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GHSA State Championship Recaps

March 7 – Macon Centreplex

Class AA

Laney Wildcats basketball

(G) R4 #1 Laney 63, R4 #2 Josey 40 The Wildcats ripped off a 12-0 run after trailing 16-15 to find the cushion they needed to blow past Josey for a fifth time this season and win their second-straight state title and 62nd game in-a-row. Alabama-signee De’sha Benjamin was unstoppable with 19 of her game-high 26 points in the first half when it mattered most. She finished with 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Laney led 29-20 at the half, holding the Eagles to 22.7% shooting. Jhessyka Williams tacked on 19 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Jaiden Hamilton tallied 14 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists as the third head of the Wildcat attack. Josey finished just 29.5% from the field and 3-of-14 from deep. Tykedra Rolland (10) and Rhykeria Rolland (7) were held to 17 points total. Ebony Clark led the Eagles with 12 points and 7 rebounds.

Thomasville Bulldogs basketball

(B) R1 #1 Thomasville 66, R2 #3 Vidalia 31 It was a blood bath from the opening tip as the bigger and more athletic Bulldogs ran wild with a 13-0 start. Sloppy Indian ball-handling led to turnovers while lazy transition defense accounted for six Bulldog first half dunks. The Indians shot 4-of-24 from the field (16.7%) and 1-of-14 from deep in the opening half as the Bulldogs led 41-10 at the break. McDonald’s All-American and Mississippi State-bound forward Reggie Perry finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks. Vonterius Woolbright added 17 points, 7 assists and 3 rebounds. Titus Wright had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. Vidalia was led by Tahj Jones’ 10 points. The Indians finished 2-of-25 from three. Thomasville outscored Vidalia 40-20 in the paint and had 22 points off turnovers.

Class A-Public

Greenville Lady Patriots basketball

(G#4 Greenville 73, #3 Marion County 52:  While Marion County came out double-teaming reigning Class A-Public Player of the Year and Mississippi State-signee Brittany Davis, the rest of the Lady Patriots picked up the slack, helping Greenville grab a 21-10 first quarter lead and building it to 43-26 at the break. Davis finished with 30 points (5-20 FG; 19-20 FT) 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 1 block in her final game. Freshmen Shabrica Leslie and Jabrika Leslie came up big, Shabrica posting 14 points and 5 rebounds while Jabrika had 12 points. Nuriyah Slaton finished with 8 points, 16 rebounds and 5 steals. The Lady Patriots grabbed 24 offensive rebounds and put up 26 second-chance points. Greenville out-rebounded the bigger Eagles 54-46. Marion County was led by Torriunna Myers’ 15 points. Jameisha Williams chipped in 8 points. Ashley Whitley battled for 7 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks.

Wilkinson County Warriors basketball

(B) #3 Wilkinson County 71, #5 Montgomery County 68: The Blue Storm took over the Macon Centreplex again, as the Warriors completed the three-peat, captured their 10th state title in school history and their sixth in the last eight years. Wilkinson County survived a gutsy performance from senior wing Jahleel Wilson who nearly willed the Eagles past the Warriors who are now 10-0 in state title games. Wilson had 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 blocks as he carried the Eagles. Daveaun Coglin finished with 19 points but shot 7-of-24 from the field while Shaw Robinson, who scored 22 in the Final 4, finished 2-of-11 from the field with 5 points. Wilkinson County showed they could play a fast pace game, running up and down with the Eagles in the first quarter, taking a 21-18 lead after one. The two teams entered the half tied at 38. 6-foot-6 senior center Tylan Grable came off the bench to give Wilkinson County 11 points and 14 rebounds. Montgomery County fell behind 62-54 at the 2:44 mark of the fourth quarter but Wilson powered the team back into it, getting help from Daquan Jackson who netted two late hoops. Robinson came away with a steal and a layup to cut the lead to 67-66 with 29.2 seconds left. Having to foul, the Eagles sent Raequan Smith and Brandon Mayes to the line, who went 4-for-4. With 10.7 seconds left, Coach Christopher Owens drew up a three-point look for Robinson, who struggled all night. The guard that averaged 19 points per game on the season, shot an air-ball, sealing the Eagles’ fate. Wilkinson County was paced by Jaylen Lamar’s efficient night, shooting 9-of-14 from the field for 22 points. Devin Jones chipped in 12 points and 4 assists in the win. Montgomery County out-shot the Warriors 72-to-50, but Wilkinson County sank 50% of their shots while Montgomery connected at a 36.1% clip and just 3-of-18 from three.

