Monday, December 31, 2007

Home sweet home

After a month long, country wide tour, Georgia Hoops is finally home.

I spent a good part of the month traveling across the country for my national coverage for I started the month for a week's work in Huntington Beach, California for the Ocean View Tournament of Champions.

While on the West Coast, I saw two of the best guards in the nation in Jrue Holiday (a UCLA signee) and Demar Derozan (a Southern Cal signee) in action. The duo knows how to get it done.

The following week, I traveled to Fort Myers, Florida for the annual City of Palms tournament. This is my favorite event to cover each and every year. The fine folks of the tournament know how to run a big time event. Donnie Wilkie is one of the true gentleman in high school basketball tournaments.

Fayette County made the 1,000 mile round trip to the event and suffered a tough loss. Junior Noel Johnson put on a show, though. He shot seven of 10 to start the game and put up 21 points in the first half. Johnson was dominant on the offensive end of the floor. His legs ran out of gas in the second half and he finished with 31 points (11-23 FG, 2-8 from 3, 7-7 FT).

His offense isn't just about hitting threes anymore. Johnson did more off the bounce, scored more by creating for himself and went to the rim for buckets. He's one of the top pure scorers in his class and showed why in Fort Myers.

St. Benedicts out of New Jersey won the event and proved why they are the number one team in the nation.

Two days home with the family and a visit from Saint Nick was mixed into the calendar. That was the best two days of the month.

Another jump on a trusty Delta plane and a stop in Raleigh, N.C. yielded a great day of hoops at the GlaxoSmithKline Invitational at Broughton High School, the same gym where Pistol Pete Maravich did his thing as a prep star.

A three hour drive south to the Charlotte area placed us at the Bojangles Shootout, where South Atlanta and Miller Grove did some work.

Junior Derrick Favors put on a show on the first day of action, posting 42 points, 20 rebounds and 12 blocks. Too bad we missed it. He was an easy choice for the all-tournament team despite foul trouble in his other two games.

South Atlanta had a tremendous comeback against Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln. Down by 18 points to start the fourth quarter, the Hornets won the fourth quarter and held on for one of the best comebacks I've ever seen.

Senior Robert Jones stepped up big in Favors' absence. He put up 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the win.

Junior Mfon Udofia also made the all-tournament team. He was a 20-point scorer all week for Miller Grove as they went 2-1 in the event.

I saw too many games to count and after seeing what a good part of the nation has to offer for talent, I'll stand by my thought that Georgia is the best place in the nation for high school hoops.

What's next? Good question. Getting back in the gyms around the state is the first order of business. I'll be making stops in central Georgia to start this month and then stop by the two major events at Norcross (Jan. 19) and Centennial (Jan. 21).

The power poll will be updated in the near future as well as a couple of other items of business. With football season now in the books. all eyes are on the hardwood. Are you watching? I will be.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Blue Devils put on the full court press

SUWANEE -- Norcross must be sending a message this season. The two-time defending AAAAA state champions are off to a hot start in the young season and dominated region rival Peachtree Ridge on Thursday night on the road.

The Blue Devils defended their way to a 70-37 stomping of the Lions and made it look easy. Norcross came out firing from the start thanks to back-to-back three-pointers from junior guards Taariq Muhammad and Denzail Jones.

Norcross never looked back despite a Peachtree Ridge run that lasted all of four minutes. The Blue Devils did a great job with the press and just forced the Lions into turnover after turnover.

Al-Farouq Aminu, the state's top senior, made it look easy, scoring 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds, had four big blocks, dished out three assists and collected a couple of steals. He is the most complete player in the state regardless of class.

Muhammad scored 18 points and had nine assists while Jones added 12 points.

What we learned:

- This Norcross club is finding its own identity early in the season. The big three from last year (Gani Lawal, Tony Neysmith and Jordan DeMercy) have been replaced by this year's big three (Aminu, Muhammad and Jones). The current big three have difficult skills than last year's club but similarly effective.

Aminu creates such much havoc defensively because of his length and agility. Muhammad is a great set up man with a developing three point shot and Jones, the energy spark in the backcourt, is a sharp-shooter. In 7-AAAAA, no one can match-up with them. In fact, we believe they will go undefeated against state teams this year in the regular season.

- The Blue Devils look like a team with a lot to prove this season and they've been doing it on the defensive end first and foremost this year. They might be a better defensive team in terms of overall quickness and keeping teams from getting the ball across the mid line than they were last year.

