Tag Archives: state playoffs

Spielin’ & Dealin’ Ep. 12: State Championship Recap


Stegeman Coliseum & McCamish Pavilion were the perfect hosts to an incredible season ending week of GHSA basketball as 16 state champions were crowned. Kyle Sandy finished 13-3 on his state championship picks, losing his three games by a combined 7 points. Recaps of each championship game are included with special soundbytes from state champs: Clarence Jackson (Wilco), Alex Jones (Buford), Greg Blythe (Pace Academy), Rory Welsh (Langston Hughes), Larry Thompson (Greenforest), Tye Fagan (Upson-Lee), state runner-up Aaron Parr (St. Pius), Devonta Pullins (South Atlanta) and PJ Horne (Tift County).

State Championship Top Performers


Tatyana Wyatt – Columbus
27 points (7-18 FG; 3-7 3PT; 10-10 FT) 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 5 blocks

De’sha Benjamin – Laney
25 points (10-21 FG; 0-2 3PT; 5-10 FT) 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 5 blocks

Jaiden Hamilton – Laney
22 points (8-16 FG; 0-3 3PT; 6-8 FT) 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block

Ja’Nya Love-Hill – Carver-Columbus
25 points (8-21 FG; 1-4 3PT; 8-13 FT) 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals

Tory Ozment – Buford
18 points (7-17 FG; 4-7 3PT), 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals

Kamiyah Street – Mays
26 points (9-21 FG; 0-4 3PT; 8-11 FT) 6 rebounds, 4 assists

Que Morrison – McEachern
24 points (7-16 FG; 2-6 3PT; 8-12 FT) 6 rebounds, 4 assists

Vanessa Blagmon – Norcross
23 points (10-23 FG; 1-5 3PT; 1-5 FT) 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals

Mikayla Coombs – Wesleyan
17 points (6-13 FG; 2-6 3PT; 3-4 FT) 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals

Ogheneruona Uwusiaba – Southwest DeKalb
16 points (8-12 FG; 0-1 FT) 16 rebounds, 1 block

Judasia Hills – Beach
19 points (6-11 FG; 1-1 3PT; 6-7 FT) 12 rebounds


Phlan Fleming – Cedar Shoals
30 points (11-24 FG; 1-7 3PT; 7-8 FT) 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks

Wendell Carter – Pace Academy
20 points (6-11 FG; 1-2 3PT; 7-13 FT) 17 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block

Marcus Watson – Buford
27 points (8-16 FG; 2-5 3PT; 9-13 FT) 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks

Rashun Williams – Calhoun County
25 points (8-21 FG; 2-8 3PT; 7-11 FT) 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 5 block

Landers Nolley – Langston Hughes
26 points (7-12 FG; 1-1 3PT; 11-12 FT) 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 1 block

Justin Forrest – Greenforest
36 points (9-15 FG; 5-10 3PT; 13-15 FT) 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals

Everett Lane – St. Pius X
29 points (9-20 FG; 7-15 3PT; 4-7 FT) 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals

Tye Fagan – Upson-Lee
20 points (8-18 FG; 1-6 3PT; 3-4 FT) 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks

Tyler Thornton – South Atlanta
11 points (4-8 FG; 3-7 FT) 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks

Micah Johnson – Tift County
24 points (4-11 FG; 0-2 3PT; 16-18 FT) 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal

Derrick Cook – Langston Hughes
19 points (8-15 FG; 1-2 3PT; 2-3 FT) 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PJ Horne spoke with me after the game:


