Tag Archives: Sequoyah

No. 7 Sprayberry survives OT shootout at Sequoyah, 103-101

No. 7 Sprayberry 103, Sequoyah 101 OT

Sequoyah Sprayberry

Following an explosive 96-88 first meeting back on January 5th, No. 7 Sprayberry (21-3, 14-1) and Sequoyah (18-6, 11-4) met in the War Lodge for an important Region 6-AAAAAA bout. With temperatures dropping to below freezing, the two offensive-minded clubs set Hickory Flat ablaze with one of the most entertaining games of the season.

The Chiefs got off to a quick start, leading 4-0 behind a Myles McGee breakaway slam, but Sprayberry saw DJ Patrick hit his first of the team’s 11 threes to get the Yellow Jackets on the board.

Sequoyah and Sprayberry traded baskets at a breakneck pace, but there was some defense sprinkled in as Patrick erased a DJ King layup attempt.

Justin Day ignited an 11-2 run with an offensive rebound and put-back which helped the Jackets push their lead to 27-19.

At the end of one, Sprayberry held a 27-21 lead as Patrick scored nine of his 14 points in the opening frame to pace the Yellow Jackets.

The Chiefs kept close as the trio of McGee, Donovan Shipp and Jacksen Greco attacked the basket, Greco floating in a shot in traffic to cut the Sprayberry lead to 42-36 with 2:28 left in the second.

But while Sequoyah slashed into the lane, Sprayberry bombed from deep with Shamar Joseph coming off the bench to nail three three-pointers in a row, building the Jacket advantage to 48-38. Sprayberry sank seven trifectas in the first half, but McGee buried a buzzer beater to send the Chiefs into the break down 50-41.

Sequoyah came out and trimmed the deficit to 52-46 but, but Sprayberry answered with a 9-2 run to extend the lead back to 61-48 at the 6:05 mark of the third quarter. 6-foot-5 sophomore Jaylin Galloway, younger brother of former Buford/Milton post Kyrin Galloway (UNCG), started to make his presence felt around the rim, balancing Sprayberry’s perimeter orientated offense by scoring eight points in the paint. Galloway’s bucket with 2:50 left gave Sprayberry a 69-56 lead before Sequoyah turned the tables.

The Chiefs ripped off an 8-0 run in a span of 1:36 to close the gap to 69-64 as Shipp and McGee carried the offense, scoring 10 and 9 points, respectively, while King brought his trademark high energy and athleticism on defense.

Sprayberry regained momentum after a defensive break down led to Joseph’s fourth three of the night as the Yellow Jackets took a 75-66 lead into the fourth.

The Yellow Jackets saw Matt Jenkins score six points in the quarter to help Sprayberry build an 85-73 lead with 4:14 remaining as the Jackets were on the verge of running Sequoyah out of the gym but over the final 254 seconds, the Chiefs’ aggressive press finally cracked Sprayberry.

A wild 14-2 run saw Sequoyah tie the game at 87 at the 1:18 mark after McGee cashed in on an And-1 but missed his free throw and saw Greco swoop in for the offensive rebound and game-tying put-back.

Sequoyah came away with a steal from McGee but he and King botched point-blank layup attempts with only one Sprayberry defender in initial position. The Chiefs missed another bunny up close but retained possession after a loose ball scramble with the arrow pointing in favor of the home team with 19.1 seconds remaining.

Shipp sliced to the basket with under 10 seconds to play and was denied by Galloway who collected the block and pitched ahead to Day who airmailed an outlet pass to a wide-open Jenkins, the ball sailing out of bounds as the Chiefs breathed a sigh of relief with 2.1 seconds left in regulation.

The Chiefs’ ensuing inbounds was stolen away but a tumbling Yellow Jacket couldn’t establish his footing and his falling down unbalanced heave at the buzzer fell well short from just 15 feet away, sending the game to overtime tied at 87.

Galloway’s interior presence loomed large in overtime as he scored seven of his team-high 27 points in the quarter to go along with his 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks on the night.

With 1:08 left to play, McGee slashed to the basket for an And-1 and knotted the game up at 99, but again, missed the free throw as the Chiefs failed to take the lead.

