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Carrollton summer camp notes

Carrollton

South Paulding: 66-53 (W)

Coming off of a 15-11 season with an 8-8 record in Region 7-AAAAA, there is great reason for optimism for a young Carrollton program that loses just two seniors. In their 13-point win over South Paulding, two rising juniors proved to be the best players on the floor.

Marcellious Lockett2020 6-4 SG Marcellious Lockett is a household name in West Georgia for good reason. Lockett should see his name seep deeper into Metro Atlanta and statewide as one of the tougher covers in the junior class. Lockett poured in 24 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. He exploded for 15 points in the second half, part of a stretch of three three-pointers in succession.  Lockett can slash to the basket and even showed a nice baseline spin out of the post.

Melvin Edwards2020 6-6 F Melvin Edwards drips with intrigue at the combo forward position. It was eye-opening seeing his touch from the outside as he nailed three trifectas en route to 19 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 blocks. Edwards floats around from the post to the wing, doing most of his damage working his way from the outside. He caught two lobs, throwing one down with authority on the fast break. While I wouldn’t call him an elite rim protector, Edwards did use his bounce to swat away three shots. His ability to play inside-out paired with the versatile scoring of Marcellious Lockett makes the Trojans look like a future playoff team.

South Paulding

Carrollton: 66-53 (L)

2019 6-1 G Sha’mi Shields never seems to disappoint with his energy. While others’ legs were tired, Shields was the energizer bunny, crashing the glass despite his average height and winning 50/50 balls for the Spartans. Shields finished with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 1 block. The offense will never run through Shields and he may not average double-digits his senior season, but instead, he is a willing glue-guy that will do a little bit of everything — not needing to be asked – to make plays that win games.

2019 5-10 PG Shane Gibson performed well in the South Paulding backcourt, serving as one of the Spartans’ most reliable ball handlers against an aggressive trapping Carrollton defense. Gibson calmed down the offense and was able to initiate their sets. The lefty netted a team-high 13 points to go with his 2 assists and 2 steals.

Douglas County

Troup County: 46-44 (W/OT)
Sandy Creek: 61-45 (L)

Graduation and the offseason transfer of Malik Battle has left Douglas County searching for a new go-to guy.

2019 6-5 F Jeremiah Smith was the Tigers’ most consistent player on Thursday, finishing with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist in Game 1 against Troup County before posting 10 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block in a loss to Sandy Creek. Smith is a tweener forward that likes to play on the wing more than on the block. He has good physical tools, but he seems more valuable as a power forward that drifts out to the wing on occasion instead of a small forward that rarely goes to the post. Either way, Smith is an athlete that will compete on the glass and provide a strong presence that opponents will have to account for.

2021 6-5 C Omarion Smith is the spitting physical image of his older brother Jeremiah, both with an enviable frame complete with broad shoulders and long arms. The Lithia Springs transfer is one of the best rim protectors in his class, blocking over 6 shots per game last year. He blocked 4 shots total on the day and grabbed 7 rebounds against Sandy Creek. Smith still has work to do on offense. He needs to develop a go-to post move in order to become more than just a shot blocker. He has the length and explosion to elevate over and finish through defenders, he just has to put in the time to be able to do so.

Troup County

Douglas County: 46-44 (L/OT)

With seven varsity players out because of football, the young and physically immature Tigers had no business sticking with Douglas County, but the scrappy bunch fought tooth and nail and gained valuable experience for the future. Troup County was outsized at every single position, but that did not stop them from playing great team defense and clogging the lane whenever Douglas County attempted to beat their man off the dribble.

2019 5-10 PG Quevo McFarland provided veteran leadership and quick ball handling. The lefty finished with 13 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals. His speed kept Douglas County off balance and attacked in the right spots.

2019 5-11 PG Brandon Smith didn’t score much, but he controlled the tempo when he had the ball. Smith had the game-tying assist at the end of regulation after racing the ball up the floor. Smith has a sturdy build and uses his physicality well. He had 2 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals against Douglas County.

2020 6-2 SG Gabriel Cofield has to work on his handle and get stronger, but he flashed in a big way for Troup County, netting a game-high 14 points including drilling back-to-back threes to keep the Tigers in the game. Cofield has a confident jumper that could make an impact in spurts on the varsity level. As he grows into his body and gets more reps with the big boys, Cofield could develop into a nice high school player.

