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Genesis Bryant leads No. 1 Lovejoy past No. 8 Tucker in dominant fashion

Contributed by Rob Grubbs   (@RCGJr226070)

Sponsored by:   @sportalspace

January 23, 2018 (Lovejoy, GA): On paper, it appeared to be a great matchup, the Lovejoy Lady Wildcats (19-1, 10-1), ranked No. 1 in AAAAAA, against the No. 8 ranked Tucker Lady Tigers (14-6, 8-3) on Tuesday night, both from Region 4. Tucker had won seven of its last eight and played tough against the Class AAAAAAA No. 1 Westlake Lady Lions before Christmas and seemed poised to push Lovejoy for a chance at region supremacy. But as the game unfolded, it became apparent that while Tucker was a good team, Lovejoy was a great team.

Just as a fine-tuned sportscar has multiple components that work together in unison to provide maximum production, Head Coach Cedric King has built his team in a similar fashion. He has the power of a proven scorer in sophomore Genesis Bryant. Bryant is unique in that she can score at will, but she also brings her entire team for the ride.  They have the proven leadership of senior low post player Kayla Brown who can dominant the game in the paint and provide a defensive stopper.  Add to the mix sophomore Anaya Boyd who has the skills to run the court like a point guard, shoot from the outside and post up against anyone.  Top all of that off with a roster full of role-playing stars who fit the mold to perfection, and Lovejoy can play with anyone.

In the end, the Lady Wildcats completely dismantled the Lady Tigers for a convincing 68-33 win. With the regular season winding down, Coach King has his team steadily improving and ready to make a championship run. Even the reserves who got to play the final minutes for Lovejoy in relief seemed to have something to prove, they play with an edge.

The game started slowly for Lovejoy, they picked up two quick fouls and seemed to be a little hesitant early. The score was tied just passed the halfway point of the first quarter when the Lady Wildcats stepped on the throttle. Bryant and J’Auana Robinson both hit threes and when Mariah Spain drove the length of the floor after a steal for a layup to end the first quarter, they capped off a 12-1 run in just three minutes.

Bryant was brilliant throughout, she scored 14 points in the first half alone to extend the lead. As good as she was at creating scoring opportunities, Kayla Brown, the only senior on the roster,  was equally impressive down low,  she dominated the middle and imposed her will on the glass, gathering 11 rebounds. Tucker could not keep up with all the offensive fire power of the Wildcats.

The second quarter was an offensive clinic by Lovejoy, they scored on a perfect inbound pass from Robinson to Brown, a baseball pass from Bryant the entire length of the court to Brown for an easy layup and a deep three from Avanna Preston. Everything was working in the repertoire.

In the second half, Coach King substituted in waves, he seemed to have unlimited depth at his disposal. Eight of his players had points in the first half and two more joined the scorer’s sheet in the second half. Each player seemed to bring a specific skill set that complimented the team as a whole. After a three-point play by Bryant near the end of the third quarter, the Lady Wildcats had extended the lead to 58-20.  Lovejoy was solid from the charity stripe as well, hitting 22-of-33 free throws (67%).

For Tucker, the game got out of hand quickly and took them out of their game plan.  Senior guard Kierra Guthrie was able to dribble and penetrate, but the shots would not fall for the Lady Tigers and the constant pressure eventually wore them down.  Junior Jasani Buchanan continued to fight, she scored early in the third quarter off a steal and later scored on a nice drive to the basket. She led the Lady Tigers in scoring with 10 points.

Senior guard Kayla Baise would make two three-pointers in the fourth, hopefully giving Tucker something they can pull from the rubble to carry into the next game.

As bad as the final score, the Lady Tigers are still in third-place in Region 4-AAAAAA, only one game behind No. 7 Stephenson for second.  It is time to put this one behind them and finish strong in their final four games in the regular season, including their finale at home against the same Lovejoy team.

Afterwards, Coach King still saw room improvement, but was pleased overall. “Our girls competed and executed well, but we still need to improve our mental toughness. We tell them, don’t let anyone steal your joy while playing, which is important to getting better.”  He also cited the play of junior Preston as key, “Avanna played a big part of the win tonight, I was proud of her, but as a team, there are a lot of areas we can improve.” The thought of Lovejoy getting better and mentally tougher should cause a lot of concern for the rest of class AAAAAA and with their youth and good coaching, they will be good for a while.

