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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.

Tift County puts capper on unpredictable GHSA season, closing out Norcross for Class AAAAAAA state championship

No. 6 Tift County 55, No. 4 Norcross 52

In a year where “super teams” were en vogue, little old No. 6 Tift County (29-2) decided to spoil the party and not only shock the landscape of Georgia high school basketball, but the entire nation as the Blue Devils emerged out of the “Group of Death” to escape a frantic rally from No. 4 Norcross, 55-52.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Tift County was not supposed to be a factor in the state of Georgia this year. They were not supposed to defeat three nationally ranked teams and they were not supposed to beat No. 1 McEachern, No. 2 Newton, No. 4 Norcross (26-6) or No. 7 Berkmar on their quest to a third state title.

Tift County bucked the odds and quietly loomed in South Georgia as the 2014 state champions patiently waited for their shot at the big boys while smashing its way through Region 1. When they arrived at McCamish Pavilion, it was only fitting that the 3-hour trip would end in the Blue Devils completing the state’s greatest and most improbable state championship run in GHSA history.

Tift opened the game like they did against so many other victims, jumping out to a quick 4-0 lead but Norcross quickly eased ahead and gained a 13-9 lead after one. Norcross grabbed its largest lead of the game at the 7:21 mark up 18-9 after Dalvin White netted his second three of the game. The Blue Devils looked to be in control as Tift County’s 6-foot-6 Virginia Tech-signee PJ Horne found it difficult to bully his way around the basket like he did against Newton (25 points) and McEachern (17 points) in the Elite Eight and Final Four. After a first possession offensive rebound and putback, Horne saw his halftime line read: 1-7 FG, 0-3 3PT, 3 rebounds, 3 turnover and 2 points.

With Tift County’s workhorse neutralized by 6-foot-9 Louisville-signee Lance Thomas and 6-foot-8 Georgia-signee Rayshaun Hammonds, the Blue Devil guards lifted Coach Eric Holland’s team. Football standout junior Rashod Bateman scored 10 points in the first half, hitting two threes to bring Tift County to within 21-19 at the half, Tift mucking the game up exactly how they needed to to beat a high-octane team like Norcross. Tift wore their workman blue collar warm-ups and stripped them off to shirts with the phrase “no buckets” across their backs pregame, and were able to back up their tough-nosed defense once the ball tipped.

Both teams shot 33% at the half, not what the casual fan was expecting. But nobody expected Tift to be here in the first place. In the third quarter, Horne slammed home a dunk – the final points of his high school career as he finished 2-of-12 from the field with only 4 points and 5 rebounds. At the 1:37 mark Norcross’ Hammonds picked up his fourth foul on a charge and was sent to the bench. With Hammonds out, Bateman quickly drained another three, finishing with four on the night, taking a 32-24 lead in the process.  Norcross closed however and entered the fourth quarter trailing 32-29.

While Hammonds sat on the bench, Thomas started to come to life. He knocked down a turnaround jumper off a post catch and then added a baseline shot to give Norcross a short-lived 33-32 lead with 5:47 to play.  The Blue Devils quickly ran off eight straight points to go ahead 40-33 and then fouled Hammonds out of the game with the score the same with 3:22 remaining; Hammonds finishing his career with 8 points on 2-of-11 shooting and 8 rebounds.

Possessions got shorter and shorter as Tift continued to grind away at Norcross to go ahead 42-33 before Thomas hit a three. Micah Johnson, going to Alabama State, would not let his Tift County Blue Devils squander a lead, even though it got hectic.

Norcross slowly inched closer and closer as Tift tried to pile on the dirt on the Blue Devils’ grave, but White and Jordan Goldwire along with Thomas gave Norcross a pulse. From down 49-40 with 1:18 left to play, the Blue Devils trimmed the lead to 49-44 with 51.9 left, then to 51-47 with 42.7 remaining and down to 53-52 with just 10 seconds remaining as JoJo Toppin completed an And-1 dunk to send the crowd into a frenzy.

Just when it looked like Cinderella’s glass slipper cracked or the carriage was on the verge of turning into a pumpkin, Johnson continued to supply the dagger as Norcross would foul. Tift County shot 24-of-26 from the foul line – 21-of-22 in the fourth quarter – with Johnson scoring a game-high 24 points going 16-of-18 at the stripe and scoring 17 points in the frame. At just 6-foot, Johnson also collected 9 rebounds and 4 assists, with just one turnover. Bateman ended his night with 18 points as Tift’s guards got the better of Norcross’.

Dalvin White led Norcross with 15 points while Lance Thomas had 13 points but only 4 rebounds as the smaller Tift County Blue Devils outrebounded Norcross 31-28 and held the bigger Devils to 16 points in the paint.


PJ Horne spoke with me after the game:


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.

12-8 Top Games Preview

Norcross-CHillNo. 4 Norcross (4-1) at No. 6 Collins Hill (4-0)
The power struggle atop Region 7-AAAAAA officially begins as two early favorites to win the crown do battle. The Eagles nipped Norcross in their first meeting early last year 70-68 before the Blue Devils went on a rampage and finished 13-1 in the region. Size has always been a crucial advantage for Norcross with 6-foot-8 towers Rayshaun Hammonds and Lance Thomas, who can score inside and out. But this year, the Eagles have added some imposing size of their own down low. AJ Cheeseman is a 6-foot-6 power forward that has signed to play at New Orleans. Chris Parks is only a sophomore, but he is a big active body at 6-foot-5 and can mix it up with the longer Blue Devils. Kai Lambert, JD Ozoh and TeShaun Hightower must be X-factors and hit open shots for Collins Hill if they want to slow down Norcross, who features strong guard play of their own in Kyle Sturdivant, Jordan Goldwire and Chris Curlett.