March 8 – Macon Centreplex

Class AAA

Johnson Atomsmashers girls basketball

(GR3 #2 Johnson-Savannah 62, R7 #1 GAC 50: The Atomsmashers atoned for last year’s state title game flop by locking down the paint and shutting down a potent GAC offense with three D-I commits. 6-foot-5 senior Giana Copeland swatted 7 shots in the first 6-plus minutes of the game and finished with 3 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocks total.  GAC shot 1-of-15 in the first quarter and just 22.1% for the entire game.  Down 52-39 in the fourth quarter with 2:27 left, the Spartans finally made their move, sparking a 9-1 run to close to within 53-48 with 1:27 left. But from that point on, Bubbles Williams, J’Mya Cutter and Jasmine Thompson combined to go 9-of-10 from the line to ice it. Cutter finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds while Thompson added 13 points and 8 rebounds. Williams finished her career with 12 points and 4 assists. Caria Reynolds (Hofstra) led GAC with 13 points and 11 rebounds on 3-of-15 shooting. Taylor Sutton (MTSU) scored 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting and Wofford-bound forward Mary Martha Turner had 6 points and 18 rebounds. Kennedi Williams gave the Spartans a spark at guard with 10 points and 7 assists.

Greater Atlanta Christian basketball

(B) R7 #1 GAC 67, R3 #2 Jenkins 53: The Spartans turned a 25-20 halftime deficit into a state title under alumnus David Eaton. Ben Sheppard keyed a 24-point third quarter by sinking two of the Spartans’ four trifectas in the frame. Sheppard scored 8 of his 15 points in the quarter as the Spartans edged ahead with a 44-38 lead and would never trail again, bouncing back from a 15-1 run that gave Jenkins the lead at the half. Hunter McIntosh iced the game from the line in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of his game-high 19 points in the final eight minutes including finishing 14-of-19 from the stripe. Michigan football-commit Chris Hinton piled in 12 of his 16 points in the second half and collected 4 rebounds and 4 assists in the process. Roy Dixon scored 13 points to help the cause. Jenkins was led by Sai Fisher’s 12 points and Mye’on Williams’ 11 points and 6 rebounds. Matthew Sams netted 10.


Buford Lady Wolves basketball

(G) R8 #1 Buford 60, R8 #2 Flowery Branch 49: Buford defeated Flowery Branch for the fourth time this season and seventh in the past two years as the Lady Wolves repeated as state champs and won their sixth title in school-history. Buford held Flowery Branch under the magic number of 50 — all three of the Wolves’ losses this season coming when they allowed over the half century mark. Michigan State-signee Tory Ozment poured in 15 of her game-high 28 points in the first half to go along with her 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Ebony Grant added 12 points. Flowery Branch was paced Alabama-signee Taniyah Worth who finished her career with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists before fouling out with 1:11 remaining down 60-48.  Caroline Wysocki struggled from the field going 1-of-7 to finish with 10 points.