Top Performers

Jasani Buchanan – 10 points, 5 rebounds
Summer Dilwood – 6 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist
Kayla Blaise – 6 points

Genesis Bryant – 23 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals
Anna Boyd – 15 points, 7 rebounds
Kayla Brown – 5 points, 11 rebounds

Artistic Cammon uses hardwood as his canvas

A picture is worth 1,000 words. You might need that and then some to describe rising senior guard Joshua Cammon and his worldly outlook on life. From basketball to baseball to photography and fashion, Cammon doesn’t just stuff stat sheets, he also lives a very busy and fulfilled life.

“I know I picked up baseball first because my older brothers played baseball and they taught me but I actually ventured into basketball when I was five years old but I started baseball when I was four,” explained Cammon who played his junior season at Eastside where he averaged 13.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.4 steals as a team captain for the 20-10 Eagles.

More impressive was Cammon accomplished this feat with a broken wrist that kept him sidelined during baseball season and limited him to being only a pinch-runner.

“I didn’t know I had a wrist injury but I had a broken scaphoid bone in my left wrist. During the basketball season, it had happened around Christmas but I just wrapped it up and played. I thought it was just a sprain.”

Cammon was a leader on the floor and personified toughness playing with a broken wrist
Cammon was a leader on the floor and personified toughness playing with a broken wrist
The Unknown

For high school players with aspirations of playing on the college level, playing year round is a must. Travel ball constantly allows kids to continue working on their game and in some cases, garner more exposure to college programs. On the other hand, the miles can start racking up on bodies and may cause fatigue if players don’t manage their time wisely.

The fact that Cammon, a potent performer on the high school level, has never played AAU is hard to fathom in this day and age. Instead, he has balanced his baseball and photography careers with the hardwood.

“I’ll go to the gym or even outside just to keep up”, explained Cammon on how he balances each sport by practicing the offseason sport – in this case basketball – on the weekends to maintain his muscle memory.

With one of his many goals being to play in college, missing out on the AAU scene can be a tough pill to swallow.

“I think I’m missing out on a bunch of things like scouts-wise because I know my really close friend Isaiah Miller who just left Eastside, he’s gotten a lot of scouts just through AAU itself. So I know if I played AAU two or three years back I probably could have gotten some better looks.”

Being an unknown commodity to college coaches and even at the high school level in the state of Georgia has its obvious downsides but it can also serve as motivation.

“I do feel like I’m an in the shadows person because of where I’m at in Georgia.”

New Beginnings

No longer will Cammon be in the shadows as he has transferred to DeKalb County’s winningest program in history, the Tucker Tigers who have a mark of 870 wins and 591 losses. Coming off a 20-7 season, Cammon brings a versatile skillset to the table.

“I know I can bring more scoring and defensively, I’m not going to lay down on defense and not get back,” explained Cammon who also thinks he can change the tempo of the game by either slowing or speeding the pace to his liking.

With transfers in and out of the Eastside program, Cammon and his parents sought a more stable location to play his senior season. Cammon received recommendations about Coach James Hartry who has amassed a 317-149 record in 16 seasons at Tucker.

After playing his whole career at Eastside, joining a new school posed potential problems fitting in, but Cammon has made the transition seamlessly.

“I feel like it’s not too hard [picking up a new system]. I like it. At first I wasn’t sure about it but then when I actually went in there and started playing more summer games with them I kind of fell in love with it and the team and people. It was so calming.”

Youphoric Lifestyle

Joshua Cammon separates himself from other athletes with his passions off the court. The 3.3 GPA student is a fan of anime such as Naruto and Dragon Ball Z but more impressively, runs his own fashion company and is a passionate photographer.

“Photography has been my thing for a while. I’ve actually been taking pictures since I was about 12. I’ve been taking pictures of my mom’s friends’ weddings and I’m going to be taking pictures for my aunt’s in January,” said Cammon, a modern day Ansel Adams.

Photography takes Cammon to his happy place
Photography takes Cammon to his happy place

Cammon noted that his dream school would be Virginia Commonwealth because of their great basketball, baseball and photography programs.

Aside from his photography, Cammon has also begun a clothing line called Youphoric ATL. That is focused on happiness.

“Youphoric, the word comes from euphoria which means being happy and elated. So I put ‘You’ because you can’t find happiness without finding it in yourself first.”

Cammon’s inspiration for the line came from his own life experiences.IMG_9807

“I started it because there was a time I was sad because of family things and issues I don’t like going through. I just learned how to not be involved with it but still enjoy life without it,” explained Cammon who with a group of friends opened the company on March 20 of 2015.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter of Joshua Cammon’s life has yet to be written. At age 17, Cammon’s lifelong novel already has an impressive introduction. As a renaissance man, the body of Cammon’s book will continue to expand with the many different avenues he can choose upon. Combo guard in basketball, infielder in baseball, exquisite photographer or fashion entrepreneur, the life of Josh Cammon is worth the follow on and off the court.

