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Etowah makes statewide statement with upset of undefeated No. 9 Peachtree Ridge

 

Contributed by Cody Butler  (@CodeMan10x)

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Etowah 49, No. 9 Peachtree Ridge 46

Etowah (8-1) closed the door late on Peachtree Ridge in a 49-46 win Saturday at the Gwinnett Daily Post Metro Atlanta Challenge. Etowah made plays down the stretch to escape Gwinnett County with a Top 10 win over the previously unbeaten Lions (8-1). 6-foot-5 wing Adrian Cohen delivered the game winning three for the Eagles with under a minute left in regulation.  Etowah executed their game-plan of defending Florida State-signee Devin Vassell for most of the night, holding him well below his 25-point per game averaging, scoring just 11 points. Vassell went scoreless in the first and fourth quarters, the two pivotal periods Peachtree Ridge struggled to knock down shots as a team.

Etowah took a 12-3 lead in the first after the sensational play of 6-foot-4 junior wing Jaxon Etter. Etter scored eight points quickly setting the Eagles out front of a struggling Lions offense.

Peachtree Ridge head coach Keith Arrington was critical of his team’s shot selection during a timeout, citing too many missed threes and not enough penetration. Etowah guard Nick Nagy frustrated Vassell most of the game leaving no room for separation, making the future Seminole work for every basket.

Peachtree Ridge went on a run of their own as the score tightened to 16-12 with 5:26 to go in the half. The plan to feed Vassell in the second quarter became more successful as he scored six of his 11 total points in the next few minutes.  An Etowah timeout created adjustments though as the Eagles put themselves in control again up 27-19 at halftime.

Cohen, a Tusculum-signee, made his presence known in the second quarter with six consecutive Etowah points. Cohen possesses combo guard skills to drive the basketball and knock down the open shot.

The undefeated Lions wanted no part of losing their first game as they turned up the intensity down eight in the third quarter. Constant pressure on the ball forced Etowah into mistakes.  Back-to-back three-pointers from Vassell and guard Devon Higgs cut the Etowah lead to 32-31 with 2:18 left in the third. The Eagles scored only eight points in the quarter as momentum flipped to the Lions heading to the fourth.

Peachtree Ridge took their first lead of the game on a Hirum Maxey three-pointer making it 36-35 with 5:05 remaining. While Vassell struggled to find open looks in the final frame, Maxey stepped up and made shots to keep the Lions in it. The 6-foot-1 guard finished the game with 12 points, six in the final minutes down the stretch.

Etowah remained poised and answered the Lions run with key three-pointers from Nagy and Cohen to close out the game. Peachtree Ridge led 40-38 with less than four minutes left before Nagy caught and released a three from downtown to regain the lead, 41-40. Peachtree Ridge went back in front 45-44 on a Maxey turnaround with 1:15 remaining but the celebration was short lived.

After a quick timeout and whiteboard session with Etowah head coach Jason Dasinger, the Eagles made the biggest play of the night and proved to be the better team on this Saturday.  Cohen called for the ball and sank the game winning three with 40 seconds left to put Etowah up for good. Cohen finished the game with 16 points and five rebounds.  Etowah kept the ball out of Vassell’s hands down the stretch and left Gwinnett County with the Lions stunned.

Top Performers

Etowah
Adrian Cohen – 16 points, 5 rebounds
Jaxon Etter- 10 points
Nick Nagy – 9 points

Peachtree Ridge
Hirum Maxey – 12 points
Devin Vassell – 11 points

Vassell and Moss set tone as Peachtree Ridge races past rival No. 8 Collins Hill

Peachtree Ridge 75, No. 8 Collins Hill 64

Rivalry games bring out the best in both sides, but on Friday night, it was Peachtree Ridge (5-0) that took full advantage of their home crowd, riding the atmosphere to a controlling 75-64 victory. Looking for a statement win in the deep Region 6-AAAAAAA, the Lions proved that they are more than just a Devin Vassell one-man show.

A quick pace opened the game with both teams trading buckets. Senior point guard Darius Moss set the tone with seven quick points, pushing the ball in transition and attacking the basket. With No. 8 Collins Hill (5-1) primarily focused on stopping Vassell, the Florida State-signee allowed his teammates to flourish, 10 Lions scoring on the night. Vassell whipped in an assist to BJ Knight to give Peachtree Ridge a 20-15 lead after one.

Peachtree Ridge ignited a 12-4 run highlighted by a Vassell slam to take a 32-19 lead at the 5:05 mark in the second quarter and never let Collins Hill cut the deficit back to single digits the rest of the way.

While the Lions were using their balance, the Eagles were relying on Northern Illinois-signee Justin Lee, Elijah Wilson and Mandarius Dickerson to keep them in striking distance. Lee, 6-foot-8, opened the game with the first five points for Collins Hill and added in seven more in the second quarter to head into the half with 12 of his 19 points on the night. Wilson scored six of his nine points in the second quarter but was held scoreless in the second half.

