the Lithia Springs to 27-26 at the 5:11 mark behind a 7-0 run sparked by Johnson, who made a layup followed by a Boykin three and a Timipa Ogoun bucket inside.

With the Jaguars pulling close, Ashford answered back with an old-fashioned three-point play to ease the lead back to four.

But from there, Maynard Jackson surged ahead, closing the third quarter on a 9-2 run and outscoring the Lions 20-9 in the frame for a 37-34 advantage. Ashford scored seven of Lithia’s nine points in the quarter but Maynard Jackson began to see their stars break free, Johnson scoring six points, followed by Carter and Boykin’s five apiece.

Back and forth the two teams traded leads throughout the fourth quarter. Senior Christian Horton, who scored all four of his points in the fourth quarter, finally saw the ball drop through with a tough hook shot in the lane as Lithia Springs regained a 42-41 lead at the 5:25 mark.

But in a foreboding sign, Carter got to the line on what looked like a bad call and sank both free throws. Carter finished the night with a game-high 22 points but only made three field goals, the rest coming on 15-of-19 shooting from the foul line including going 14-of-17 in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The Lions held a 46-45 lead with 2:37 on the clock and sent Hardy to the line with a chance to extend it, but instead Hardy went 0-for-2 and Johnson raced down the floor and handed out one of his game-high six assists to Marquis Colzie to give Maynard Jackson a 47-46 advantage.

Johnson struck yet again with a scoop shot in the lane with just over a minute to play giving the Jaguars a 50-48 edge. After a missed jumper, Maynard Jackson controlled the rebound and Boykin was fouled with 36.9 seconds remaining, where he would split a pair of free throws. Hardy attacked in transition off the miss but went 1-of-2 from the line putting the score at 51-49. Colzie grabbed the rebound and was immediately fouled. He missed the front-end of the one-and-one, allowing Lithia Springs to advance the ball with 18 seconds left before Coach JW Cantrell called timeout.

Ogoun swatted a drive attempt out of bounds, putting the Lions in the corner with 10.4 seconds remaining in regulation. Lithia Springs turned it over with 6.8 seconds left and Ogoun was sent to the line with a chance to ice it with two free throws. He hit his first, making it a three-point game and the Lions seemingly in need of a miracle. Ogoun missed his second free throw and the Lions’ prayers were answered. Chance Ellison grabbed the rebound and quickly tossed it to junior guard Karee Anderson, who quickly advanced it up the left sideline. The lefty pulled-up on a dime and drilled a three at the buzzer in front of a defender to send the game to overtime time at 52-52 and the crowd into a frenzy.

In overtime, Lithia Springs held a 57-56 lead with 1:05 left, but Carter drew a foul curling from the left of the arc to the top of the perimeter where he was able to exaggerate the contact and baited the refs into calling a foul. Carter buried all three free throws to take a 59-57 lead that the Jags would never lose. The Lions cut the score to 64-62 with 12.8 seconds left and 66-64 with 4.7 remaining but the Jaguars were money from the line going 15-of-19 in overtime, Carter sinking 9-of-11 and Johnson 4-of-4 to ice the game.

My Take

After an ugly start to the game, No. 8 Maynard Jackson at No.9 Lithia Springs ended up being one of the best games I have seen this year. The house was loud and the place was packed in the lower bowl section. I didn’t see enough for either team to be considered legit state title contenders, especially with No. 1 Warner Robins, No. 2 Buford and the deadly Region 5 group that this Region 6 has to pair up with in the first round, but I did see two well-coached teams that had their kids playing hard. Both teams have some tricky guards that can give opponents trouble in the state playoffs and could advance a few rounds in.