Miller Grove Shot Clock League Analysis

After battling the traffic on 285 for two hours, I arrived at the Miller Grove Shot Clock Summer League on Wednesday. The League plays on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout June. The prestigious event showcases 14 teams throughout the summer. Miller Grove, Hiram, Mays, North Clayton, Jonesboro, Lithonia, Tucker, Sandy Creek, Shiloh, Cedar Shoals and Statesboro all made state tournament runs while Brookwood (17-9), Henry County (15-11) and Druid Hills (14-12) didn’t earn a berth but are as dangerous as any group in the 14-team field.

Cedar Shoals 78, Henry County 63

Cedar Shoals remained undefeated for the summer and scored another impressive win, this time ousting Henry County by 15 in a game that featured high level athletes with true D-I aspirations. Coming off of a 29-3 season with a Final Four run in Class AAAAA where they fell to Allatoona 48-46, Cedar Shoals faces the unenviable task of replacing sparkplug point guard and Sandy’s Spiel Most Underrated award winner, Jerrick Mitchell (Columbia State).

The Jags had no problem with Henry County using a wide open floor to pick apart the Warhawks. Cedar Shoals buried seven first half threes and finished with 10 on the day to gain and maintain their separation. Phlan Fleming was as good as advertised. The long 6-foot-5 senior guard poured in a game-high 29 points and nailed three triples. Fleming also collected 10 rebounds and won his personal matchup with the explosive Damion Rosser. The two even got a double technical in the second half. It did not feel like a preseason game with the amount of intensity in the building.

Snipe Hall, a 6-foot-2 senior shooting guard, was lethal from beyond the arc to open the game. He finished with 23 points and banged in three of his four three-pointers in the first half. He added on three rebounds and three assists as well. Hall was more than just a one-trick pony, scoring in the lane off pull-ups and tallying six points from the line.

AJ Jones, a 5-foot-9 scrappy guard, canned three long balls and finished with 12 points and four assists. Inside, workhorse tight end on the football field Stavion Stevenson chipped in six points and six rebounds.

The common theme for Cedar Shoals on Wednesday? Sharing the ball. The Jaguars collected 17 assists to Henry County’s seven. The engine that made Cedar Shoals go wasn’t Jerrick Mitchell anymore but instead senior Damarrea Lowe.

Damarrea Lowe ran the Cedar Shoals offense expertly
Damarrea Lowe ran the Cedar Shoals offense expertly

With Fleming and Hall already as known commodities, ‘D-Lowe’, a rail thin point guard listed at 5-foot-10, 130 pounds, might play just as important of a role in the Jags’ success in 2016-17. Lowe was inserted into the starting lineup and had the Jaguar offense clicking like it was in mid-season form. Lowe didn’t show the flashy burst of speed like Mitchell or the daringness to knock down pull-up jumpers like his predecessor did when he was on, but Lowe did exactly what Coach L’Dreco Thomas needed of him: make smart decisions with the ball.

He finished with four points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals. Every time I looked up, Lowe was affecting the action on the court in a positive way. If he can contribute the way he did yesterday, finding open shooters on the perimeter and limiting turnovers, this Cedar Shoals offense will be tough to slow down, especially if they can knock down their threes.

Even in the loss for Henry County, positives were taken away. Coach Vincent Rosser often told me last season, they could be a special team if they learned how to defend consistently. Against top level competition like Cedar Shoals who can shoot you out of the gym in a heartbeat, the Warhawks were tested and received a good measuring stick of how much further they need to improve to become a state title contender.

The Warhawks, down double-digits for nearly the entire game, never gave in. Coach Rosser stayed on his group and had them playing hard till the final buzzer, a very welcomed sign. Henry County has one of the best backcourts in Class AAAA, the tandem of seniors Damion Rosser and Javon Greene is good enough to hang with anyone. The 6-foot-4 Rosser plays above the rim and is constantly looking to attack. He scored 15 points and chipped in four rebounds, two steals and a block. Rosser is great at getting to the hole, but he mustn’t forget to keep the defense honest with his jump shot. He knocked down one three yesterday and if he can consistently knock them down, that will open up even more driving lines.