State Championships Day 4 Recap

Class AA

(G) Laney 85, Rabun County 76

In a war of Wildcats, No.1 Laney (31-1) hung on against a persistent No. 5 Rabun County (29-2) behind a defensive onslaught in a fast paced game, 85-76. Both teams known for their press, Laney donning “32 minutes of doom” t-shirts to warm up in, opened the game with a frantic pace trapping each other and using pressure defense the entire 94-feet of the floor. Rabun County trailed 24-18 after the first period but De’sha Benjamin and company quickly wore down the LadyCats to take a commanding lead. Benjamin, Aubriana Bonner and Jaiden Hamilton all poured in double figures in the first half, as the Wildcats built a 46-30 halftime lead. Getting out in transition, Laney did its damage on fastbreaks. In the third quarter, Rabun County turned the tables on Laney as their outside shots finally started to fall after going 0-of-8 from three in the first half. The LadyCats sparked a 17-5 run and cut the Laney lead to 51-47 after Savanna Scott, Hallie Reeves and Brooke Henricks got hot. Rabun buried their first threes of the game as Henricks and Reeves went back-to-back-to-back, Henricks nailing two threes in the span. After going 0-of-6 in the first half, Scott scored seven points in the frame and helped the LadyCats enter the fourth down 60-54, now in striking distance after going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Laney quickly extended the lead to 67-58 with 5:52 remaining but the LadyCats trimmed the lead to 68-63. Once again, Benjamin helped Laney grow its lead, this time to 76-63 with 2:44 remaining, but again, Rabun County wouldn’t go away going on a 7-0 run to make it 76-70 as Reeves continued to bomb from deep. Laney was able to put the game away from the line going 11-of-19 in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats outscored Rabun 58-32 in the paint and outrebounded the LadyCats 53-33 led by Benjamin’s monstrous 25 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 5 blocks. Bonner added 16 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists while Hamilton was the third Wildcat to double-double going for 22 points, 13 rebounds and 4 assists. Rabun County used a balanced attack of their own to challenge Laney. Sophomores Brooke Henricks and Georgia Stockton scored 17 and 11 points apiece. Senior Hallie Reeves scored a team-high 20 points followed by Scott’s 10 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Freshman Laken Stiles netted 10.

(B) South Atlanta 68, Swainsboro 33

The No. 1 Hornets (29-1) used a dominant third quarter to crush an overmatched Swainsboro team that took a magical run to the state championship. South Atlanta outscored the Tigers (21-11) to the tune of 22-2 in the third to turn a 36-22 halftime lead into an insurmountable 58-24 advantage which resulted in a shortened 6-minute final quarter.  South Atlanta held Swainsboro, a group which uses only a six-man rotation, to just 12-of-65 (18.5%) shooting and outrebounded the smaller Tigers 64 to 44. Devonta Pullins, one of seven seniors which the majority of had been playing together since age 4, paced the Hornets with 20 points. Junior Jalen Stegall had 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Senior Tyler Thornton, 6-foot-7, posted 11 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks while Demontay Roberts, another senior, added 6 points, 14 rebounds and 2 rejections. Swainsboro’s leading scorer, 5-foot-7 junior Jaylan McKinney, was 6-of-21 from the field for 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. His supporting cast struggled as well with senior Justin Harris going 0-of-12 with zero points and sophomore Jamil Watkins shooting 2-of-15 for 6 points. Big man Eddie Roberts, 6-foot-5, battled valiantly on the glass totaling 14 rebounds to go with his 5 points.


(G) McEachern 75, Norcross 68

Victoria Agyin scored all 13 of her points in the fourth quarter to help No. 2 McEachern (26-6) four-peat as state champions, avenging a 57-53 season opening loss to No. 1 Norcross (29-3), 75-68. Georgia-signee Que Morrison poured in 22 of her game-high 24 points in the first half but Norcross still maintained a 38-37 lead. In the second half, Norcross honed in on Morrison as stingy defense and foul trouble hampered the standout. South Florida-signee Vanessa Blagmon scored 12 of her team-high 23 points in the second half, carrying the scoring burden for Norcross. Miami-signee added 17 points and 8 rebounds for Norcross on the night but McEachern captured a 58-55 lead at the end of three and was able to hang on late. Agyin scored 13 of McEachern’s 17 fourth quarter points. Lyndsey Whilby, heading to Texas Tech, had 13 points and 6 rebounds. Jewel Smalls had 13 points and 6 rebounds.  The Indians shot 62.5% in the fourth while holding Norcross to 28.6%.