Sandy Creek

Douglas County: 61-45 (W)

Julian Alexander2019 6-4 SG Julian Alexander looks primed for a breakout senior season similar to that of Jarred Godfrey. Alexander was smooth as silk against Douglas County, getting to the rim with finger rolls while also finding the time to drop in four three-pointers. He collected 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Alexander looks like the No. 2 option behind TJ Bickerstaff heading into the 2019 season. Sandy Creek will have plenty of youngsters play big minutes this upcoming year, but the veteran backcourt of Alexander and Bickerstaff will undoubtedly be the straws that stir the drink.

No. 1 South Paulding grinds out perfect region record at No. 9 Alexander

No. 1 South Paulding 58, No. 9 Alexander 46

Perfection was on the line as No. 1 South Paulding (24-1, 16-0) traveled to No. 9 Alexander (17-7, 11-5) with a chance at polishing off a perfect record in Region 5-AAAAAA. It would not come easy as a sea of black packed Alexander’s gym, ready to see their Cougars attempt to avenge a 52-50 road loss just six days earlier.

The players and fans were more than familiar with each other but also were the coaches. South Paulding head coach Gil Davis and Alexander head coach Jason Slate both come from the Tim Criswell coaching tree at Carrollton and Davis became an understudy for Slate while the two were at Lithia Springs.

With familiarity and two talented teams, breads fierce competition.

Alexander jumped up to a 12-5 lead keyed by big man Damion Howell inside and Grant Howard on the perimeter.

South Paulding opened up taking some uncharacteristically bad shots that the Cougars capitalized on. Howell gobbled up rebounds and established himself early around the basket with six of his eight points in the game in the first six minutes.

After Davis’ timeout, the Spartans began to settle in and phase out the loud home crowd while pulling from their own rambunctious student section which lit up half court as they whited-out the section. Georgia State-signee Kane Williams got his first bucket of the game with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.

Sophomore Chandler Travis came off the bench and provided a spark, drilling a three and connecting on a late And-1 to close Alexander’s lead to 19-16 heading into the second quarter.

South Paulding captured its first lead of the game at the 5:53 mark on a Williams three. But a monster dunk from Howell and foul trouble for Ja’Cori Wilson saw the Cougars regain a 27-23 edge at the 2:18 mark with Wilson heading to the bench with his third foul.

DJ Jackson came away with a steal and was fouled hard going to the hoop with 3 seconds left on the clock and split a pair of free throws to send the game into the half with South Paulding trailing 29-27.

In the third quarter, Williams quickly tied the game at 29.

Wilson added a turnaround and then Jackson hit a three, but Wilson picked up his fourth foul with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter with the Spartans up 34-31 and had to return to the bench.

South Paulding slowly started to impose its will but the Cougars wouldn’t fade. Sophomore Cameron Armstrong flew in for a tip-in to cut the lead to 36-33, but on the other end Williams bullied his way to the basket for his seventh point of the quarter and completed the And-1. Drew Shepherd proceeded to drain a three with under a minute left and the score stayed 42-35 at the end of three, South Paulding’s largest lead of the game.

At the 6:03 mark with the Spartans continuing to pull away, Chris Lunsford found Armstrong for a three to keep it a two possession game at 45-39. The Cougars added a free throw to make it 45-40, but that would be as close as they would get. Over the final 4:40, the Spartans put the game away with a 13-6 run.

Williams slid his way for another And-1 to go ahead 50-40.

The Cougars made their final push and trimmed the lead back to 50-44 with 2:15 remaining but the Spartans iced it from the line going 6-of-8 in the fourth quarter.

My Take

Hands down it was the best atmosphere I have been in all season long and as far as both student sections bringing it, probably the best fan participation in my two years covering the GHSA. Alexander rode the home crowd early and South Paulding came out firing some quick and bad shots as the Cougars’ press sped them up. I would have loved to see Damion Howell get more post touches. The inside-outside game of him and Grant Howard worked perfectly in the first half but after Howell’s powerful slam in the second quarter, he never scored again and didn’t get many opportunities to. Howard came out of the gates hot with seven first quarter points and 10 points in the first half, but he managed just four points in the second half as the Spartans clamped down. Cameron Armstrong stepped up in the absence of third leading scorer Rod Rapley (11.9 ppg). The sophomore hit two rainbow threes. Rapley’s athleticism and scoring was missed down the stretch when the Cougars started to run out of gas. Zeek Copeland was quiet with three points but Chris Lunsford added some energy with seven points off the bench.