One player who wasn’t shy to let it rip was 6-foot-2 senior Javon Greene. Greene netted a team-high 22 points and ripped off 16 points in the second half. Henry County was in too big of a hole for it to make a difference, but Greene caught fire in the second half. The unconscious Greene was in ultimate heat check mode, drilling four threes in a row, pulling up on a dime and letting them fly. Along with his scoring outburst, he collected three rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.

Both eligible to play this year, Kovi Tate and Seth Brown should be big difference makers for the Warhawks. The quartet of Rosser, Greene, Tate and Brown have been playing together in the summer with the Atlanta All-Stars and have been building a cohesion towards an exciting senior season. Tate, a stout 6-foot-5, brings power inside and an ability to convert easy buckets. Like seemingly all of his peers, he is also an above the rim finisher that can change games. He finished with a modest six points, six rebounds and one block. Brown was quiet last night with four points and three rebounds, but once he finds his footing, he will round out a very dangerous starting five with senior Sadonta Lindley heading up the point guard position.

Tucker Transfers

The Tucker Tigers breezed past Lithonia after an impressive second half, coasting to a 59-44 victory. Tucker is without last year’s leading scorer, Kenton Eskridge, as he is now at Columbia playing for Dr. Phil McCrary. Eskridge leaves one living legend (James Hartry) for another, but the Tigers will find a way to have some bite as always. Coach Hartry, who has amassed a 317-149 record over his 16 seasons at the helm of Tucker, won’t have a barren cupboard.

Transferring over for his senior season is 6-foot-3 guard Joshua Cammon. Cammon was overshadowed by 25-point-per-game scorer Isaiah Miller at Eastside, but the former team captain can fill it up himself. He averaged 13.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.4 steals per game as a junior. Cammon looked good yesterday, showcasing tight handles in traffic and the ability to get and create his own shot. He is a strong athlete with a muscular frame that will help him attack the hoop. Cammon attempted 92 free throws last year and knocked down 51 threes. He will have to raise his shooting percentage on both (64% & 27%), but Cammon looks like he can provide some instant offense for the Tigers, a team looking for a new go-to guy for the second straight year.

Jackmon on the Mend

Miller Grove senior Joshua Jackmon was on-hand at the summer league. Jackmon suffered a torn ACL on the adidas Uprising circuit and is eager to get back on the court. He expects teammate Tae Hardy and himself to have big senior seasons under new head coach Rasul Chester.

No. 5 Newton rams Tucker out of first-place in Region 2

No. 5 Newton 58, Tucker 48

It had been 719 days since the Tucker Tigers (17-5, 7-1) had last lost a region game. A 45-42 loss to Stephenson on Feb. 7, 2014 back in Class AAAAA was Coach James Hartry’s last defeat. Last season the Tigers swept through their new home, Region 2-AAAAAA, and through the first seven region games of this season, they had started 7-0, surviving No. 5 Newton 57-56 at Tucker on Dec. 15.

Newton (19-2, 7-1), enjoying its best start since 2009-10 when the Rams opened 30-1 before falling to state champion Milton in the semifinals, entered Wednesday’s make-up game at 18-2, using last season’s state playoff run as a springboard into the 2015-16 season. As a No. 4 seed last year, the Rams knocked off defending state champion Tift County 52-49 in round one and took down No. 2 seed Dacula 58-54 in the Sweet 16 before falling to eventual state champion Wheeler in the Elite 8, 72-54.

With all of Coach Rick Rasmussen’s recent success with the Rams, one win still eluded Newton: Tucker. Last night, the Rams were finally able to rid themselves of their demons and get the monkey off their back with a 58-48 win at home to take over first-place.

“It was a big win for us tonight,” explained Rasmussen. “I thought we had a really good chance to beat them at their place and I thought we were certainly capable of playing better than we did the first time.”

They did.

Things didn’t start out so promising for the Rams however. Tucker jumped out to a 9-2 lead and looked like the more energized team, but Newton’s leading scorer, junior JD Notae, shook the Rams out of the doldrums and scored their first eight points of the game.

To end the first period, freshman sensation Ashton Hagans drove on the fastbreak and found senior Jaquan Simms open in the left corner for one of his four three-pointers on the night to give Newton a 13-11 lead heading into the second quarter.

The onslaught continued for the Rams in the second quarter as Notae’s early spurt in the first quarter ignited a 21-4 Newton run that flipped the score from a 9-2 deficit to a 23-13 advantage with 3:55 left to play in the second quarter. Tucker would pick itself off the mat and end the period on a mini 5-2 run, capped by a Tyler Payne steal and lay-in at the buzzer, cutting Newton’s halftime lead to 25-18.

