5ANo. 1 Miller Grove 94, 3ANo. 4 East Jackson 68
*Contributed by Colin Hubbard (@__Chubs__)
HOSCHTON — The No. 1 Miller Grove Wolverines made the 72-mile trip up I-85 to take on the No. 4 East Jackson Eagles in a scrimmage that had everyone around the state of Georgia buzzing.
The Eagles had a very tough task coming into the game, but they weren’t going to let that get to them.
The Wolverines had won six consecutive state titles before falling in the quarterfinals to Warner Robins last season, but the Eagles have built one of the best backcourts in the state led by sophomores Drue Drinnon, Travis Anderson II and Lamont Smith.
East Jackson head coach David Boyd is no stranger to top competition after leading Milton High School to several state title games in the last few years and has quickly turned East Jackson into an unlikely high school basketball powerhouse on the rise.
Miller Grove on the other hand was looking forward to taking on a team built on tempo and was excited to see how they would be able to handle a hostile road environment.
Things didn’t start off great for the high flying Eagles as they found themselves in 5-0 hole after three turnovers.
The Wolverines extended their lead to 14-7 with 3:56 remaining in the first quarter, but Anderson and the Eagles would not go away.
Anderson drained two three pointers late in the first quarter to cut the lead to 21-17 heading into the second quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, the Wolverines built a 10-point lead after an Alterique Gilbert three-pointer, but Drinnon answered back with a three of his own.
The Eagles matched the Wolverines shot-for-shot from that point on and trailed Miller Grove 44-37 at halftime.
Gilbert led all scorers with 14 points at the break while Drinnon and Anderson each had 13, respectively.
Anderson nailed a three-pointer to start the third quarter to cut the lead to just four points, but the Wolverines answered with a three of their own to bring the lead back to seven points, 47-40.
Miller Grove extended their lead to nine after a quick layup, but back-to-back Drinnon field-goals cut the lead back to six points midway through the third quarter.
After Drinnon split a pair of free throws, Miller Grove’s advantage was at five, but that would be the closest the Eagles would get the rest of the way.
Miller Grove went on a 9-2 run to give the Wolverines a 58-42 lead that would eventually settle at 69-55 entering the final frame.
The experienced Wolverines wore down East Jackson and outscored the Eagles 25-13 in the fourth quarter en route to a 94-68 victory.
The story of the night was rebounds and turnovers. The Wolverines out-hustled and out-rebounded the Eagles all game long.
Despite 42 percent shooting from the field for East Jackson, the Eagles turned the ball over 22 times and managed just 28 rebounds on the night.
“Our rebounding has got to improve tremendously moving forward and we have to grow up fast because we’re young but I thought we competed well, especially in the first half and didn’t quit so I’m pleased with the effort,” Boyd said.
“We hope to get into a transition game and pick up the pace during games but the way you do that is great defense so there is a lot of work for us to do on the defensive side.”
East Jackson’s top three scorers were all sophomores and now have just one game under their belt as teammates.
Both Drinnon and Anderson praised one another for what they can bring to the table which has both players extremely excited to see where they can go.
“We don’t both have to score and I’m able to take some of the pressure he had last year off and make it easier for each of us to play better,” Anderson said.
“I’m really happy to have Travis here this year,” Drinnon said. “It’s just another scorer to work with and help me play better as well.”
Turning Point: After a great first half by both teams, the Eagles were unable to keep up with the Wolverines in the second half. East Jackson was outscored 50-31 in the second half despite shooting 44 percent from the field.
Colin’s Take: It’s safe to say that both teams will be extremely successful this season. East Jackson has an extremely loaded back court with three to four players who can all score 20 plus points a game, but none of that will matter unless they can take care of the ball and crash the boards. Coach David Boyd, Drue Drinnon and Travis Anderson all made it a point of emphasis to improve their rebounding in the coming weeks. Miller Grove on the other hand has a very balanced team. UConn-commit Alterique Gilbert is the leader of the team and will need to put the team on his back at times, especially on offense. There is a reason why the Wolverines had won six consecutive state titles. Look for them to be in the mix for another one this year.
Alterique Gilbert – 24 points
Tae Hardy – 17 points
Aaron Augustin – 14 points, 7 assists, 5 steals
Colin Young – 12 points, 10 rebounds
Drue Drinnon – 27 points (9-20 FG)
Travis Anderson – 21 points (4-8 3PT)
Lamont Smith – 10 points