It’s never going to be overly pretty, but South Paulding is the No. 1 ranked team in the state for a reason. They play with a chip on their shoulder, Drew Shepherd their emotional leader. He and DJ Jackson both pitched in eight points apiece which is all you need when Kane Williams and Ja’Cori Wilson are rolling. After a 2-point first quarter, Williams turned it on, attacking the basket. He had 14 of his game-high 21 points in the second half. Wilson was hampered with foul trouble but when he was in the game he produced. He scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds in front of Longwood. The first quarter MVP for South Paulding was hands down Chandler Travis. With Tank Withers and Parker Berry unavailable in the backcourt along with Jordan Burge in the low post, Travis stepped in and breathed life into the Spartans when they were struggling in the first quarter. He finished with six points, all in the opening period.

Top Performers

South Paulding
Kane Williams – 21 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
Ja’Cori Wilson – 15 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal
DJ Jackson – 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Drew Shepherd – 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
Chandler Travis – 6 points, 2 rebounds

Alexander
Grant Howard – 14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Damion Howell – 8 points, 12 rebounds
Cameron Armstrong – 8 points, 2 rebounds
Chris Lunsford – 7 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal

SEBA Atlanta Hoop Festival recap

SEBA held its 9th annual Atlanta Hoop Festival at Pope High School. The event, run by William LoPresti, featured five games. I was in the building to check out the first three games of the day. Here are some notes from the action.

Game 1: Duluth 89, Sprayberry 68

 

Junior guard Adam Flagler set a SEBA record, pouring in 43 points. The smooth shooting guard drained 9 threes and didn’t start missing until he took some heat checks late in the game. Flagler has played great this year under Coach Cabral Huff and has definitely put his name on the radar of college coaches. Daylan “DJ” Smith and Jalen Hodges were second and third in command for the Wildcats. Hodges posted 13 points and 7 rebounds as a springy unsigned forward that goes about 6-foot-5. Smith, a junior guard, netted 14. Duluth was without 6-foot-10 sophomore Alex Powell.

Sprayberry saw Eddie Figueroa drop in 26 points before injuring his ankle late in the fourth quarter. The unsigned senior showed nice ball handling and a competitiveness to keep his team in the game for three quarters before Duluth finally ran away with it, outscoring the Yellow Jackets 25-15 in the fourth. Khadim Samb added 8 points and 9 rebounds. Andrew Giles methodically worked his way around the bucket for 10 points.

Top Performers

Adam Flagler poured in a SEBA record 43 points

 

Duluth
Adam Flagler – 43 points (9 threes), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Jalen Hodges – 13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
DJ Smith – 14 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal

Sprayberry
Eddie Figueroa – 26 points, 1 rebound, 4 assists, 4 steals
Khadim Samb – 8 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
Andrew Giles – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block

 

Game 2: Hillgrove 52, No. 4 St. Pius 39

 

St. Pius was held to two points in the second quarter as they saw Hillgrove race ahead to a 31-15 halftime lead. Heavy legs from two wars this week along with a Demeirre Black onslaught was too much to recover from. Black, a 6-foot senior guard, popped off from his first touch. Black was tight off the dribble, getting to the left wing and pulling up for three straight jumpers to open the game. He scored 11 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the first quarter alone. Black plays bigger than his size and uses his quick leaping to crash the glass. He finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and 4 steals as Coach Ed Morris’ go-to guy. Trey Stevens provided offense off the bench with 10 points.

The Golden Lions couldn’t hit a shot all game until the fourth quarter when they made a late run, but could never close to within single digits. They hit four threes in the final period but again, it was Black stemming the tide with a hoop. Carson Seramur led St. Pius with 8 points, but they all came in the first quarter. Zach Ranson got off to a slow start, but he battled hard on the glass and finished with 11 rebounds.