Warner Robins Demons basketball

(B) R1 #1 Warner Robins 67, R5 #3 Miller Grove 64: In a tug-of-war game to finish a less than competitive week back at the Macon Centreplex, Jacolbey Owens drilled a three with 1.3 seconds left to give Warner Robins their first-ever state championship. Miller Grove got off to a hot start, up 15-6 in the first quarter behind eight quick Lorenzo Anderson points. At the end of one, the Wolverines held a 15-10 lead and kept Georgia State-commit Nelson Phillips scoreless. Phillips scored his first basket at the 5:31 mark with the Demons down 19-14 in the second quarter. At the half, Miller Grove maintained a slim 31-29 lead. While Phillips was 3-of-8 from the field, Jacolbey Owens led the charge with nine points but shot just 3-of-7 from the line. In the third quarter, Phillips flew in from the left baseline corner to throw down a one-handed put-back jam to push the Demon lead to 39-35. A Jaydon Norman layup capped a 12-2 run for Warner Robins, giving them a 43-35 lead at the 2:44 mark. The Demons carried a 51-44 advantage into the final frame, but Miller Grove would not go away. After a quiet third quarter, Anderson scored 8 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth. With 2:33 left on the clock, the Wolverines caught up to the Demons at 60-60. Owens was sent to the line where he was 3-of-10 at the time and as a team, Warner Robins was 18-of-32 at that point. Owens sank both free throws and did the same at the 1:54 mark to make it 64-60. The Demons finished 22-of-36 from the line (61.1%) while the Wolverines didn’t fare much better at 66.7% (16-of-24). Down four, Anderson got to the line and converted both attempts. Less than a minute late, Maurice Harvey, who finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals, did the same, knotting the game up at 64 with 51 seconds remaining. The Demons held for one shot. Instead of getting the ball in the hands of star Nelson Phillips, who finished 6-of-15 for 16 points and 10 rebounds, Coach Jamaal Garman saw Owens control their destiny. Owens went to his left, pump faked, and sailed a three over the outstretched arm of TJ Stargell, drilling it — Warner Robins’ only made three of the game (1-for-11) — sending the crowd into a frenzy. Warner Robins went out to celebrate, but the Wolverines got a second chance at life, as the referees added 1.3 seconds back on the clock. Miller Grove’s final inbound heave was fumbled away, giving the Demons a state championship just 21 miles away from home. Owens finished with 24 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Jaydon Norman added 13 points and 5 rebounds. The Demons collected 18 points off turnovers and out-rebounded the larger Wolverines 43-to-36, grabbing 22 offensive rebounds. Miller Grove received 11 points from Terrence Edwards and 7 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists from TJ Stargell.

March 9 – McCamish Pavilion

Class A-Private

Wesleyan Lady Wolves basketball

(G#6 Wesleyan 61, #1 Holy Innocents’ 44  After beating the Wolves three times in the regular season, Holy Innocents’ kryptonite rared its ugly head again on the biggest stage. After blowing a 17-point lead last year in the title game, this time the Golden Bears trailed through out and lost to Wesleyan for the third time in the past four state championships. The Wolves’ repeat was led by Furman-signee Sutton West’s 17 points and 8 rebounds. AC Carter had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Old Dominion-signee Amaya Register scored 12 points and freshman Paige Lyons added 10 points and 6 rebounds. UGA-signee Kaila Hubbard finished her Holy Innocents’ career with 18 points and 4 rebounds.  Jada Farrell  had 13 points and 9 rebounds while freshman Jillian Hollingshead tallied 5 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks. Kennedy Suttle, a Penn-signee that had 16 points and 13 rebounds in last year’s final, was held to 4 points and 7 rebounds. As a team, the Golden Bears shot a woeful 27.1% from the field.

(B) #6 Aquinas 65, #4 St. Francis 60: St. Francis missed three three-pointers in the final 33 seconds as Aquinas won their first-ever state title. The Knights led 33-26 at the half, weathering a 12-to-4 foul count and a 13-of-15 free throw shooting effort, but in the third quarter, the game came to a screeching halt. The Irish outscored St. Francis 25-to-9 in the third as both Tre Gomillion and Trent Bowdre scored 8 apiece in the quarter. As a team, the Irish connected on 10-of-12 field goals in the third after shooting 6-of-19 in the first half. Aquinas controlled a 51-42 lead heading into the fourth. Dwon Odom scored nine of his game-high 22 points in the quarter. At the 6:47 mark of the fourth quarter, the Irish held a 55-48 lead. The Knights fought back and cut the deficit to 61-60 after Odom collected a steal and drained a three-pointer in transition with 48.7 remaining. The Knights had Daniel Parrish trapped in the corner on the press, but were called for a foul that sent the South Carolina move-in to the line. Parrish missed the front-end of the one-and-one, giving the Knights one last look with 8.9 seconds showing on the clock. Coach Drew Catlett designed a misdirection play that found CJ Riley open in the corner for a good look, but his three-pointer was off and Parrish secured the rebound, knocked down both free throws and clinched the title. As a team, the Irish went 24-of-27 from the line. St. Francis opened up 15-7 in the first quarter going 4-of-9 from deep, but finished just 6-of-26 for the game. Gomillion led Aquinas with 16 points and 14 rebounds after having just four points at the half. Dajuan Hill added 15 points and 5 rebounds while Parrish (14) and Bowdre (10) each hit double figures. Riley finished with 18 points and 4 assists for the Knights. Chase Ellis was quiet with 10 points.