Gaines-CedarNo. 2 Gainesville (3-0) at No. 5 Cedar Shoals (7-0)
Region 8-AAAAA has quietly blossomed into one of the best regions in the entire state behind Gainesville, Cedar Shoals and No. 6 Heritage, not to mention the always ready to take over a game, Butler signee Kamar Baldwin of Apalachee. This matchup will be the Jaguars first major test of the season. Gainesville has defeated 2A No. 2 St. Francis (without Kobi Simmons) 70-58 at the Jared Cook Classic and rallied from down 11 at the half to knock off Heritage, 85-79 last week. Georgia State signee D’Marcus Simonds poured in 26 points in the comeback while Bailey Minor added 20. The Red Elephants have plenty of pieces and can beat teams in a variety of ways. KJ Buffen is a blossoming star forward, Tae Turner is a Lakeview Academy transfer and Messiah Dorsey and Xavier Bledson have both hit big shots over their career. Phlan Fleming is usually the focal point of the offense for Cedar Shoals from his wing position, but Snipe Hall, Jerrick Mitchell and big man Stavion Stevenson have brought the Jags to the next level with their balanced play.

Pace-GACNo. 5 GAC (4-3) at No. 2 Pace Academy (0-2)
Don’t let the record fool you. Pace may be winless but they have held on tight to their No. 2 ranking for good reason. A 7-point loss to 6A No. 1 Westlake and a 56-44 loss this past weekend at Adidas Xplosion to 1A No. 1 Greenforest are as good of losses as you can get. Class of 2017 No. 1 overall player according to many pundits, Wendell Carter Jr., is a beast inside at 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball, shoot from the outside, protect the paint and may be the state’s best rebounder. Shooters Zack Kaminsky and Caleb Holifield are lethal from the outside while Isaiah Kelly brings an active 6-foot-8 body inside to pair with Carter. GAC is working its way back to full strength. Leading scorer Brian Coffey Jr. will try to give it a go at point guard after injuring his knee last week. Garrett Covington can do everything with the basketball and causes matchup problems from his off-guard position. Jacob Hoffman came down with an ankle injury in a 75-67 overtime win over rival No. 6 Holy Innocents, but when healthy, he is one of the best shooters in the state. Freshman guard Hunter McIntosh is tough to rattle as shown when he poured in 27 points in Coffey’s absence. Charlie O’Briant stands 6-foot-8 and will be a game-time decision after a severe laceration to his lip. He and big man Chris Hinton, 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, will need to put a body on Carter the entire game and try to push him outside like Greenforest did successfully.

Grayson-BerkmarGrayson (5-0) at Berkmar (3-3)
There is a long line of talented teams waiting to crack the top ten in Class AAAAAA. Berkmar opened there, but quickly dropped out. Grayson now might be the next in line to seize the opportunity. Some of the best guards in the state will be going head-to-head in this Gwinnett County Region 8 slugfest. Austin Dukes and Alphonso Willis is a pair of lethal senior guards for Coach Geoffrey Pierce’s team. Dukes scored 23 points and handed out five assists in a 58-52 win over Centennial. There also is some balance behind these two guards. Trey Sconiers, Kenyon Jackson and Hafeez Anifowoshe are all important contributors scoring and rebounding the ball. Berkmar relies of Indiana-commit Al Durham to cook up offense. The lanky yet smooth southpaw can drive the lane and burry deep threes. Running mates Jay Estime, Darius Harrison, Josh Faulkner, Leroy Jones IV and Lane Foster make the Patriots extremely deep on the perimeter.

Hughes-PebblePebblebrook (3-4) at Langston Hughes (6-1)
Make no bones about it, Region 3-AAAAAA is the most athletic and exciting region in the state bar none. Expect the points to drop at a neck breaking pace and get your popcorn ready because there will be highlights galore night in and night out, especially when Pebblebrook rolls into town. At 3-4, the Falcons are much better than their record shows and are loaded with D-1 talent in Auburn signee Jared Harper, Collin Sexton and JJ Smith. Those three are the straws that stir the drink. They like to run-and-gun and pull up for deep threes, but they can be susceptible to breakdowns on defense. Harper averages over 30 points per game and Sexton went for 40 points in a 96-94 heartbreaking loss to 2A No. 2 St. Francis at Adidas Xplosion, in which the guards forgot to rotate back on Harper’s shot with 8 seconds left, allowing St. Francis to pitch the ball ahead for an uncontested Kobi Simmons dunk with 1.1 seconds remaining. Coach Rory Welsh likes to run his inverted flex offense which can pick teams apart if they aren’t fundamentally sound on defense. Junior guard Khalil Cuffee has D-1 written all over him. He may not be as flashy as his counterparts, but his steady game and his pure three-point stroke make him hard to stop. He is averaging 18.4 points per game and gets help from Derrick Cook (16.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists) and Justin Jones (10.6 points). Isaiah Green can be an X-factor with his toughness inside and his knack for doing the dirty work.

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