McGee got momentary redemption, hitting a tough shot in the lane for his 29th point of the night to tie the game at 101, but the Chiefs failed to get back in transition after the made bucket as the Yellow Jackets tossed ahead to Day for a layup to make it 103-101 with 14.1 seconds remaining.

The Chiefs had a final possession to tie the game and got the ball down low to McGee on a cutting post up, but as he pivoted toward the middle of the lane he was met with traffic and fumbled the ball away allowing Sprayberry to collect it and clear the ball out of harm’s way and tick off the final 3 seconds to secure the number one seed in Region 6-AAAAAA as No. 6 South Cobb fell to Allatoona 69-63.

My Take

It was a wildly entertaining game to watch. Both teams put on a good show offensively but lack state championship caliber defense. Sprayberry seems to have a higher ceiling than Sequoyah with their envious offensive depth as six players scored 12 points or more, five of them knocking down at least one three. When they are hot, Sprayberry can do damage from deep but it was the emergence of 6-foot-5 sophomore Jaylin Galloway who really carried the Yellow Jackets in the second half scoring 17 of his game-high 27 in the final three periods. He has nice length and a calm touch around the rim in traffic. He and 6-foot-5 senior DJ Patrick killed Sequoyah on the glass combining for 21 rebounds, dominating their matchup with 6-foot-4 Ayden Watson who grabbed just two rebounds for the Chiefs.  Shamar Joseph provided instant offense off the bench with four threes while Saigon Kitt and Justin Day chose their spots when to attack the defense. Senior Matt Jenkins was the engine for Sprayberry finishing with 20 points and 11 assists. Sprayberry has the guard play to play extremely fast but defensively, they have a lot of work to do if they want to make a deep run at state.

Donovan Shipp and the Chiefs sliced up Sprayberry’s on-ball defense, getting into the paint at an alarming rate. In fact, it was the most aggressive I’ve seen Shipp play in three years, attacking the basket at will finishing with a game-high 30 points and 6 assists. Shipp has grown tremendously over his first three seasons and should be a D-II target for schools looking for a heady assist-man that can score when he needs to. Myles McGee had 29 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals, but his night ended on a sour note with his 2-of-9 free throw shooting and turnover to end the game. Even with his shortcomings tonight, his gladiator mentality on the floor paired with the football toughness of gridiron teammate DJ King makes the athletic duo the most important pieces to Sequoyah’s full court press. King netted just 6 points but had 5 rebounds, 6 steals and 2 blocks, making his biggest impact defensively. Jacksen Greco had a strong 25-point outing, nailing 3 threes and collecting 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the process. His passing has improved year to year as he is developing into a well-rounded player breaking the mold of just a three-point specialist. Ayden Watson disappointed tonight against Sprayberry’s frontline. Watson has been integral to the Chiefs’ success this year providing size, energy and athleticism in the paint but he was a non-factor with 3 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals and 1 block. While Sprayberry struggled defending drives, Sequoyah’s bugaboo was poor rotations leading to too many wide-open three-point shooters. Both teams showed their strengths and weaknesses and in a classification void of a true favorite, both teams could see an Elite Eight berth as a real possibility depending on how the brackets and region tournaments play out.

Top Performers

Sprayberry
Jaylin Galloway – 27 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks
Matt Jenkins – 20 points, 3 rebounds, 11 assists, 1 steal
Saigon Kitt – 15 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
DJ Patrick – 14 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block
Justin Day – 12 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
Shamar Joseph – 12 points (4 threes), 1 rebound

Sequoyah
Donovan Shipp – 30 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals
Myles McGee – 29 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals
Jacksen Greco – 25 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
DJ King – 6 points, 5 rebounds, 6 steals, 2 blocks

Savannah Samuel stars with 23 of 29 River Ridge second half points to carry Lady Knights past Sequoyah, 54-48

River Ridge 54, Sequoyah 48

River Ridge moved into third-place in R6-AAAAAA

The War Lodge was host to an important Region 6-AAAAAA matchup between Sequoyah (16-5, 7-4) and the River Ridge Knights (15-5, 8-3). Deadlocked at 7-3 apiece in the standings, the winner would control third-place in the top-heavy region while No. 3 Harrison (16-4, 11-0) and No. 4 Creekview (13-6, 8-2) manned the top spots. The Lady Knights shook off a nightmarish opening four minutes to regain their composure and methodically chip away at an early deficit, eventually gaining control and closing out a 54-48 road win behind sophomore Savannah Samuel’s sensational night.