Lovejoy Lady Wildcats basketball

(G) R4 #1 Lovejoy 57, R6 #1 Harrison 41: Lovejoy used a 12-0 run to start the fourth quarter, outscoring the Lady Hoyas 23-to-5 to gain control and win their first-ever state title. After being held to 1-point in the first half, Genesis Bryant scored nine in the third quarter to spark the Wildcats, but Lovejoy still trailed 36-34. In the fourth quarter, it was fellow sophomore Anaya Boyd’s turn to carry the load. Boyd finished with 20 points and 5 rebounds, scoring nine in the fourth quarter. Bryant finished with 14 points. Avanna Preston scored 8 points while Kayla Brown collected 8 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks. The Wildcats cut down on their turnovers after committing 12 in the first half and finished with 16 on the night. Harrison turned it over 17 times, seven times in the second half. The Lady Hoyas were led by GCSU-signee Harper Vick’s 10 points and 4 assists. Sarah Woghiren had 8 points and 7 rebounds. Eastyn King and Amara Newsom each had 6 points. UAB-signee Audrey Jordan fouled out and was held to just three shot attempts, finishing with 4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

Langston Hughes Panthers Basketball

(B) R5 #1 Langston Hughes 85, R8 #1 Gainesville 78: In front of alumnus Deshaun Watson, Gainesville led by as many as 14 points at 42-28 at the 2:05 mark of the second quarter and carried a 45-38 lead into the half, but the Panthers of Langston Hughes would not be denied, as Coach Rory Welsh and company repeated as state champs. Saddled with foul trouble the entire game, the Red Elephants were able to control the tempo and slice up the Panthers defense in the first half. Kajuan Hale scored 13 of his 15 points in the half while Gainesville made Virginia Tech-signee Landers Nolley work for everything he got, scoring 16 points but also facilitating with five assists. Down seven points, Langston Hughes needed players other than Nolley to step up. Tyrel Morgan scored eight of his 14 points in the first half to provide support, but Tyler Smith was quiet with just three points and two rebounds.  Following a dormant opening 16 minutes, Smith brought a spark, scoring eight points in the third as the Panthers surged past Gainesville to take a 65-59 lead into the fourth. Gainesville’s final lead of the game came at the 2:16 mark of the third quarter up 57-56.  Middle Tennessee State-signee KJ Buffen scored all 13 of his points in the first half but sat in the second with foul trouble, only managing to take two shots in the second half. Not tested since their 83-81 comeback win at Buford on January 20, the Red Elephants faced adversity for the first time in a long time.  At the 1:47 mark of the fourth, Langston Hughes captured their largest lead of the game at 78-67 after a Tyler Smith And-1 and a technical foul on Brent Kelly that gave Nolley a pair of freebies. Instead of rolling over, the Red Elephants fought back in Coach Benjie Wood’s final game on the Gainesville sidelines. Bailey Minor completed a 4-point play, Hale split a pair of free throws and Rafael Rubel finished a layup to make it 78-74 with 1:13 remaining in the blink of an eye. Rubel would then add a three to make it 80-77 with 48 seconds to play, but that would be as close as the Red Elephants would get as Langston Hughes went 8-of-9 from the foul line in the fourth quarter. Nolley finished his illustrious career with three state titles — two in Georgia and three in a row including a sophomore championship campaign at Curie, IL. The future Hokie poured in 34 points (17-of-20 FT), 10 rebounds and 6 assists. Smith added 17 points. Gainesville was led by Minor’s 17 points. Rubel chipped in 12 points.

March 10 – McCamish Pavilion

Class AAAA

Spalding Lady Jaguars basketball

(GR2 #1 Spalding 58, R4 #1 Henry County 46: Sophomore forward Corriana Evans exploded for 19 points and 17 rebounds as the Jaguars raced past Henry County. Kirah Milner scored 9 points and Kiana Banks added 8 points and 9 rebounds. In the loss, Auburn-signee Brooke Moore had 21 points. Amaiya Jackson tallied 10 points and 8 rebounds. As a team, the War Hawks shot 6-of-29 from deep and 26.8% overall.