Peachtree Ridge took a 43-32 lead into the half and extended it to as many as 17 points at 58-41 with under three minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Eagles closed on a 7-2 run and could have had even more momentum heading into the final stanza, but Chris Parks missed a breakaway dunk with 24 seconds left and Collins Hill had to settle for a 60-48 hole to dig out of in the fourth quarter after Dickerson netted nine of his team-high 21 points in the third.

Devin Vassell provided the kill-shot at the 5:37 mark of the fourth when he threw down his third dunk of the game to push the lead back to 17 at 67-50. Vassell finished with eight of his game-high 22 points in the final period to close out the Eagles.

My Take

After a fun first 8 minutes, it just looked like Peachtree Ridge wanted it more than their rivals. Devin Vassell poured in a smooth 22 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks as the Seminole was in control the entire game and didn’t let the festive atmosphere affect him either way. It was Darius Moss who really provided the energy and paced the Lions attack early. He finished with 12 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists and did a nice job of keeping the pressure on Collins Hill’s guards in transition. 6-foot-11 250-pound junior post Richard Rivers opened up the game with a three-pointer and drilled two on the night. Rivers will be a covetable non-D-1 player with his size and shooting touch. If he can trim down and improve his mobility a little more, it will behoove him at the next level. BJ Knight did a good job of finishing around the rim and I really liked what I saw out of 6-foot-6 junior forward Amari Davis, who entered off the bench and instantly gave Coach Keith Arrington a post presence, collecting 7 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Collins Hill was unable to match Peachtree Ridge’s non-stop energy. Mandarius Dickerson got his with 21 points (3 threes), but couldn’t help the Eagles climb their double-digit hill. Dickerson isn’t a flashy player and won’t necessarily standout, but the 6-foot-2 senior is always good for 14-18 points a night. He will help a program at the next level. Northern Illinois-signee Justin Lee showcased his beautiful touch, but it wasn’t just from the three-point line. He did a very nice job of working the mid-range to the paint and elevating over smaller defenders to kiss the ball off the glass. The only thing I didn’t like was his rebounding total. You can’t be 6-foot-8 in high school and not record a single rebound. I felt like junior Elijah Wilson came out strong in the first half and knocked down two threes, but the 6-foot-3 wing got lost in the shuffle in the second half and didn’t get many looks. I still feel like Collins Hill is at their best when Queens-signee Chris Parks is getting post touches. The 6-foot-5 bruiser’s opportunities were few and far between. I wish there was more of an effort to establish him inside, but credit Richard Rivers and Amari Davis for doing a good job of not allowing him to get position on the block. Senior guard Quincy Carter didn’t light up the scoreboard with 3 points, but he did everything else, tallying 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals.

Top Performers

Peachtree Ridge
Devin Vassell – 22 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks
Darius Moss – 12 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists
BJ Knight – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist
Richard Rivers – 8 points, 2 rebounds
Amari Davis – 7 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks

Collins Hill
Mandarius Dickerson – 21 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals
Justin Lee – 19 points, 2 assists, 1 steal
Elijah Wilson – 9 points, 5 rebound, 1 assist, 2 steals
Chris Parks – 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist
Quincy Carter – 3 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals

Peachtree Ridge Summer League Analysis

I stopped by Peachtree Ridge High School on Saturday to check out Day 2 of their two day summer league. In attendance were: Peachtree Ridge, Statesboro, East Hall, Dacula, Mill Creek, Strom Thurmond (SC), Grayson and Buford. I caught four games on the day and was able to come away with some solid feedback.

Peachtree Ridge 52, Statesboro 47

Peachtree Ridge led for much of the game and was able to close out Statesboro after a late Blue Devil run put a scare into the Lions. Peachtree Ridge finished 19-11 last season and made a trip to the Class AAAAAA Sweet 16 where they fell to semifinalist Newton 63-61. The Lions lose Milz Tatum and Markel McCollum, but return juniors Devin Vassell and Fred Payton. Vassell, a wiry 6-foot-5 wing, netted a game-high 20 points and collected five rebounds in the win. Vassell’s length allows him to play the passing lanes on the perimeter and rebound the ball inside. He will need to add weight to consistently finish inside (which he had no problem doing on Saturday) to get buckets against the state’s more physical teams.

Devin Vassell was in attack mode for Peachtree Ridge
Devin Vassell was in attack mode for Peachtree Ridge

Fred Payton is the quarterback on the football team and a 6-foot-3 scorer on the basketball team. Payton knocked down three three-pointers and finished with 14 points. He is an exceptional athlete that will help on defense and stretch the floor on offense. Another big time football recruit, Connor Heyward, took to the hardwood. Heyward won’t wow you with his scoring, but the 6-foot-2 guard is a physical player that likes to mix it up on defense and on the glass. His strength allows him to body up taller players inside which gives him great value on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, he is a willing passer.