The Lady Chiefs jumped all over the Knights, forcing four quick turnovers and leading 8-0 at the 6:09 mark. Coach Jason Taylor laid into his players, exclaiming they were about to get ran out of the gym if they didn’t take better care of the ball. Another two minutes went by and things didn’t get much better, the Lady Chiefs up 14-4 as Sydney Rosant and AnnaLynne Bennett scored six apiece in the frame.

River Ridge would close on an 11-4 run to end the quarter down 18-15, Mary Allen Mansell sparking the Lady Knights with six early points and Samuel adding five.

The two teams traded buckets in the second quarter. Peyton Satterfield got hot with two threes for Sequoyah, but River Ridge’s size began to pose a problem as 6-foot-2 Lexi Palmer and 6-foot Faith Arthur scored four points apiece around the basket. Arthur added a contested jumper in the lane at the buzzer as the Knights entered the half trailing 28-25.

In the third quarter, Samuel took over. The 6-foot-1 wing led the charge as the Knights pounded the smaller Lady Chiefs on the boards. Samuel’s first six points of the quarter all came on put-backs as River Ridge finally got over the hump and seized their first lead of the game at 33-31 with 3:55 remaining.

At the end of three, River Ridge held a 37-36 advantage. Samuel scored 10 points in the quarter while Arthur crashed the glass alongside Samuel for second chance opportunities.

The Knights shut down senior leader Alyssa Cagle, who had only two points, both coming from the free throw line in the first quarter. With Cagle unable to find a field goal, the Lady Chiefs scrambled for baskets. Sequoyah trailed 41-40 before Samuel drilled a three in the corner to go up four with 3:33 left.

Samuel would finish with a game-high 30 points, scoring 23 of her team’s 29 second half points.

Macy Williams knocked down two free throws for the Chiefs to cut the lead to 46-44 with 2:18 to play, but Samuel continued to score at will, netting 13 points in the final frame, going 8-of-10 from the line.

Rosant floated in a tough bucket in the lane with 54 seconds remaining to make it a 50-48 game, but the Lady Chiefs were unable to keep the ball out of Samuel’s hands as she punished them from the line.

Sequoyah had a last gasp to make it a one possession game, but the Lady Knights got a crucial stop that resulted in a Leigh Codiniera rebound and two free throws at the other end with 13 seconds left to ice the game 54-48.

My Take

Cherokee County girls basketball just got that much more interesting. It would be too cliché to say a star was born, considering Savannah Samuel has averaged 20.9 points and 5.6 rebounds, but the 6-foot-1 sophomore transfer from Collins Hill has changed the outlook of an entire program. Gwinnett County’s loss is Cherokee County’s gain. Samuel was phenomenal, taking over the game against one the state’s best programs over the past four years. A lanky, fluid athlete that’s all arms and legs, Samuel can get to the hoop and finish through contact. She can stretch teams out to the three-point line and is a nuisance on the glass. She has a High Major D-I ceiling and could be one of the best players the county has seen in quite some time, a county with a rich tradition of girls basketball. River Ridge’s frontline did major damage against the Chiefs; Sequoyah’s one glaring weakness. While the entire roster took a backseat to Samuel in the second half, Faith Arthur and Lexi Palmer were relentless on the boards, taking Samuel’s lead. Arthur has a physical, sturdy frame that allows her to play inside and out. With three players standing over 6-foot, the Knights have the ability to dominate the paint. Freshman Leigh Codiniera showed promise and composure while handling the point guard duties. She went 4-of-4 from the line including the final two points of the game. Depth will be a major issue for the Knights come state tournament time. Outside of their starters, Sabrina Roberts and Emily Ruth combined for three rebounds and one steal; the only stats contributed by the bench.