Upson-Lee basketball

B) R2 #1 Upson-Lee 70, R8 #1 St. Pius X 54: 63-straight. The Knights repeated as state champions, racing past the Golden Lions in the second half after trailing 33-32 at the break. With JaCorey Smith suspended, junior guard Jarrett Adderton stepped up. In his first showdown with the Golden Lions after transferring in from Florida in the off-season, the 6-foot-2 sparkplug provided the Knights with 16 points (7-11 FG) — 10 in the first half — 5 rebounds and 5 assists. St. Pius held their largest lead of the night at 33-25 after back-to-back Everett Lane threes with 1:04 left in the second quarter, but the Knights closed on a 7-0 run, capped by an Adderton block which led to a Tye Fagan layup with two seconds left. The Golden Lions drilled 5-of-14 threes in the first half and got eight points from Troy Stephens. But in the second half, the Knights slammed the door shut, St. Pius going 1-of-9. With the deep ball not dropping, the Golden Lions still harassed the Knights and trailed 44-40 with 1:19 left in the third before a Fagan layup and an Adderton jumper pushed the lead to 48-42 heading into the final quarter. In the fourth, the Knights ran wild as the Golden Lions’ tank was on E. A 14-2 run saw contributions from everyone, growing the lead to 64-47 with 2:49 showing on the clock. Fagan, a MTSU-commit, finished his high school career with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. Travon Walker helped the Knights dominate the paint for a second-consecutive time against the Lions, collecting 11 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks as the Knights out-rebounded St. Pius 43-to-28, blocked 11 shots and outscored St. Pius 40-28 in the paint. Zyrice Scott netted 14 points to go with his 4 rebounds and 5 assists. The X-factor in last year’s game, Everett Lane, finished with 11 points to pace the Golden Lions. Cameron Traylor drew the defensive duties and helped keep Lane in check as he took his first shot attempt at the 6:46 mark of the second quarter. Matt Gonzalo had 8 points and 4 assists while Zach Ranson added 9 points. The Golden Lions scored 19 points off 18 Upson-Lee turnovers. The Knights now await a call from the GEICO Nationals.


Westlake Lady Lions basketball

(GR2 #1 Westlake 60, R8 #1 Newton 45: Westlake led 39-32 at the end of three and pulled away late to claim their first state title. Anastasia Warren poured in 22 points while freshman Raven Johnson had 15 points and 11 rebounds including grabbing her own missed free throw and finishing a bucket inside to put the game out of reach at 50-41 with 1:13 remaining. Taylor Hosendove added 10 points and 6 rebounds. Newton was powered by Jurnee Smith’s 25 points and 6 rebounds. Lexii Chatman added 13 points and 7 rebounds.

Meadowcreek Mustangs basketball

(B) R7 #2 Meadowcreek 56, R7 #1 Norcross 43: For a second straight season, Norcross entered the state title game with momentum and labeled a slight favorite, but again it wasn’t in the cards. After beating Meadowcreek  three times this season, twice on buzzer-beaters, the Blue Devil magic ran out as the Mustangs used a 13-1 run to open the fourth quarter and squeeze Norcross into submission, capturing their first-ever state championship. Dequarius Nicholas scored 10 of his game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, going 5-of-6 from the foul line. Brandon Boston fouled out at the 6:10 mark with Meadowcreek up 38-37. With Boston’s 13 points on the bench, the Mustangs outscored Norcross 18-6 the rest of the way. Kyle Sturdivant finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds, but his late-game heroics never came into play. Meadowcreek pounded the interior all night, outscoring the Blue Devils in the paint 30-to-16. Duquesne-signee Amari Kelly posted 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks while Detroit-signee Cory Hightower put up 6 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists. Meadowcreek closed out the game with a bang at the 1:55 mark as freshman Kedrick Green delivered a behind-the-back pass to Jamir Chaplin for a big slam to make it 46-37.

Chaplin finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds while Green added 5 points. Meadowcreek tallied 12 assists on the night compared to just two for the Blue Devils. As a team, Norcross was held to 31% shooting. UGA-signee JoJo Toppin had 8 points and 7 rebounds while Issa Muhammad managed 4 points and 4 rebounds. Norcross shot 1-of-14 from three.

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.


