Tag Archives: sportalspace

TJ Horton sparks No. 10 Cartersville’s rally at LaGrange

Contributed by Rob Grubbs   (@RCGJr226070)

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

No. 10 Cartersville 64, LaGrange 60

January 6, 2018 (LaGrange, GA): Region 5-AAAA is one of the most competitive regions in the state, two teams are in the current Top 10, with No. 3 Sandy Creek and No. 9 Cartersville while three others are very good; Cedartown, Troup County and LaGrange. It is also one of the most geographically diverse as well, as there are some serious road trips that accompany region play.  The Cartersville Hurricanes had one of the road adventures Saturday afternoon as they drove over 200 miles roundtrip to LaGrange to face the Grangers in their historic gym.

LaGrange (10-6) had gotten off to a slow start to the season, but Head Coach Mark Veal guided them to a five-game winning streak as they prepared to enter the trenches of region play. Cartersville (10-2) is led by senior, Furman-signee Jaylon Pugh and Head Coach Mike Tobin is putting together the pieces to make a serious run for the region crown. The Hurricanes defeated Central-Carrollton on Friday night, which meant his team would spend six of the next 28 hours on yellow buses. LaGrange lost on the road Friday night at Cedartown as well, so both teams came into the game a bit weary from the road. While the extra travel may have sapped some of their energy early, Cartersville overcame a 13-point fourth quarter deficit to get a huge road win and take an early lead in the region.

The Grangers knew that to stop Cartersville, you had to stop Pugh, so they played a box-and-one defense on him and tried to prevent him from getting the ball in open space, they were making things busy for him with relentless pressure. Their strategy was successful, as they held him scoreless in the first half. LaGrange jumped out to a 14-11 lead to end the first quarter, highlighted by a Bo Russell three and solid defense. Perignon Dyer picked up the scoring slack for the Hurricanes, he scored two three-pointers to keep things close.

Russell got help from his supporting cast in the second quarter, Daz Williams and Jordan Ogletree led a balanced attack for LaGrange while Cartersville got two more threes from Dyer to keep it at 34-29 at halftime.

When Russell hit a three-pointer to start the third quarter, it appeared that the Grangers were prepared to deliver the knockout blow and with 3:45 remaining in the third, Russell hit a smooth runner in the lane to put them up 16 points, but the Hurricanes were pesky and would not go away. Senior TJ Horton took it on himself to keep the game close and with 1:38 remaining, he scored on a nice drive to the basket and made a free throw to cut the lead to nine.

The anatomy of a comeback is always interesting to watch and then replay in your mind. In a game that LaGrange had controlled almost throughout, had led once by 16 and now led by nine with a quarter remaining, Earley Sanders committed an offensive foul that seemed to give the Hurricanes renewed energy.  Pugh broke free of the defense set to stop him and scored two baskets early and when Horton hit a three with 6:32 remaining, the Hurricanes were now only down by six. LaGrange called a timeout so Coach Veal could summon renewed energy that had faded in the start of the fourth, but Cartersville had already stolen the momentum.

After Russell hit one of two free throws, the Grangers had a three point lead and tried to ice the game by spreading out to a four corner set at the 2:50 mark. That strategy backfired as the Hurricanes would close the game out with a 12-5 run down the stretch, led by Horton and Pugh going to the free throw line repeatedly, they would go a combined 8-of-11 from the charity stripe as the clock joined the Hurricanes as the Grangers’ biggest enemy.  In the end, the Hurricanes outscored the Grangers 22-9 in the fourth quarter with Pugh contributing 11 of those down the stretch for the 64-60 final.

For the Hurricanes, it was quick turnaround, after a five-minute postgame meeting with Coach Tobin, the team grabbed seven boxes of pizza and scampered back to the buses for the two-hour ride home. Coach Tobin offered, “We had a tough stretch with these two games back-to-back on the road and their defense picked us apart early, but we played our game and caught some momentum in the fourth quarter. This was a huge road, region win for us. TJ picked us up tonight and carried us for that victory. We have another tough game on Tuesday as we get Sandy Creek, but it will be at home. We are looking forward to that.”

It will be a night that LaGrange will look back on as a missed opportunity. It is tough to lose a lead at home, especially when your star player, Russell, scores 27 points. They will try to get back on the winning page on Tuesday against their county rival Troup County, which is just ahead of them in fourth-place in the region. After the loss to Cartersville, it just became a must win for them.