Sequoyah looked like they were going to blitz the Lady Knights, coming out with intense defensive pressure, but eventually River Ridge settled in and the Lady Chiefs’ large lead evaporated by the end of the first quarter. Sydney Rosant came out firing. There’s not many shots the high-scoring junior won’t take. She was finding baskets early on and hit her season average with 13 points. The insertion of AnnaLynne Bennett into the starting lineup over tallest player, 5-foot-9 Emily Seres, paid early dividends. The engine that makes Sequoyah go, unsigned senior Alyssa Cagle, was held to two first quarter free throws. While she was unable to score, she affected the game in other ways, the 5-foot-6 bulldog leading the Lady Chiefs with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. Her offense hasn’t been as consistent this year, but credit some of that to her deferring to Rosant. Sophomore Macy Williams had six points. She’s instant energy off the bench for Coach Derrick DeWitt. Williams is the next in a long line of tenacious Lady Chief guards. She is a major competitor on the floor.

Top Performers

River Ridge
Savannah Samuel – 30 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block
Faith Arthur – 8 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Lexi Palmer – 6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks
Mary Allen Mansell – 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Leigh Codiniera – 4 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal

Sequoyah
Sydney Rosant – 13 points, 2 rebounds
Peyton Satterfield – 10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals
Macy Williams – 6 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals
AnnaLynne Bennett – 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block
Colby Carden – 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals
Alyssa Cagle – 2 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals

Adversity can’t hold back Sequoyah’s Alyssa Cagle

There have been two aspects synonymous with Sequoyah Lady Chiefs basketball over the past three, now going on four years; wins and Alyssa Cagle. It could be argued that winning and Alyssa Cagle could go hand-in-hand with each other, something that Coach Derrick DeWitt would not argue.

“She is definitely an anchor; an insurance policy and she exemplifies what Sequoyah basketball is all about,” said DeWitt of Cagle of who is first in her class and on pace to become valedictorian of the 2018 Sequoyah graduating class.

While Cagle has strived both on the hardwood and in the classroom over her first three years, it has not come without adversity.

“The first week in January I broke my nose in a game against Harrison,” explained Cagle. “I had surgery a couple days later and then I came back from the surgery about a week later and wore a mask. Then my second game back, I tore my ACL on January 21st against Cherokee.”

The Lady Chiefs would lose to rival Cherokee 52-49 and see a 14-5 start to the year finish 5-5 over the last 10 games of the season including a three-game losing streak capped by a 59-51 loss in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs at Winder-Barrow while Cagle was forced to watch from the sidelines with her team-best 12.4 points, 2.4 assists and 2.8 steals per game unable to make a difference.

“I was MVP of my team, so me going down was a huge thing for my team. I’ve always been that kind of person that leads by example so it was hard to provide that guidance for the team, whatever they needed, when I couldn’t physically be on the court,” said Cagle of how difficult it was to watch a promising season derail by injuries. “It was just hard watching them. It just kind of hits home.”

One day after surgery

It was also especially tough for DeWitt, who has helped groom Cagle from Day 1 when he thrusted her into a starting role and has seen her blossom into one of the best pound-for-pound point guards in Georgia.

“As a supporter and a believer of her talent as a fan, I was just sad to see her go down late in the year like that,” said DeWitt. “I was sad for her because when she broke her nose, she wanted to stay in the game and she was like ‘no, I’m finishing this game’ and I was like you can’t, your nose is bent. She’s just a warrior, she doesn’t want anything to get in her way. She doesn’t want to let her teammates down. She is very motivated to get to the next level.”

A first-round loss for Cagle’s Lady Chiefs was a first in three years. As a freshman, Cagle helped Sequoyah to an Elite Eight berth where they lost on a buzzer beater to Stephenson, 55-53, a game in which Cagle dropped in 12 points and five assists. In 2015-16 as a sophomore, the Lady Chiefs took a step further and advanced to the Final Four where they ran out of energy and fell to Southwest DeKalb 55-47. Both Stephenson and Southwest DeKalb went on to win the state championship after clearing the Sequoyah hurdle.

Culture Changer

Since Cagle has joined the Sequoyah varsity roster, the Lady Chiefs are 71-21. She has been on the forefront along with Coach DeWitt of the renaissance of Sequoyah basketball, a girls program which won the state title in Georgia’s largest classification back in 1994 & 1996.

With still a final year of eligibility remaining, Cagle hasn’t wasted anytime in getting her body ready to be able to write the final chapter of her storied career.