Newton Survives triple-overtime thriller with defending state champion Westlake, 89-83

Newton 89, Westlake 83 3OT

Contributed by Joe Chapman (@Joe_Chapman3)

The moment that the GHSA released the Class AAAAAAA playoff bracket, all eyes fixated on the top right region in hopes of a rematch of last year’s Final Four thriller between Westlake and Newton (Westlake won 64-59). After Newton demolished Peachtree Ridge 100-72 and Westlake topped Roswell 50-37, the dream matchup was set. No. 2 Newton, viewed by many as the best team in the state, against No. 5 Westlake, the defending state champions.

Rarely do games of this magnitude and anticipation live up to the hype. But wow, this may have been the best high school game in the state of Georgia this year regardless of class.

After making the 2-hour trip from Clemson, South Carolina to Covington, Georgia to watch this highly anticipated matchup, I showed up at Newton High School over an hour before tipoff and the gym was already filling up. I knew that this was going to be an incredible matchup when Isaiah Miller threw a self-lob and went between the legs to throw it down in warm-ups. These guys were ready.

It’s hard enough to face the three-guard attack of J.D. Notae, Isaiah Miller, and Ashton Hagans as it is. But with Jamie Lewis out with an undisclosed injury, Westlake needed to play it’s best on the road to come out with a win. Newton struck first and jumped out to a quick 11-4 lead 3 minutes into the first quarter behind a pair of 3’s from senior guard, Darvin Jones, and a 3 and a thunderous poster dunk from Isaiah Miller. The remainder of the first quarter resulted in teams trading buckets and at the end of 1, Newton led 24-16.

In the second quarter, the referees made their presence be felt as they started calling foul after foul, frustrating the capacity crowd. With 4:43 remaining in the first half, and Newton up 30-23, the Rams quickly ran off an 11-0 run behind a trio of 3’s and a big time dunk by super-sophomore, Ashton Hagans. Westlake picked up a couple of buckets late in the first half to make the halftime margin slightly more manageable.

As the 3rd quarter got underway, Auburn signee and top-100 recruit, Chuma Okeke, began to assert his dominance as he quickly rattled off 7 of his team’s first 9 points in the half to cut the deficit to 6 with 3:14 to go in the quarter.

A pair 3’s by J.D. Notae grew the Rams lead back to 12 and by the end of the 3rd quarter, Newton found themselves up 57-48.

With 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Westlake pulled within 5. Then, after some Newton misses and turnovers coupled with huge buckets from seniors Okeke and Daniel Lewis, Westlake found themselves up for the first time all night 67-66 with 1:11 left in the quarter.

Senior, Darvin Jones, got fouled with about 22 seconds left and after making the first free throw to tie the game, he missed the second off of the right side of the rim. Coming out of the Westlake timeout, Okeke missed a shot. The ball then landed in J.D. Notae’s arms but he then threw it out of bounds as he tried to make a cross-court pass with about 6 seconds remaining. Okeke then found the ball in his hands again but missed a floater and the game went into overtime.

After going back and forth for the first 3 minutes of the first overtime period, Newton found themselves up 3 with just over a minute left to play. Following a couple of missed layups from Westlake and a Newton free throw, the Rams led 78-74 with 40 seconds left. A Newton turnover led to a miraculous banked 3 by Daniel Lewis to cut the lead to 1 with 25 seconds remaining. Isaiah Miller then hit 1 of 2 from the line and sophomore, Caleb Wallace, hit a floater to tie the game at 79 with 12 seconds left. Ashton Hagans then missed a game-winning 3 attempt and the game went into 2OT.

The second overtime was very low scoring as neither team could buy a basket. Newton had the ball up 83-81 with 51 seconds left coming out of a timeout. After some stalling, Westlake eventually got the steal and senior, Kelvin Simeon, hit a layup off of the assist from Okeke to tie the game at 83. Once again, Newton had the last shot in the 2nd overtime session but Isaiah Miller could not get a floater to fall and then Okeke blocked the Josh Tukes follow attempt and the game went into 3OT.

At this point, the crowd was in disbelief as to what they were witnessing. I knew that this matchup would not disappoint but I never thought that it would end up in a triple-overtime outing. Darvin Jones started the 3rd overtime period with a pull-up jumper. After missed buckets by both teams, Westlake had the ball down 85-83 with 1:39 remaining. A missed layup and a turnover coupled with 4 made free throws from Newton spelled the end for the Lions comeback attempt. Westlake did not score in the final overtime session and Newton came out on top, 89-83.