Rob’s Takeaways

  1. Russell is an electric scorer from LaGrange, the guard moves well with or without the ball, has a good outside shot and can drive to the basket as well.
  2. Dyer scored 15 points for the Hurricanes – all on three pointers, making five and all of them were in big spots with his team behind. There is something to be said about the difficulty of making big outside shots when behind, there is so much more pressure involved and less margin of error.
  3. Pugh showed great discipline, he realized the defense was set up to stop him, he didn’t try to force anything, he allowed Horton and Dyer to focus on scoring and then seized the moment in the fourth by scoring eight in their run at the end, including 4-of-4 from the line.
  4. The LaGrange gym is classic, you can hear the echoes of past games there. There is talk of a new auditorium being built off campus by the city, so she may not be around much longer – great place to watch.
  5. Cartersville got to the free throw line 25 times, Horton had 18 of those alone, while LaGrange got there only 10 times. That is not quite the ratio you would expect from the home team, but it reflects how Horton was constantly driving to the basket.
  6. The decision to go four corners completely took LaGrange out of their offensive mindset, they became tentative and stopped looking to score, which cost them in the end.

Top Performers

LaGrange
Bo Russell – 27 points, 6 rebounds
Jordan Ogletree – 12 points, 6 rebounds
Daz Williams – 12 points, 5 assists

Cartersville
TJ Horton – 25 points, 5 assists
Perignon Dyer – 15 points (5 threes), 4 assists
Jaylon Pugh – 13 points, 6 assists

No. 1 Langston Hughes holds off No. 4 Douglas County after losing Landers Nolley to ejection

Contributed by Rob Grubbs   (@RCGJr226070)

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

No. 1 Langston Hughes 78, No. 4 Douglas County 67

On occasion, a big loss can do more good for a team than harm. Such was the case back on November 28, 2017 when the defending Class AAAAAA state champion Langston Hughes Panthers took the Douglas County Tigers to the woodshed in a 78-43 win on their home court in Fairburn. Since then, Douglas County has reeled of 10 consecutive wins, including the championship of the Tucker Christmas Shootout. Tiger Head Coach Hollis Bethea watched his team grow over the past month and the rematch with the Panthers on their court would be a good barometer of how far the No. 4 ranked team in AAAAAA had come.

Panther Head Coach Rory Welsh knows how to prepare his team for a championship run and has the hardware to prove it from last year’s championship. His team has only lost once since that late November blowout win over the Tigers. The fact the contest was a Region 5 game made it an even juicer matchup. In an evening that would see the Panthers (12-3) best player, Virginia Tech-signee Landers Nolley get ejected for bumping an official, Douglas County (11-3) seized the moment to tie the game only to see the Panthers steady themselves for a late 9-0 run that sealed the 78-67 win. It gave the Panthers a two-game lead over the Tigers in the region standings.

Langston Hughes opened the night in a tight man-to-man, in your face defense, but the Tigers would respond quickly. Guard Rickey Clark hit a jumper for the opening basket and forward Ernest Randle had a big blocked shot to jump out to an 8-5 lead. However, the one-time, brief UGA-commit Nolley scored his first points on a deep NBA distance three-pointer for the tie and then took over, hitting three more threes before the end of the first with the Panthers up 19-14.  Nolley also had a crowd shaking dunk in the first quarter when he stole an inbound pass on a full court press. Coach Welsh utilizes Nolley in the front of the press, his wingspan creates challenges for the offensive team and he got several steals as the game progressed.

Not to be outdone, Tiger Jeremiah Smith got a steal himself and created excitement for the home crowd with a dunk on the other end to start the second quarter. Midway through the second, the Tigers were down by five but Langston Hughes slowly began to expand their lead. With the Tiger defense focusing on Nolley, Tyrel Morgan and Josh Butts contributed to a 17-8 Panther run to close out the half with them up 40-26.

At this point, Coach Bethea began to see answers to how much his team had grown. Down 14, the Tigers could have cashed this one in, but they came back scrappy. Malik Battle hit a three to serve notice this was not the same team that lost by 35.  The game changed suddenly at the 4-minute mark. The Panthers had their largest lead at 15 when Ernest Randle hit a three for Douglas County. After a foul, there were words exchanged between Nolley and a game official which seemed to irritate Nolley, who attempted to walk away but slightly bumped the official as he passed. He was immediately ejected and in the aftermath, Douglas County was awarded six free throws. In a cruel twist of fate, all the free shots were missed, each one to the delight of the visiting Langston Hughes crowd, which were making themselves heard.

After a star player exits, both sides need to recalibrate their game. For Douglas County, the Panther press was not as intimidating without Nolley in the front, so maneuvering the inbound pass was less difficult and that created easier scoring opportunities.  The Tigers jumped at the opportunity and went on to outscore the Panthers 23-11 in the next eight minutes to tie the game up at 62.  A moment that stood out in the Tiger resurgence was a real-man offensive rebound by Clark and the put- back, he seemed to just will himself to the rebound and score.