“Typically, with any ACL injury, it’s going to take you a full-year to be where you were before you had the injury. Right now, I’m four months post-surgery. I couldn’t be doing anymore to prepare for the season. I’m going to come back at nine months, which a lot of people do,” told Cagle of her daily progress.

“To prepare for that, I work out about five to six days a week with a trainer in Sandy Springs, at a place called Exercise Bioenergetics. It’s a huge two and a half hour full-body work out. I’ll probably do this for the next year until I go off to college, even after I begin playing again.”

Cagle will begin practicing again in September, but won’t be at full speed until the nine-month mark.

16 weeks after surgery
Silver Linings

Once Cagle returns to the floor, she will be surrounded by familiar faces as Sequoyah graduates just one senior from their 19-10 roster. With the Lady Chiefs’ primary ballhandler on the sidelines for the final 10 games of the season, it gave the rest of the team a chance to step up and benefit from their newfound roles.

“I think my absence is going to better us in the long run. For the past three years, I have been the sole ballhandler. There are no other ballhandlers on our team. So without me, a lot of the girls have stepped up, which next year that will definitely pay off because we will have more ballhandlers with more experience being alone without me out there. Whenever I return, hopefully we’ll be a better team than we were last year.”

Next Level

As the days get shorter and shorter until Cagle’s return to the floor for her senior season, as does her time to pick up scholarship offers and decide what to do with her life after her time in Hickory Flat is complete.

“It’s been difficult now that I hurt my knee. A lot of coaches want to see me play again, but the schools I am talking to right now are Wofford, Jacksonville State, Stony Brook, Stetson, Samford, Georgia College, and Georgia State.

“I’m interested in anywhere,” continued Cagle. “I definitely want to play basketball in college.”

On June 15, Georgia College offered Cagle a full-ride.

With an immaculate academic background, a strong work ethic and desire to be the best, DeWitt believes Cagle will find the right fit in college.

“If you want a floor general, someone who knows the situation, knows how to call the right play, how to finish late in the shot clock, how to find the hot hand, a player who doesn’t get tired, that’s a student of the game and is a quality character; she’s not a gamble on any level,” expressed DeWitt. “She can thrive in Division II or Division I, she’s all about her academics and athletics and she’s focused on having basketball be her gateway.

“Being probably our valedictorian, she’s going to have the run of the mill as far as what school she wants to attend. Is she a gamble? No. She’s very coachable. She’ll do what’s best for the team, she’s selfless and she’s a leader by example.”

No. 7 Sequoyah holds off pesky Wolverines

No. 7 Sequoyah 57, Woodstock 54

Cherokee County powers met at the War Lodge in Hickory Flat, Sequoyah entering at a perfect 7-0 and ranked No. 7 in Class AAAAAA while Woodstock, limping in with injuries at 4-4 without South Alabama-signee Devyn Lowe.

On a rare Monday night showdown, the Lady Chiefs and Wolverines went back and forth with both sides trading runs. Sequoyah led 12-11 after one behind Alyssa Cagle’s five points. The Lady Chiefs were on the verge of a taking an commanding early double digit lead if it wasn’t for the hot shooting of senior Taylor Reed. The long ball threat scored seven of her 10 points in the first quarter and drained three threes on the night while using a flare screen to get open on the opposite wing.

In the second quarter, Cagle picked up a hockey assist as she dished to Emily Seres who found AnnaLynne Bennett on a nice interior pass to go up 19-13.

Sequoyah opened up a quick 24-13 lead on a 12-2 run and looked like they were about to put the banged up Wolverines away, but athletic senior slasher Bralise Reese got free and powered a 13-4 run with six of her game-high 16 points in the frame, leading the Wolverines into the half trailing 28-26.

The Lady Chiefs sprung out of the half quickly using five points from Colby Carden. The junior combo guard sank her seventh point of the quarter to give Sequoyah a 40-31 lead with 1:37 left in the third. Sequoyah finished out the period using a Lauren Schletty basket to maintain a 44-33 lead heading into the fourth.

In the blink of an eye, Woodstock crawled its way back into the game riding a 10-2 surge to cut the Sequoyah lead to 46-43. Senior point guard Kamryn Forrester was the catalyst, scoring six of her 10 points in the final 8 minutes and finishing the game with four rebounds, eight assists, two steals and one block.