Top Performers

Demeirre Black played bigger than his 6-foot frame, dropping 25 points & 14 rebounds

Hillgrove
Demeirre Black – 25 points, 14 rebounds, 4 steals
Trey Stevens – 10 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 block

St. Pius
Carson Seramur – 8 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 block
Zach Ranson – 4 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist
Niko Broadway – 5 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal

 

Game 3: No. 4 North Cobb Christian 51, No. 3 South Paulding 49

 

A true stunner as South Paulding saw a 40-27 lead heading into the fourth quarter slip away. The Spartans out-physicaled and out-toughed the Eagles for the majority of the game, but Demiere Brown was a one-man wrecking crew. South Paulding held a 25-16 lead at the half after DJ Jackson buried a three at the buzzer.  Jackson played great for Coach Gil Davis as the floor general picked up the slack scoring 15 points while Ja’Cori Wilson played sporadic minutes with a stomach bug before fouling out with 5 points with South Paulding nursing a 44-34 lead with 5:49 to play.

Upon his departure, North Cobb Christian closed on a 17-5 run to steal a victory away from the Spartans, riding Brown. The powerful 6-foot-6 senior wing poured in 31 points and 14 rebounds, pounding away at South Paulding’s smaller guards. Brown has to find a home at the D-1 level. That strength and diversity of ways to score the ball is something programs across the country must covet. He didn’t settle for too many threes and buttered his bread around the basket today.

South Paulding admittedly took the air out of the ball too soon while dealing with foul trouble and a lack of size. It wasn’t until the 4:57 mark when Hunter Norman tossed an alley-oop to Mo Merritt to make it 44-38 that I actually felt that North Cobb Christian had a chance. The Eagles’ fan base went rabid as all the momentum officially swung into their corner. The Spartans still could have put the game away, but Georgia State-signee Kane Williams couldn’t find his touch from the foul line. He went 5-of-10 in the fourth quarter and 7-of-14 for the game. Aside from his free throw woes, Williams was able to affect the game from the floor. He finished with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals while getting others involved.

North Cobb Christian got a huge lift down the stretch from Norman, Nate Perrin and Will Crumly. Perrin didn’t play much, but he came off the bench and rattled in a three to make it 47-43 with 3:14 remaining. I warned that Crumly was still dangerous even though he was ice cold for three quarters from deep. Crumly blocked a Williams shot inside and a minute later he drilled a three to bring the score to 49-48 with 1:09 to play. Crumly put the ball on the floor and got to the line and split a pair of free throws to knot the game at 49 with 1:00.

With South Paulding holding for one shot, Parker Berry lost his dribble in front of Norman who pounced on the floor to give the Eagles the ball with 24.9 left.

North Cobb Christian held for one shot and they found Brown on a duck-in in the middle of the lane. He caught it and hit a lefty hook with 1.8 seconds left.

Originally, they let the clock run off. North Cobb Christian stormed the court and mobbed Brown in a dogpile, but after reviewing, the officials put the correct 1.8 seconds left on the clock. The referees had the opportunity to call a technical with the Eagles team running on the floor, but due to the circumstances they let it go.

South Paulding had one last look when freshman Knowledge Ruben heaved from half court, but his shot bounced off the rim leaving the Spartans shell-shocked and the Eagles jubilant.

 

Top Performers

Demiere Brown is a defense’s nightmare. He had 31 points & 14 rebounds.

North Cobb Christian
Demiere Brown – 31 points, 14 rebounds, 1 steal
Mo Merritt – 5 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block
Will Crumly – 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 blocks
Chase Savage – 6 points, 1 rebound

South Paulding
Kane Williams – 16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals
DJ Jackson – 15 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 3 steals
Drew Shepherd – 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals
Ja’Cori Wilson – 5 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

Duo’s Loyalty Helps South Paulding Shatter Records

A school-record 25 wins. A 17-3 mark in Region 5-AAAAA. An Elite Eight appearance; the deepest run for any boys team in school history. This is the resume of the 2015-16 South Paulding Spartans led by Coach Gil Davis.

From humble beginnings back when the school opened in 2006, Davis has been there from the very start. Over the past four years since Davis has taken over as head coach the Spartans have taken off, compiling a record of 87-28.

Gil Davis
Gil Davis

Overseeing the program grow from a relative unknown into one of the brightest young programs in the state has been a gratifying experience for Coach Davis.

“It’s been crazy. It’s been a tough process but it’s been a lot of fun to see it come to where we’ve been the last four years,” explained Davis. “A lot of hard work, a lot of butt kickings early and just fighting through it. It’s just been a lot of fun these last four years.”

That hard work and those butt kickings endured as a young program have paid off.

“It’s really been awesome to be honest with you. We’ve been tabbed kind of as a football school from the beginning,” said Davis about the basketball program’s recent success in the playoffs.