Marquavis Carter was held in check the entire game, but the fact that he could score 22 points on three made field goals is impressive. The 6-foot-1 lefty off-guard has a pretty stroke that is often lethal when given space to fire. Credit Lithia Springs’ high energy defense for knowing where Carter was at all times, but like all great players can, Carter still found a way to beat the Lions by getting to the line. I was most impressed by little DJ Johnson. He didn’t look like much, the smallest player on the floor with a vibrant red-mouth piece, but Johnson was great. So pesky, he kept finding ways to score in the paint and even come away with offensive rebounds at 5-foot-8. Without his consistent play throughout, there is no way Maynard Jackson wins this game. 6-foot-7 senior TJ Boykin has been a highly touted prospect his entire career at Columbia then transferred into Maynard Jackson for his final season. I was told that he had a bad back, but I came away unimpressed. His motor was in hibernation mode for much of the game and he didn’t play with much energy. The potential is still there, but I’m not sure we will ever see him dominate at the high school level like we might have thought he could a few years back. He’s still a super intriguing player at the next level. We might be able to chalk up his lackluster performance to his back, but we will have to see; the clock is ticking. 6-foot-5 sophomore post Timipa Ogoun kind of reminds me of 2017 River Ridge graduate Destin Exinor with his body type and athleticism. You can tell Ogoun is young and a little raw, but he has a quick leap and came up big with some late rebounds and blocks.

Lithia Springs has a stable of steady players, no real stars. They can nickel and dime you for 10 points apiece and make defending them a real headache. Senior Terrence Ashford came up big for the Lions and was fearless attacking the basket as was sophomore leading scorer Anthony Hardy. Hands down I was most impressed by 6-foot-5 freshman Omarion Smith. He is an elite shot-blocker in the class of 2021 and considering his size, he might be the best rim protector in the state for his grade right now. He gets to nearly every single ball that is shot his way (8 blocks) and rebounds his area effectively. He even showed off a 15-footer, but his offense is still improving and he doesn’t see many post touches. He will be a player to track over the next few years, especially if he can squeeze out a few more inches to his frame.

Omarion Smith, JW Cantrell
Coach JW Cantrell beaming ear-to-ear like a proud papa next to freshman post Omarion Smith

Top Performers

Maynard Jackson
Marquavis Carter – 22 points (15-of-19 FT), 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
DJ Johnson – 18 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
TJ Boykin – 9 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
Marquis Colzie – 9 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks
Timpia Ogoun – 5 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks

Lithia Springs
Terrence Ashford – 17 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Anthony Hardy – 17 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals
Omarion Smith – 9 points, 10 rebounds, 8 blocks
Karee Anderson – 7 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals

Peach State Stops of the Week (12/10-12/16)

People always ask me, “What’s the best game in town this week?

Peach State Stops of the Week will highlight some of the best basketball being played in Georgia for the current week. Whether it’s a tournament/showcase, a region rivalry, a Top 10 showdown, or a seldom heard sleeper, Peach State Stops of the Week will let you know what gym you need to get into


No. 6 Fellowship Christian at No. 4 Our Lady of Mercy [Girls]

Looking for two elite High Major All-State players that carry their teams? You will want to take a trip down Evander Holyfield Highway to watch reigning Class A-Private Player of the Year Morgan Jones (Florida State) trade buckets with future Colorado Buffalo Cameron Swartz in this heavyweight bout. Jones is the state’s most unstoppable force, pouring in 36.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game as a 6-foot-2 forward. She has led the Lady Bobcats to a 5-1 start including a 59-48 upset of No. 5 Landmark Christian last week to propel Our Lady of Mercy into the Top 10. Jones dumped in 47 points and 20 rebounds and has her Bobcats making noise statewide after finishing 13-13 a year ago. If Jones is the state’s most unstoppable player, Swartz is one of Class A-Private’s most explosive athletes and versatile scorers. The 5-foot-11 guard makes plays all over the floor for Fellowship Christian (2-2), averaging 33.5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 3.7 steals. She is a threat to score once she steps over half-court and isn’t afraid to fire away from all angles. Expect fireworks tonight.