The Wolverines finally tied the game on freshman Sophia Singer’s three-pointer but Carden quickly got the ball up the court and found Schletty to regain a 48-46 lead at the 2:49 mark. Schletty got hot and scored six of her 10 points in the fourth including sinking two free throws to go ahead 52-46 with 2:11 left, the Lady Chiefs seemingly regaining control of the game.

Instead, Forrester came away with a steal underneath the basket and while tumbling down, kicked the ball behind her to Reese for two of her eight fourth quarter points to make it 56-54 with 42.6 seconds remaining.

Sequoyah’s Bennett was sent to the line with 27 seconds and missed her first free throw, prompting Woodstock head coach Julie Crowe to call timeout and organize a plan for the Wolverines. Bennett coolly knocked down her second attempt, setting up a final possession with 18.5 seconds left for Woodstock after advancing the ball and moving past half court.

Woodstock swung the ball around the perimeter but the best look they could get was a contested Reese heave from the top of the key that clanked off the rim.

My Take

Though she missed two free throws in the fourth quarter and didn’t have as many “wow” plays as usual, junior point guard Alyssa Cagle is still the real deal for Sequoyah. Every time she touches the ball good things happen whether she’s slashing through the lane, finding open shooters or pulling the trigger from deep herself. Coach Derrick DeWitt praised her for even her post defense when getting stuck on bigger Wolverines. As long as she’s in Black and Gold, the Lady Chiefs will be an issue statewide come February and March. She is the leader of a potent 7-man junior class which sees Colby Carden and Peyton Satterfield flank her as dangerous shooters. Carden moves in from Sprayberry, following father Allen Carden who is head coach of the boys team. She played very well with Cagle and provides a versatile scoring punch and high IQ alongside floor general Cagle. Lauren Schletty, one of two seniors on the roster, really came up big in the fourth quarter; she does some nice things around the basket. Without any Hartmans on the roster, Sequoyah’s one bugaboo when it comes to contending for a state title might be their lack of size.

Woodstock has been stung with injuries but that didn’t stop the Wolverines from fighting to the very end. Kamryn Forrester was excellent as an energizer bunny all over the floor, affecting the game in multiple ways. Taylor Reed used Coach Crowe’s flare screen offense to perfection in the first half with three threes. I loved Bralise Reese’s athleticism and tenacity. She was cat-quick getting to the rim and had a great second leap to clean up misses. Her 16-point 10-rebound double-double was a strong effort. A name to stow away in the memory bank is freshman Sophia Singer. The 5-foot-10 youngster resembles Olivia Nelson-Ododa with her long and lanky frame but of course, not at her height or skill set. She knocked down a big three in the fourth quarter and rebounded well.

Top Performers

Sequoyah
Colby Carden – 15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals
Alyssa Cagle – 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals
Lauren Schletty – 10 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals 1 block
Peyton Satterfield – 9 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Emily Seres – 6 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist

Woodstock
Bralise Reese – 16 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 1 block
Kamryn Forrester – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Taylor Reed – 10 points, 4 rebounds
Brittany Burnett – 7 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals

Cherokee County Media Day

Etowah High School hosted Cherokee County Media Day on Tuesday morning. The boys went first for an hour followed by the girls. Much to my chagrin, I was only able to stick around for the boys portion of the event before having to hustle over to the office. Here’s some news and notes from my homeland.

 

Woodstock

Head Coach: Kingston Clark
Region 4-AAAAAAA
2015-16: 14-15 

How to become a perennial state playoff team in their new region: “We’ve been working out and conditioning. It’s going to be a tough task. We don’t have Wheeler to worry about any more, thank God for that. Milton’s gone, but it’s wide open. One through six, anybody can come up and win the region.”

What the Class of 2017 means to the program: “We have a great group of seniors. Tyreke [Johnson] was First Team All-Region last year, so he actually has something to prove. Brant [Hurter] signed with Georgia Tech already with a baseball scholarship. Cam [Crowe] has had several people looking at him so he has several offers on the table. They have a lot to prove. First and foremost, the very first thing I talked to them about when I walked into Woodstock’s gymnasium, there were no banners on the wall for boys basketball. So that is the number one goal, that those guys want to leave that legacy so they can come back and have something hanging on that wall they can say they played a part of.”