State Championships Day 3 Recap

Class A-Private

 (G) Wesleyan 51, Holy Innocents’ 48

Trailing the entire game, No. 2 Wesleyan (28-4) found a way to stun No. 3 Holy Innocents’(29-3) after leading for only the final 1:56 of the game.  The Golden Bears led by 17 at one point in the first half but Wesleyan slowly chipped away at the lead before finally capturing their state-leading 12th title. McDonald’s All-American and UConn-signee Mikayla Coombs settled the Wolves in after their early hole, scoring 12 points in the first half and bringing the Wolves to within 34-27 at the half. Wesleyan drew even in the third quarter but could never take a lead, instead settling for a 41-41 tie entering the final period.  Natalie Armstrong scored four of her 11 points in the fourth quarter as Wesleyan outscored Holy Innocents’ 10-7. The Wolves took their first lead on a Sutton West layup at the 1:56 mark and never relinquished their lead. West finished with 8 points while Coombs finished her high school career with 17 points and 9 rebounds. Armstrong tacked on 13 rebounds and 2 blocks to her 11 points. Holy Innocents’ was led by Kennedy Suttle’s 16 points and 13 rebounds, 12 points coming in the first half. Kaila Hubbard had 14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists while LSU-signee Khayla Pointer finished 3-of-13 for 10 points and 4 assists. The Golden Bears shot 32.7% compared to the Wolves’44.2%.

(B) Greenforest 81, Southwest Atlanta Christian 57

Sometimes you can’t see the Forrest from the trees.  That was an issue for No. 4 Southwest Atlanta Christian (26-6). Unsigned senior guard Justin Forrest poured in a game-high 36 points as the No. 1 Eagles (24-8) repeated as state champions, Head Coach Larry Thompson going 2-for-2 in his two years on the job. While the focus is often Greenforest’s massive front line of 7-foot Ikey Obiagu (Florida State), 6-foot-10 BeBe Iyiola, 6-foot-9 Mohammed Abdulsalem and 6-foot-8 Victor Enoh (Memphis), the engine and key to the Eagles’ success has always been 6-foot-2 guard Justin Forrest.  Forrest scored 19 points in the opening half as he continued to torment SACA’s guards as he’s done the previous two seasons. Fellow senior guard Jandan Duggan added 10 of his 14 points in the first half but the Warriors managed to hang around for most of the half. Unsigned 6-foot-3 senior combo guard Jonathan King threw down a one-handed And-1 slam over Abdulsalem and tallied five assists to pace the offense. Things started to get away from the Warriors late in the half as Florida-signee DeAundrae Ballard picked up his third foul at the 1:29 mark and headed to the bench with SACA down 34-28. The Eagles finished the half on an 11-1 run to take a 38-29 halftime lead and kept the pace in the third quarter pushing ahead 62-39 at the end of three as Ballard continued to struggle. The 6-foot-6 wing finished his high school career with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 6 turnovers while fouling out with 3:50 left to play and SACA down 23. Ballard couldn’t find any hoops in the paint as Obiagu and company protected the rim, the future Seminole totaling 10 rebounds and 4 blocks.  Isaiah Cotton led SACA with 16 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists while King finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Greenforest outscored the Warriors 32-16 in the paint.

Class AAAA

(G) Columbus 69, Carver-Columbus 67

Don’t write game recaps until the game is over. No. 4 Carver-Columbus (26-5) outscored No. 5 Columbus 26-13 in the fourth quarter to force an improbable overtime but in the end, Kentucky-signee Tatyana Wyatt would not be denied, draining a three with 9 seconds left to survive their Region 1 rival, 69-67 in an instant classic, capturing their first title. Columbus (25-5) saw a 21-9 first quarter lead evaporate slowly. At the half they led 33-21 and after three, 43-30. Carver’s guards were kept in check but eventually exploded as sophomore J’Nya Love-Hill ignited the comeback, pouring in 25 points and 4 assists in support of star juniors Alycia Reese (13 points, 4 steals) and Mariah Igus (15 points). The Blue Devils led 52-42 with 2:46 left before the wheels fell off. The Tigers closed on a 14-4 run with Reese burying a three to cut the lead to two with 46.3 left. Carver took their first lead of the game in overtime as Love-Hill connected on an And-1 to make it 61-58 with 3:23 remaining. Igus nailed another timely three with 2:14 left to go up 64-62 but Wyatt took over, tying the game from the line and having an answer for every Carver bucket. Down 67-65, Wyatt sank a game-winner as the Blue Devils stormed the court. Wyatt finished with 27 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 blocks, picking up the slack after Ariyah Copeland (Alabama) was lost for the game with an ankle injury at the 2:46 mark when Carver made their run from down 10. Copeland finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Brittany Floyd had 11 points and 3 steals, battling a turnover issue with 8. Trinity Vasquez finished with 9 points and 6 rebounds including two huge free throws mid-way through overtime.