No. 5 Grayson at No. 4 Newton

Two juggernauts collide for early season supremacy in Region 8-AAAAAAA. Ashton Hagans has been unstoppable for Newton (7-0), collecting five consecutive triple-doubles. The Rams have not missed a step from last year’s 28-2 team that fell in the Elite Eight, even after graduating JD Notae (Jacksonville) and Isaiah Miller (UNCG). Tyrease Brown has emerged as one of the state’s most lethal shooters while Hagans has toys inside with Dre Butler and Armani Harris to finish around the rim. The Rams have much more inside-outside balance than they had a year ago, giving teams headaches trying to figure out how to slow down the high-flying offense that averages 86.8 points per game – tops in Class AAAAAAA. Something will have to give as Grayson (4-1) enters with defense being their calling card, allowing just 52.6 points per game, their highest point total allowed coming in a 67-64 loss to Class AAAAA No. 1 Warner Robins. The Rams can get a bucket when they need it from their deep backcourt headlined by Charleston Southern-signee Travis Anderson. Fellow senior Nick Edwards is one of the state’s better unsigned guards while DJ Williams, Reco Hallmon and Justin Fleming all provide their own unique dynamic. Luol Solomon, Orvel Graham and Deivon Smith have provided sparks throughout the season while the post is anchored by double-double man 6-foot-6 Kenyon Jackson and 6-foot-7 senior Terrence Porter. You can watch LIVE on SUVtv.


No. 8 Maynard Jackson at No. 9 Lithia Springs

Last week’s snow storm affords us a full week of high school basketball with Region 6-AAAAA front runners locking up for sole possession of first place on a rare Wednesday-nighter. Head Coach Travis Williams has breathed new life into the Maynard Jackson (8-0) program and has the Jaguars off to their best start in over a decade in just Year 2 at the helm. Senior Marquavis Carter has been lights out from deep, averaging 23.8 points while connecting on 20-of-47 three-pointers. The addition of 6-foot-7 senior TJ Boykin has provided a versatile piece that can do a little bit of everything while 6-foot-5 sophomore Timpia Ogoun has developed into a sturdy post presence that averages 9.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. Lithia Springs (7-0) just cracked the Top 10 this week behind a balance of youth and veterans. Sophomore guard Anthony Hardy has led a balanced scoring attack with over 14 points per game. 6-foot-5 freshman post Omarion Smith has dominated defensively around the rim, blocking 6.2 shots per game to go with his 9.8 points and 5.6 rebounds. Seniors Christian Horton, KeyShawn Phillips and Terrence Ashford have all contributed consistently this season.


No. 7 Swainsboro at No. 4 Jeff Davis

Hazlehurst, GA might be considered “the middle of nowhere” to us city slickers up north, but that doesn’t mean the area isn’t a hotbed for good basketball. Jeff Davis (6-0) is home to possibly the best 2020 player you haven’t heard of, but you should have by now: Ja’Queze Kirby. The hyper-athletic and high-motor forward is a 6-foot-5 energizer bunny that does everything for the Yellow Jackets. The 2016-17 Class AA Freshman of the Year led Jeff Davis in nearly every category, posting 14.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.1 steals, 3.2 blocks and is improving across the board this season. Seniors Kirese Manley and Chandler Davenport are big shot makers while Tae Thomas is the sparkplug at point guard. They will have a chance to prove themselves a worthy state title contender as they host Preseason No. 1 Swainsboro, who looks motivated after taking a 71-36 beating to Statesboro 10 days ago. The core of All-State First Teamer Jaylan McKinney, Jamil Watkins and Eddie Roberts is still to be feared in Class AA. The Yellow Jackets will have to find a way to slow down McKinney, a binge scorer that averaged over 28 points per game last year, if they want to continue climbing up the rankings.


2017 SEBA Atlanta Hoop Festival

A true favorite, the SEBA Atlanta Hoop Festival held by William LoPresti is back at Pope High School marking its 10th annual edition. A loaded field features a bevy of talent.

2 PM: Blessed Trinity vs. Hillgrove
3:30 PM: Berkmar vs. Mt. Bethel Christian
5 PM: Hoover (AL) vs. Kennesaw Mountain
6:30 PM: No. 8 Duluth vs. No. 1 McEachern
8 PM: No. 2 Dacula vs. Pope

For an excellent preview of each team, visit SEBA’s Preview Page.

Gwinnett Daily Post Metro Atlanta Challenge

Gwinnett County is slam packed with basketball this Saturday as 15 different in-county schools are in action across three different gymnasiums. Matchups are provided courtesy of the Sandy’s Spiel graphics department.