For the Panthers, the opposite was in effect, their offense revolved around Nolley scoring or distributing from a double team and Coach Welsh suddenly needed someone to step up.  It was almost as if the tie game issued Langston Hughes a wakeup call as Papa Samba led the Panthers on a 11-0 run that would put the game away. Clark finally broke the run for the Tigers with an offensive rebound and put-back, but the damage had been done.  Panther Armani Bolston would hit five consecutive free throws down the stretch for the final 78-67 margin.

Afterwards Coach Welsh was proud of the way his team responded to adversity. “We needed someone to step up and we have a bench full of selfless guys, the ejection caught us off guard, but I am proud of how we responded and how we put them away at the end. This team is full of players who sat and watched last year’s championship run and now they are getting their chance. They are taking advantage of it.” When asked where this year’s team is compared to last year’s team in early January, he said, “we are a better defensive team this year, these guys have been waiting a long time to prove themselves, and now they are.”

The Panthers will have to regroup quickly as they will be without Nolley for the next two games based on GHSA rules. It will provide them more opportunity to jell as a team and development supplemental scoring opportunities. In the long run, it may make them better, which should be a scary proposition for the teams in AAAAAA. Douglas County has improved from earlier in the year and the results prove that. Coach Bethea has stated that he believes they still haven’t played their best basketball yet. While winning the regular season region crown has probably passed, the next potential game between the two teams in the region tournament could be very interesting indeed.

Rob’s Takeaways

  1. Langston Hughes will have to prepare to be without Landers Nolley for the next two games against New Manchester and Alexander because of the ejection.
  2. With Nolley at the point of the Langston Hughes press in the backcourt, he causes in-bounding issues that forced several turnovers for easy baskets.
  3. Langston Hughes should get used to the drive from Fairburn over to Douglasville as they play games there three times in five days.
  4. The Douglas County Gym is a first-class facility, with upper and lower seating, there are great site lines all across the building.
  5. Being in the Douglas County gym reminded me of one of my favorite basketball players of all time – Anthony Barge. A.B. was a high school All-American for the Tigers and a complete basketball player. One night, against top ranked Campbell-Fairburn, he dropped 56 points without the benefit of a three-point shot in an upset victory. He played at South Alabama and eventually West Georgia where he was a Division 2 All-American. Barge was tragically killed in a traffic accident in 2010.
  6. Panther Head Coach Rory Welsh said his coaching mentor was former Lovejoy Head Coach, Rick Francis. Welsh was an assistant on his staff before taking the Langston Hughes opportunity. Welsh has attention to detail, he went and personally thanked each cheerleader after the game for their contribution to the win.
  7. Douglas County is waiting on the return of 6-foot-5 post player Mataio Soli, who is nicked up with a football related injury. His presence underneath will add to an already solid lineup.
  8. Nolley is looking to win this third championship in a row, as a sophomore he won an Illinois State Championship at Curie High School in Chicago, then his family moved back to Fairburn and he led the Panthers on their championship run last year.

Top Performers

Langston Hughes
Landers Nolley – 24 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists
Tyler Smith – 15 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists
Patrick Carter – 10 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists

Douglas County
Rickey Clark – 17 points, 7 rebounds
Malik Battle – 16 points, 4 assists
Jeremiah Smith – 3 points, 10 rebounds

 

No. 8 Wheeler showcases EJ Montgomery against young Westlake Lions

Contributed by Chuck Jones

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

No. 8 Wheeler 94, Westlake 77

IMG_7828

January 4, 2018 (Marietta, GA): Due to a previous snow storm, the No. 8 Wheeler Wildcats (10-5) hosted the Westlake Lions (7-5) as a make-up game in Class Region 2-AAAAAAA action.

With both teams coming off recent wins, the highly anticipated match-up featured several well known players in the college basketball recruiting world; most notably, five-star senior forward, E.J. Montgomery. With the likes of junior wing Isaac Martin, senior combo-forward Brandon Younger and junior floor general, Jaire “Roscoe” Eastman, Wheeler has plenty of depth surrounding  the 6-foot-10 Montgomery.

Westlake, on the other hand, has traditionally rostered contending teams and this season is no different. Westlake boasts the ultra-athletic junior guard, Chase Hunter. The Lions’ leading gunner is supported by 6-foot-8 senior forward Brandon Favors, junior guards Quincy Olivary, Kaleb Wallace, Koby Issac and 6-foot-10 freshman, Frank Anselem.

The contest started with high energy as the two teams went back and forth in the opening quarter while eight different players scored on the combined teams. Westlake led the first quarter 19-18, as Montgomery was held scoreless in the quarter for Wheeler. That didn’t stop the underrated Eastman from finding his other Wildcat teammates for easy baskets to keep the game close as Hunter had the early hot hand for Westlake with 11 points.