(B) Upson-Lee 53, St. Pius X 48


Nobody said it would be easy. No. 1 Upson-Lee survived a furious rally led by junior guard Everett Lane in the second half to cling onto a hard fought 53-48 victory to clinch the school’s first state title in front of a sold out McCamish Pavilion, polishing off the state’s lone undefeated season, a perfect 32-0. The Fire Marshal shut the doors on countless fans as a max capacity McCamish Pavilion saw a standing room only crowd for Upson-Lee’s quest for perfection and No. 6 St. Pius’ bid for a somewhat Cinderella ending just 13 minutes away from the Golden Lions’ campus after starting the year 6-5. The Knights led wire-to-wire, never trailing but receiving a scare in the second half. Both teams opened the game with big stage jitters as missed shots and turnovers were a prevalent theme. Upson-Lee turned to star junior Tye Fagan to ease them into the atmosphere as he sank an early three and glided to the basket for seven first quarter points as the Knights took a 12-7 lead into the second quarter.

Upson-Lee held its largest lead of the game late in the first half as 6-foot-6 sophomore post Travon Walker had his way with the Golden Lions’ smaller frontcourt. Walker’s presence was felt primarily on the defensive end, setting the tone with 10 rebounds and three blocks in the first half, helping limit St. Pius to 4-of-22 shooting.

Up 27-14 at the half, the Knights looked to be in control until Walker picked up his third foul at the 6:45 mark of the third quarter with Upson-Lee leading 29-14. From that point on, Lane went on a tear. The sharp shooter reeled off 13 points in the frame and ignited a 15-6 run with Walker on the bench. With the lead cut to 35-29 heading into the fourth quarter, Jacorey Smith blocked Lane’s layup attempt sparking an And-1 at the other end for senior Michael Smith to push the lead back to nine at 38-29. Lane, not deterred, continued to bomb away in the fourth quarter, dropping 10 points in the last eight minutes and finishing his night with a game-high 29 points and 5 rebounds, catching fire from deep going 7-of-15. As Lane poured it on, Fagan slowed down. St. Pius keyed in on the smooth lefty and forced him to score outside of the paint. Fagan scored just three points in the third quarter but sensing a dream season on the brink of destruction, the silky 6-foot-3 scorer went to work. Following another Lane triple that cut the lead to 38-34 with 6:30 left, Fagan got in the lane and dumped off an assist to Michael Smith.

Minutes later Fagan got to the line and sank two free throws then later tossed in two right-handed buckets in a 22 second span to grow the Knights’ lead to 46-38 with 1:56 remaining. Lane cashed in his seventh three-pointer of the night at the 1:10 mark to trim the deficit to 46-41 and then scored on a cut to make it 46-43 with 40.3 left in regulation. Fagan answered on the other end to cushion a 5-point lead. Matthew Gonzalo sliced the lead back to 48-45 with 23.4 left but Pius would never get closer as the Knights went 8-for-10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter after missing 17 free throws in their Final Four victory over No. 2 Henry County.  Upson-Lee outrebounded St. Pius 37 to 29 and outscored them in the paint 32 to 14, Fagan and Walker playing key roles around the rim. Fagan finished with 20 points (8-18 FG), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks while turning the ball over 6 times along with point guard Zyrice Scott. Walker, a star defensive end with an offer to play at Alabama, posted 9 points, 16 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 4 blocks. Scott added 8 points as did Michael Smith. St. Pius’ second leading scorer was senior Carson Seramur with 7 points. Both teams may become familiar foes as Upson-Lee graduates just one starter and St. Pius loses just three seniors off the entire roster, Seramur the only starter.