The third quarter saw Tucker senior center Adonis Green score back-to-back baskets but halfway through the frame Green picked up his fourth foul. Coach Hartry elected to keep him in the game and just 15 seconds later, Green committed his fifth personal, fouling out with 2:52 remaining in the third quarter and the Tigers trailing 33-26.

While Tucker was searching for answers on how to replace Green, but more importantly slow down Newton’s guards, Jaquan Simms caught fire, canning back-to-back threes and drawing a foul on a deep ball. Simms scored eight of his 16 points in the third quarter and pushed the Rams’ lead to 38-26.

However, once again it was Tucker using a late spurt to keep the game close. The Tigers ran off four quick points stamped by Kenton Eskridge’s lay-up right before the horn to make it a 38-30 game entering the fourth quarter.

Tucker did not crawl much closer than eight points in the fourth quarter as Notae and Dante Johnson would not allow another late game disappointment. In their first meeting, the Rams blew the game at the line, connecting on just 7-of-18 attempts. Wednesday night, Newton sank 14-of-22 free throws, but more importantly 12-of-17 in the fourth quarter. Notae scored 11 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth including going 5-of-6 from the stripe while Johnson netted six of his eight points in the final frame, hitting all four free throws.

After a hot start for Eskridge, scoring six first quarter points, the Rams honed in on Tucker’s playmaker and held him to four points over the next three periods.

Freshman Ashton Hagans won the war with junior Kenton Eskridge
Freshman Ashton Hagans won the war with junior Kenton Eskridge

The win was an important one for Newton, not only for region seeding, but for the overall psyche of the team, finally beating a program that has troubled them over the past two seasons. Coach Rasmussen understands there is still work to be done on Friday night as Newton hosts rival Rockdale County on senior night and the Tigers potentially looming in the region tournament.

“It feels good to get this one. I’m sure we’re going to have to play them again in the region tournament, so I’m sure that will be another war and we’re excited about it.”

My Take: Newton’s guards are the real deal. People who aren’t in the know could have given me slack for keeping the Rams in the top ten after an early 2-1 start following a loss to Henry County, but I had faith that Newton would warrant its place in the rankings. Fast forward eight weeks later and Coach Rick Rasmussen’s team is No. 5 in the poll. JD Notae has caught the eye of D-1 schools such as Kennesaw State, South Alabama and Presbyterian and all for good reason. The junior had two scoring binges. One to breathe life into the Rams and the second to close the door shut on Tucker. Notae scored the first eight points of the game to start a 21-4 run that gave Newton the lead for good and in the fourth quarter his 11 points ended all hope of a Tucker comeback. Notae showed an ability to finish inside with reverse lay ups and the coolness to sink important free throws late in the game. Freshman Ashton Hagans has some of the best court vision I’ve seen this season. It is extremely rare to see a point guard with that kind of court presence and the fact that he is only a freshman makes him a high major prospect for good reason; UGA has already offered, with Tennessee, Mississippi State and Auburn all showing interest. In last night’s low scoring game, he didn’t need to dazzle or show off any slick eye-catching passes like a Will Washington, but he was mature with the ball and put it in the right spots for teammates to score, something that can’t always be taught. The third man of the trio was senior Jaquan Simms. He cashed in four three-pointers and finished with 16 points. His ability to get hot from behind the arc will be invaluable come tournament time. With sophomore DeAndrae Butler missing from the lineup, Josh Tukes and Chazz Tanner stepped up and combined for four points and 10 rebounds. Dante Johnson was a key piece off the bench with eight points and nine rebounds, bringing great energy.

Xavier Johnson played well for Tucker in the absence of Adonis Green, who fouled out with four points and six rebounds. Johnson posted team-highs of 12 points and nine rebounds. Kenton Eskridge got going early on, putting his head down and finishing at the cup, but Newton made the proper adjustments to slow down the junior. The Tigers had some nice balance scoring, but weren’t able to find enough firepower to keep up with the running Rams.

Top Performers

JD Notae – 22 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals
Jaquan Simms – 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Dante Johnson – 8 points, 9 rebounds
Ashton Hagans – 7 points, 1 rebound, 8 assists, 3 steals
Chazz Tanner – 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block

Xavier Johnson – 12 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block
Kenton Eskridge – 10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Amir Butcher – 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block
Josh Vann – 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Trevon Flowers – 6 points, 1 rebound
Adonis Green – 4 points, 6 rebounds