Caleb Holifield, a transfer from Pace Academy, didn’t have a great game but will bring a scoring knack from the outside. He is a good shooter and has experience playing with and against top level competition.

For Statesboro, a 22-9 team from a year ago that fell to quarterfinalist Riverwood 48-47 in the Class AAAAA Sweet 16, senior guard Marcus Kirkland powered the offense.  Kirkland dropped 15 points and collected two blocks. The 6-foot-2 guard hit three of the Blue Devils’ seven threes. Kirkland has a strong build on him. He can get to the basket consistently and should be the leader for Coach Lee Hill’s team. Junior guard Tyler Goodman added eight points and is a scrappy 5-foot-9 guard.

Mill Creek 51, Strom Thurmond (SC) 35

Mill Creek has always been known for its balanced offensive attack. The Hawks snuck into the postseason last year and finished the season 14-15 after a 70-62 loss to Lambert. Key contributors Charles Botchway, Miles Riley and Evan Richardson graduate, leaving the offense to run through rising senior Christian Mancillas. Mancillas is excellent in the classroom (4.0 GPA) and steady on the court as a 6-foot-3 forward. He can affect the game in many ways as proved by his stat line: seven points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Sophomore point guard Jayden Marshall saw varsity minutes as a freshman and will be counted on to orchestrate the offense. He scored nine points in Saturday’s win. Sophomore Brandon Fletcher, a 6-foot-3 forward, led the Hawks with 12 points. Fletcher played on the ninth grade team last season but could help out the varsity due to their lack of size. Junior Noah Kenney made the most of his varsity stint this past weekend, netting 11 points with nine coming via the long ball.

Strom Thurmond was led by 6-foot-1 guard Onesis Brown. The senior scored a game-high 18 points and added five blocks.

Dacula 46, Grayson 44

Dacula has had one of the best summers from the teams I have seen play so far this offseason, consistently racking up wins. Playing a depleted Grayson team without center Kenyon Jackson and other important pieces, Dacula jumped out to a 25-12 halftime lead. Grayson ramped up its defense with great communication out of a 2-3 zone in the second half. The Rams’ intensity ignited a 19-2 run to take a 31-27 lead with 9:33 left. In the end, poor free throw shooting was the difference maker as the Rams ran out of gas.

Dacula’s balanced backcourt did the damage. Junior Arusha Hunter scored 12 points to pace the Falcons while senior Gary Bishop added 10 and five rebounds. Junior 6-foot-4 post Shayne Buckingham ended with eight points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Super sophomore Mekhail Bethea was quiet in the first half with just one basket, but scored six points in the second half including clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

Grayson’s young backcourt consisted of sophomore Justin Fleming and freshman Deivon Smith, who hope to become as productive as Alphonso Willis and Austin Dukes were over their careers at Grayson. Fleming scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds and collected two steals, but missed a huge 1-&-1 free throw with 35 seconds left down 42-39. On the day, Fleming was 0-for-4 from the line with a majority of the free throws counting as two-for-one’s due to summer league rules.

Smith is a tiny guard around 5-foot-7 that has the ability to sneak past defenders and draw open looks for teammates. He finished with four points, three rebounds and four assists. Senior Joey Chavez scored a team-high 12 points and added five rebounds and a block from his forward position. He’s a willing three-point shooter that will have a chance to see important varsity minutes this year. Senior Kyle Butts rebounded the ball well. The 6-foot-4 forward totaled six points and 11 rebounds in the loss.

Buford 62, Strom Thurmond (SC) 41

Coach Eddie Martin has not rested on his laurels at Buford. The veteran head coach still teaches non-stop on the sidelines and has the Buford program in good shape heading into Year 2. He has a coach’s dream in rising junior point guard Alex Jones. Jones was named Sandy’s Spiel Class AAAA Best Passer and for good reason. He pitched in 12 points, five rebounds and seven assists in their romp of Strom Thurmond. Diminutive in size, Jones has some of the best court vision in the state. Big men Sahil Patel and David Viti carved up the Rebels inside. Patel, a 6-foot-8 senior, and Viti, a 6-foot-5 junior forward from Lambert, should pair nicely this season. Patel went for 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks while Viti added 11 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Senior forward Austin Panks is an athletic energy swingman. He tallied eight points and six rebounds and should be a nice piece whether coming off the bench or earning some starts. Sophomore Ashton Young looked good with the varsity, leading the way with 13 points, six rebounds and two assists. Veteran guard Dawson Wehunt rounded out the attack with seven points.