The second quarter had the feathery jumper of Martin on display as he splashed three-pointer after three-pointer for the No. 8 ranked team, according to the Sandy’s Spiel boys rankings. Martin’s scoring was matched by Hunter of Westlake, who attacked the Wildcats defense every chance he had while compiling 24 first half points. Despite the Hunter’s individual performance, Wheeler still managed to lead at the half, 42-39.

 Westlake’s head coach, Darron Rogers, obviously didn’t appreciate his Lions’ efforts as he kept his squad in the locker room until under a minute before the second half began. As Westlake opened the third quarter on a Favors two-handed stuff, Wheeler head coach Larry Thompson had his team prepared for the potential adjustments, as he unleashed Montgomery for a monstrous second half.

The unsigned big man turned his knob up and gave Favors all he could stand in the paint, with six dunks in the half, one that showed his ability to handle the ball in the open court and finish. Wheeler’s “Lil’ General,” Eastman must have showed up to the game with a pocket full of change because it seemed like he was dropping dimes all over the gym, as he had a game-high 14 assists.

According to Coach Thompson, Wheeler knew that coming in, the Wildcats would have to contain Hunter. Thompson said, “we focused more on our transition defense in the second half, which was the game’s turning point.”

Wheeler  was able to tame Hunter and played with a better sense of urgency in the final two periods as they wore down the Lions en route to a 94-77 victory. Westlake was led by Hunter’s game-high 32 points, while Montgomery finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks for the Wildcats. Wheeler’s Martin, added 19 points with five three-point baskets. Wheeler will travel to West Virginia and will play in the Cancer Research Classic this Saturday.

No. 9 Pebblebrook’s 29-point third quarter surges Falcons past Shiloh at TOC Classic

Contributed by Cody Butler  (@CodeMan10x)

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

 

No. 9 Pebblebrook 65, Shiloh 57

No. 9 Pebblebrook (8-2) rallied off a huge third quarter to capture a 65-57 win over Shiloh (3-6) at the Tournament of Champions Holiday Classic at Wheeler High School in Marietta. The Falcons exploded for 29 points in the third to take flight over the Generals. The balanced scoring attack of Mervin James, Josh Graham and Grant Howard pushed Pebblebrook out in front for good in the second half. Great ball movement with multiple scoring options left their opponent helpless in a tough third. The Falcons more than doubled their offensive output in the third quarter alone. Shiloh continued to struggle in the second half as their six-point halftime lead erased quickly out of the break.

Shiloh started the game off with a high level of intensity. In a game of this magnitude against the No. 9 team in Class AAAAAAA, Shiloh had to bring their best. Swingman Toneari Lane did just that, the game’s high-scorer with 19 points, set the early tone for a clicking General offense in the first half. Lane scored eight points in the first quarter to lead Shiloh to a 15-11 advantage after the first quarter. Lane was 8-of-10 from the field on the night and collected 8 rebounds.

A very competitive second quarter saw back and forth action the remainder of the half. Pebblebrook’s Grant Howard scored on back-to-back possessions to trim the Shiloh lead to 24-21 with two minutes left in the half. A timeout killed Falcon momentum though as Shiloh closed the first half strong capitalizing off Pebblebrook turnovers. Guard Eric Kinloch knocked down a three-pointer in the final minute to give Shiloh the 29-23 lead at halftime. Kinloch finished the first half with eight points.

Pebblebrook’s Mervin James started to take over in the third quarter. A 6-foot-6 senior forward committed to Canisius; James made the opening jumper of the second half. His And-1 three-point play tied the game 31-31 with 5:22 left in the third.  After only scoring 23 as a team in the first half, Pebblebrook exploded for 29 points in the third quarter. Pebblebrook took the lead 33-31 on a short field goal from guard Dwight Murray. The Falcons never looked back from that point as they outscored Shiloh by 18 in the period to enter the fourth quarter up 52-40. James finished the third quarter with 10 points and 17 total on the night.

The Falcons continued to move the ball well on offense and extended their lead out to 15 points at 57-42 with 3:46 in the game. Howard finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Josh Graham posted a double-double on the night 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Shiloh’s playmaker Elias King, a four-star recruit by 247sports who committed to UGA before the game, struggled to breakout. Pebblebrook limited him to 5-of-10 shooting from the field for a steady, yet unspectacular 16 points on the night. While King’s modest day is better than most, it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset over Pebblebrook.

Pebblebrook went 8-of-23 (34%) from the field in the first half. They rebounded well in the second half and shot 13-of-26 (50%) from the field in the final two quarters.

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

 

Contributed by Cody Butler  (@CodeMan10x)

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

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