Despite the loss, Chuma Okeke put on one of the best performances that I have ever seen. The Auburn signee finished with 35 points and 20 rebounds and constantly willed his Westlake squad forward. He finished shooting 12-24 and went to the line 16 times, hitting 11 of them. In the end, Newton was just too much for Westlake to handle, but Okeke did everything in his power to carry his Westlake team. Following Okeke, senior UCF commit, Daniel Lewis, poured in 18 points.

Leading the way for the Rams in scoring was senior Jacksonville-signee, J.D. Notae. Notae found his groove early and finished with 24 points that featured 6 3-pointers. Following Notae was unsigned senior, and one of Sandy’s Spiel’s Under the Radar Seniors, Isaiah Miller, as he poured in 21 points and 10 rebounds. The 6’1 high-flying combo guard did what he does best as he threw down a handful of powerful dunks. He also stepped out and knocked down a 3 while also hitting some midrange jumpers throughout the day. Ashton Hagans is special. He just knows how to run an offense and is so mature for a sophomore point guard. He finished the night with 11 points and a career high 17 assists. He also added 5 steals and 5 rebounds in the win. The pass-first point guard led his team all night and was such a calming presence for the Rams.

The X-factor of this game however, was senior guard Darvin Jones. Jones finished the night with 20 points on 7-11 shooting (3-3 3pt) and 3-4 from the line. He started the game by knocking down a pair of 3 pointers and during the overtime periods, he was not afraid to attack the rim or knock down a pull-up jumper following a Westlake basket. He put on a huge performance for the Rams when they needed it most.

This was hands down one of the top-3 high school basketball games that I have ever watched. Not only were these two teams arguably both top-5 teams in the state, but also the game went into triple-overtime. Newton now moves ahead to face a highly talented Tift County (26-2) squad in the Elite 8. As for Westlake, they take an early exit home following their state championship run last year.

Covington, Georgia was the center of the high school basketball world for the state of Georgia tonight, and it certainly did not disappoint. Here’s to hoping that the Elite 8 games will produce the same excitement as this game did tonight.

No. 5 Newton rams Tucker out of first-place in Region 2

No. 5 Newton 58, Tucker 48

It had been 719 days since the Tucker Tigers (17-5, 7-1) had last lost a region game. A 45-42 loss to Stephenson on Feb. 7, 2014 back in Class AAAAA was Coach James Hartry’s last defeat. Last season the Tigers swept through their new home, Region 2-AAAAAA, and through the first seven region games of this season, they had started 7-0, surviving No. 5 Newton 57-56 at Tucker on Dec. 15.

Newton (19-2, 7-1), enjoying its best start since 2009-10 when the Rams opened 30-1 before falling to state champion Milton in the semifinals, entered Wednesday’s make-up game at 18-2, using last season’s state playoff run as a springboard into the 2015-16 season. As a No. 4 seed last year, the Rams knocked off defending state champion Tift County 52-49 in round one and took down No. 2 seed Dacula 58-54 in the Sweet 16 before falling to eventual state champion Wheeler in the Elite 8, 72-54.

With all of Coach Rick Rasmussen’s recent success with the Rams, one win still eluded Newton: Tucker. Last night, the Rams were finally able to rid themselves of their demons and get the monkey off their back with a 58-48 win at home to take over first-place.

“It was a big win for us tonight,” explained Rasmussen. “I thought we had a really good chance to beat them at their place and I thought we were certainly capable of playing better than we did the first time.”

They did.

Things didn’t start out so promising for the Rams however. Tucker jumped out to a 9-2 lead and looked like the more energized team, but Newton’s leading scorer, junior JD Notae, shook the Rams out of the doldrums and scored their first eight points of the game.

To end the first period, freshman sensation Ashton Hagans drove on the fastbreak and found senior Jaquan Simms open in the left corner for one of his four three-pointers on the night to give Newton a 13-11 lead heading into the second quarter.

The onslaught continued for the Rams in the second quarter as Notae’s early spurt in the first quarter ignited a 21-4 Newton run that flipped the score from a 9-2 deficit to a 23-13 advantage with 3:55 left to play in the second quarter. Tucker would pick itself off the mat and end the period on a mini 5-2 run, capped by a Tyler Payne steal and lay-in at the buzzer, cutting Newton’s halftime lead to 25-18.