“Here in Paulding County, basketball has never really been a big deal, so it’s been a really big deal to us to put this county on the map so to speak and put our school on the map as far as basketball is concerned.”

Pillars of a Program

Two rising seniors have led the way in South Paulding garnering statewide respect and attention. Kane Williams and Ja’Cori Wilson both hold Division-I offers. Williams is a playmaking 6-foot-3 guard that averaged 16 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals per game as a junior, good enough to earn a Sandy’s Spiel All-State Class AAAAA Second Team selection. Wilson, a versatile 6-foot-7 forward, led the team in scoring with 17 points per game and 10 rebounds a night on his way to Honorable Mention honors.

Kane Williams
Kane Williams

The two building blocks of the program are still reaching their potential and their humility has prevented them from acknowledging just how much they have meant to South Paulding.

“I don’t even think they really realize how big it’s been,” said Davis. “It’s just another thing that’s put us on the map. County-wise, we’ve been on the map so to speak, but it puts us on the map as far as the state goes with all these things they are being a part of like HoopSeen and things like that; bringing a lot of attention to our school and making us more viewed as a basketball school and an up-and-coming program.”

Williams and Wilson’s play has gained the attention of college coaches. Williams holds offers from Middle Tennessee State, Alcorn State and Southern, while Wilson has scholarships from Alcorn State and Southern in hand.

JaCori Wilson
JaCori Wilson

“It’s been awesome to see these recruiters come out here. A lot of them get here and are like, ‘Coach, I didn’t even know this school was here’ and things like that. It’s just great that South Paulding is becoming a place that people can view in a positive light when it comes to basketball.”

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

The South Paulding basketball program has become a family, close knit with each player and coach looking out for one another. For every Kane Williams and Ja’Cori Wilson, there is an unsung hero like Anthony Brown inside gobbling up misses and setting the school-record for most rebounds in a career with 481. Brown has graduated but other key pieces return like D.J. Jackson, a gritty undersized guard, Jordan Burge, a 6-6 forward ready to make an impact in Brown’s absence, and others like Drew Shepherd and James Bryant.

A team that prays together, stays together
A team that prays together, stays together

What do these steady role players have in common with stars like Williams and Wilson?

An all for one and one for all mentality.

Williams and Wilson like so many other high school standouts with designs on playing D-I could have left their homegrown AAU team the Georgia Stunners. Instead, the two stalwarts anchor the team they have been a part of since the seventh grade and continue to build an unmatched chemistry with their year-round teammates.

Georgia Stunners
Georgia Stunners

“We’ve been together since seventh grade. Every year I’ve been like, if I left now, it’s like leaving a brother behind or leaving someone behind that I’ve been with for so long,” explained Williams about his loyalty to not only the Georgia Stunners program but the camaraderie built at South Paulding.

Wilson echoed his sentiments.

“It’s been like family. It’s been a great experience and you learn a lot, you do a lot, it’s just great.”

Reaping the Benefits

Going on over five years now playing together, both Williams and Wilson have seen their hard work and dedication to one another come to fruition with their individual and team success at South Paulding.

“It’s been very fun. It’s been an amazing experience to actually break the [school] record and all that stuff. Accomplishments that nobody at this school probably thought we could accomplish. It’s been a fun ride since freshman year all the way to now,” said Williams.

“It means a lot like what Kane said,” explained Wilson on the duo’s years together turning into shattering school records and leaving a lasting legacy. “We came from nothing and we’ve been striving to get to where we are. To see that we’ve accomplished something that not many people have done at this school, it’s been great.”

When asked about their goals for their final season in the burgundy and gold, the 2015-16 County Player of the Year, Williams, and the program’s single-season record holder for points in a season, Wilson, didn’t mention anything about individual goals, but team missions.

Kane Williams honored as County Player of the Year
Kane Williams honored as County Player of the Year

“Of course I want a state ring,” exclaimed Williams. “But short-term I just want a winning season; taking every game one game at a time.”

“Not losing inside the region. Claiming a region championship and getting W’s,” is Wilson’s objective.

As two of the program’s best players ever to step foot in South Paulding High School near their final season, both players have praised Coach Davis for his guidance along the way with Wilson stating, “He’s been a great mentor, a great coach, a great guy and being there for us.”