 

Cherokee

Head Coach: Roger Kvam
Region 4-AAAAAAA
2015-16: 12-14 

On the importance of Phil Cirillo and the senior class: “Phil’s been on the varsity for three years so has Eli [Mayberry] and Jack Carroll, who’s been on for four years, so we have a lot of experience. Jack was on the team as a freshman and actually started. I count on all three of those guys for leadership. Phil is very talented, he can do a lot of different things and play a lot of different positions. We kind of use him like a Queen in chess to do a lot of different things. I feel like we underachieved last year. We were not good on defense and we were kind of selfish on offense and I think we addressed that this summer a little bit.”

 

Etowah

Head Coach: Allen Whitehart
Region 4-AAAAAAA
2015-16: 14-14 

How to shape a new winning culture at Etowah: “First and foremost we came in with hard work immediately in the weight room. Most of the kids haven’t really lifted before. I feel like if you can go in there and push through barriers and kind of get a little strain going you can find out about yourself and that translates right over to the floor. We talked about everything being first class. You’ve got to look the part as well as be the part. I was fortunate enough while I was at Buford High School to be around phenomenal coaches: Gene Durden, Jess Simpson, Tony Wolfe and took a little bit from them. I was smart enough to steal a little bit and take some of that with me.”

On Kam Hickey: “He is going to be playing a 3/4 position for us. He’s going to be really counted on to be a mismatch for us for what we do offensively.”

On Lewis Simonson: “He did not play last year but he is going to be counted on as one of our leaders and someone who can knock down shots.”

On Julian Baldwin & Adrian Cohen: “Julian has a chance to have a great year. We really worked hard with his consistency, getting him stronger. His understanding of the game has really come around a lot. I feel like if he continues to improve at the rate he’s improving he will have a chance to have a phenomenal year. Another kid with a chance for a breakout year is Adrian Cohen. Adrian had a phenomenal fall and phenomenal summer on the [AAU] circuit. Again, consistency is something we are preaching with him as well. He has games when he looks like a really high level player. If those four can have consistency, they can really help us go.”

 

Sequoyah

Head Coach: Allen Carden
Region 6-AAAAAA
2015-16: 20-9 

How to build an identity with a young and inexperienced group: “We’ve talked about that from Day 1 in the weight room – our culture is going to be hard work. We are going to identify with being a strong defensive team. We are going to play smart fundamental basketball. We are going to act the right way and do the right things. As much as I talk about defensive rebounding, everybody knows you still have to put the ball in the hole so you’ve got to be strong skill-wise. But identity, we are always going to hang our hat on playing defense.”

 

Creekview

Head Coach: Casey Gramling
Region 6-AAAAAA
2015-16: 16-10 

How to become a state playoff team year-in and year-out: “That’s the million dollar question. Of course we want to be there and we do have some good pieces this year and we are trying to make a couple culture changes. One of the things we did was my team didn’t participate in a fall league this year. Now the kids are playing 100 games a year and those 25 games they play for their school just represented other games. We are trying to bring it back to where when they put on a Creekview uniform it means something to them.”

On the continuing emergence of KJ Jenkins: “KJ is a junior point guard, incredibly talented. He will be a third-year varsity player and he’s always had that mentality since he was a younger kid on the team. We are working on with him building that leadership role because this is his team and he’s the point guard. It’s a work in progress and he is doing really well in his new role. The kid can score, he’s smooth. He’s got a great shot, he can defend. We’ve had more college coaches in my gym in the last two months than we’ve had in my last two years I’ve been here. They are coming to watch KJ, they are coming to watch Chandler [Wright] and Weber [Sandlin].”

 

River Ridge

Head Coach: Ben Farist
Region 6-AAAAAA
2015-16: 8-18 

How to be patient with a young program and find a way to establish itself in a tough region: “I think a lot of it is not only now what we are doing, but investing in our junior program and realizing that they are the future of what we have but coaching who we have now. We aren’t getting any transfers in or anything crazy like that. So control what we can control. Working hard in the weight room to build athletes that we have currently in our program and making the offense more conducive to what we are good at.”