The third quarter saw Tucker senior center Adonis Green score back-to-back baskets but halfway through the frame Green picked up his fourth foul. Coach Hartry elected to keep him in the game and just 15 seconds later, Green committed his fifth personal, fouling out with 2:52 remaining in the third quarter and the Tigers trailing 33-26.

While Tucker was searching for answers on how to replace Green, but more importantly slow down Newton’s guards, Jaquan Simms caught fire, canning back-to-back threes and drawing a foul on a deep ball. Simms scored eight of his 16 points in the third quarter and pushed the Rams’ lead to 38-26.

However, once again it was Tucker using a late spurt to keep the game close. The Tigers ran off four quick points stamped by Kenton Eskridge’s lay-up right before the horn to make it a 38-30 game entering the fourth quarter.

Tucker did not crawl much closer than eight points in the fourth quarter as Notae and Dante Johnson would not allow another late game disappointment. In their first meeting, the Rams blew the game at the line, connecting on just 7-of-18 attempts. Wednesday night, Newton sank 14-of-22 free throws, but more importantly 12-of-17 in the fourth quarter. Notae scored 11 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth including going 5-of-6 from the stripe while Johnson netted six of his eight points in the final frame, hitting all four free throws.

After a hot start for Eskridge, scoring six first quarter points, the Rams honed in on Tucker’s playmaker and held him to four points over the next three periods.

Freshman Ashton Hagans won the war with junior Kenton Eskridge
Freshman Ashton Hagans won the war with junior Kenton Eskridge

The win was an important one for Newton, not only for region seeding, but for the overall psyche of the team, finally beating a program that has troubled them over the past two seasons. Coach Rasmussen understands there is still work to be done on Friday night as Newton hosts rival Rockdale County on senior night and the Tigers potentially looming in the region tournament.

“It feels good to get this one. I’m sure we’re going to have to play them again in the region tournament, so I’m sure that will be another war and we’re excited about it.”

My Take: Newton’s guards are the real deal. People who aren’t in the know could have given me slack for keeping the Rams in the top ten after an early 2-1 start following a loss to Henry County, but I had faith that Newton would warrant its place in the rankings. Fast forward eight weeks later and Coach Rick Rasmussen’s team is No. 5 in the poll. JD Notae has caught the eye of D-1 schools such as Kennesaw State, South Alabama and Presbyterian and all for good reason. The junior had two scoring binges. One to breathe life into the Rams and the second to close the door shut on Tucker. Notae scored the first eight points of the game to start a 21-4 run that gave Newton the lead for good and in the fourth quarter his 11 points ended all hope of a Tucker comeback. Notae showed an ability to finish inside with reverse lay ups and the coolness to sink important free throws late in the game. Freshman Ashton Hagans has some of the best court vision I’ve seen this season. It is extremely rare to see a point guard with that kind of court presence and the fact that he is only a freshman makes him a high major prospect for good reason; UGA has already offered, with Tennessee, Mississippi State and Auburn all showing interest. In last night’s low scoring game, he didn’t need to dazzle or show off any slick eye-catching passes like a Will Washington, but he was mature with the ball and put it in the right spots for teammates to score, something that can’t always be taught. The third man of the trio was senior Jaquan Simms. He cashed in four three-pointers and finished with 16 points. His ability to get hot from behind the arc will be invaluable come tournament time. With sophomore DeAndrae Butler missing from the lineup, Josh Tukes and Chazz Tanner stepped up and combined for four points and 10 rebounds. Dante Johnson was a key piece off the bench with eight points and nine rebounds, bringing great energy.

Xavier Johnson played well for Tucker in the absence of Adonis Green, who fouled out with four points and six rebounds. Johnson posted team-highs of 12 points and nine rebounds. Kenton Eskridge got going early on, putting his head down and finishing at the cup, but Newton made the proper adjustments to slow down the junior. The Tigers had some nice balance scoring, but weren’t able to find enough firepower to keep up with the running Rams.

Top Performers

JD Notae – 22 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
Jaquan Simms – 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Dante Johnson – 8 points, 9 rebounds
Ashton Hagans – 7 points, 1 rebound, 8 assists, 3 steals
Chazz Tanner – 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block

Xavier Johnson – 12 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block
Kenton Eskridge – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Amir Butcher – 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
Josh Vann – 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Trevon Flowers – 6 points, 1 rebound
Adonis Green – 4 points, 6 rebounds