South Paulding Avoids Setback at SEBA

South Paulding 54, Blessed Trinity 49

Game 1 of the SEBA Showcase at Pope High School pitted two programs with differing identities. South Paulding, coming off a disappointing loss to No. 4 Allatoona the night before, wanted to get back into their groove and run a free flowing offense. Blessed Trinity preferred to slow things up and use a methodical pace on offense and a grind-it-out style on defense.

To begin the game, it looked as if South Paulding’s athletic lineup paced by Kane Williams, was going to run roughshod through Blessed Trinity, taking a 12-0 lead behind a trapping press. The Titans didn’t score a basket until John Michael Bertrand, who scored a team-high 16 points, scored with 1:25 left in the opening period and netted all four of Blessed Trinity’s first quarter points which resulted in a 14-4 hole entering the second.

Things slowly began to change after the Titans shook off a sluggish first eight minutes. Blessed Trinity began getting to the basket and drawing fouls. The Titans got as close as seven points in the second quarter but still trailed 29-21 at the half after sinking 10-of-15 free throws.

Though they let their foot off the gas pedal, the Spartans still felt like they were in control, especially with the big first half of Williams. He finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists and four steals in the opening 16.

Coach Patrick Hughes made the proper halftime adjustments for Blessed Trinity and much like they did in the second quarter, the Titans slowly crept closer and closer to South Paulding. Ja’Cori Wilson picked up his fourth foul with 6:33 to play in the third and the Spartans’ lead down to 31-29 after CJ Abrams completed a three-point play.

While the 6-foot-7 Wilson sat, the South Paulding lead continued to dwindle before Blessed Trinity took its first lead of the game, 35-33 with 3:45 left in the third quarter. The Titans outscored South Paulding 20-10 in the frame to take a 41-39 lead into the fourth, thanks to seven points off the bench from Abrams, who ended the night with 11.

Blessed Trinity extended the lead to their largest of the game at 43-39 less than a minute into the fourth. Suddenly sensing the game was in jeopardy, Coach Gil Davis’ Spartans began to respond, using its trapping defense to force turnovers. Wilson finally checked back in with 5:29 left and trailing 45-43. While Wilson struggled to find any rhythm, it was big man Anthony Brown who stepped up. Brown blew a couple bunnies in the first half, before Williams fed him for a game-changing slam with two minutes to play to give the Spartans a 51-47 lead.

With 26.3 seconds remaining, Blessed Trinity found itself with the ball down 52-49. But the Titans were unable to get a good look as DJ Jackson forced Jackson Svete into a huge turnover. Blessed Trinity had one last opportunity after a Spartan turnover, but were unable to convert on a three with 13.3 seconds left, handing to the ball back to South Paulding who would sink a pair of free throws to close out a 54-49 win and avoid blowing a big first quarter lead.

My Take: South Paulding came to play and looked hungry after a poor showing on Friday night, but after they took a 12-0 lead, it looked like the Spartans lost focus and didn’t take the Titans as serious as they should have. Blessed Trinity began wearing away at South Paulding by making them play long defensive possessions and be patient while the Titans sliced and diced their way to backdoor cuts and screens leading to layups. John Michael Bertrand played well for the Titans with 16 points. Kyle Swade hit some big shots and finished with 12, but it really was backup guard CJ Abrams’ big third quarter that got them back into the game.

South Paulding turned to Kane Williams late in the game and he was the difference maker, coming away with all the plays. His running mate Ja’Cori Wilson picked up too many silly fouls and left all the work on Williams’ plate. He along with Anthony Brown made sure to get the Spartans back in the win column. Brown struggled to finish inside at times, but the burly big man’s soft hands helped him take over down low on his way to 17 points and 13 rebounds. If Brown can be that effective inside with Williams and Wilson performing like they are capable of, the Spartans will be very dangerous throughout the season. Blessed Trinity’s style of play and discipline will keep them in every game they play this year. Class AAA is wide open, giving the Titans the chance to play spoiler for a lot of other teams come state tournament time.

Top Performers

South Paulding
Kane Williams – 22 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, 1 block
Anthony Brown – 17 points, 13 rebounds
Ja’Cori Wilson – 6 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block

Blessed Trinity
John Michael Bertrand – 16 points, 8 rebounds
Kyle Swade – 12 points, 6 rebounds
CJ Abrams – 11 points
Jackson Svete – 8 points, 2 assists