- Peachtree Ridge lost its big four from last year (Kevin Anderson, Zach Graham, Cameron Heyward and Bassy Inameti) and is currently going through a youth movement. The Ridge has a key senior in Bryen Pyles, who struggled mightily against Norcross, but the future is looking very strong. We were incredibly impressed with Khalid Mutakabbir, a 6-3 junior guard. He's a do-everything player that has a chance to be an emerging player in the state this year and beyond.

Freshman Cory Blackwell has created quite a buzz with his hot start this year and there were flashes of good things to come from the youngster in the defeat. He's big, strong and active.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Geogians finding fit in a Flash

Apparently there is a Georgia to Utah pipeline building. The Utah Flash of the National Basketball Developmental League has a three former Cobb County players involved with its team.

Former McEachern star Morris Almond was assigned to the Flash on Thursday by the Utah Jazz. Former Walton guard Kevin Kruger was the first selection by the Flash in the NBDL draft two months ago. Former Sprayberry guard Kevin Young is the Director of Operations for the club.

Almond, a 6-6, 225-pound guard out of Rice has appeared in three games for the Jazz, playing a total of 12 scoreless minutes. The Powder Springs native was selected by the Jazz in the first round (25th overall selection) of the 2007 NBA Draft.

Kruger, a 6-2, 185-pound guard from UNLV/Arizona State is second on the team in scoring (13.3) and tops in assists (6.3), three point shooting (36 percent) and free throw shooting (92.9 percent).

Young is in his first year with the Flash. He was the head coach and general manager for the Shamrock Rovers in Dublin, Ireland prior to coming back to the United States. He played at Clayton State for two years before his coaching career.

The Flash, a NBDL team and affiliate of the Utah Jazz and the Boston Celtics, are 3-3 on the season.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Plenty of Favors in South Atlanta blowout

COLLEGE PARK -- Total domination. That is about is about as good of a description as it gets in South Atlanta's 80-48 win over North Clayton on Tuesday night.

Derrick Favors, the top player in the state, dominated the game in every possible way in the blowout win. The 6-9 center scored 24 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, blocked 10 shots and had four steals in the victory.

South Atlanta set the tone early with its physical play, attention to defense and Favors' presence in the paint. The Hornets went into the halftime break with a 15-point lead. If that wasn't enough, a 26-4 third quarter slammed the door shut with a bang.

It wasn't a close one and things just were not clicking for North Clayton, a young team that should have a fine year this season. But when the state's best player is having the kind of game he was having on Tuesday night, there just isn't much a team can do.

What we learned:

- One observer that we sat with said Favors is better than Dwight Howard at this same stage and that the youngster from South Atlanta is a clone of Tim Duncan. That is strong company and it is hard to disagree with the notion that Favors is more skilled than Howard. The gap is small in my eyes simply because Dwight Howard was the best player I've ever seen here in Georgia. With a year and a half left, Favors could very well take Howard's spot in my eyes. He's an incredible, incredible talent.

- This did not look like the same South Atlanta team I saw last month in the ugly scrimmage against Redan. South Atlanta showed it's defensive tenacity and took the wind out of the sails early with intense pressure from end to end.

- North Clayton's band was great. They were fun to watch and their energy was the only thing that had the home crowd nodding in approval.

Weekly Wrap-Up: Vol. 3

This week's weekly wrap-up is shortened. We wanted to at least post the players of the week, the updated teams seen list and our schedule for this week. Hope to see you on the road along the way.

Week 2 Superlatives

Top player of the week: Jordan Callahan, PG, Blessed Trinity

Top senior of the week: Dequan Jones, SF, Wheeler

Top unsigned senior of the week: Jordan Callahan, PG, Blessed Trinity

Top junior of the week: Ari Stewart, PF/SF, Wheeler

Top junior sleeper of the week: Alioune Diouf, SF, McEachern

Top sophomore of the week: Phil Taylor, PG, Wheeler

Top freshman of the week: None

Georgia teams evaluated to date this season

26 – Blessed Trinity, Centennial, Chamblee, Collins Hill, Columbia, Decatur, Druid Hills, Dominion Christian, Dunwoody, East Coweta, Heirway Academy, Marist, McEachern, McNair, Mill Creek, Miller Grove, Milton, Northview, Redan, Riverdale, Sandy Creek, South Atlanta, South Cobb, Stephenson, Wheeler (twice), Whitefield Academy (twice)

Total games: 14

On tap for this week

Dec. 4 – South Atlanta at North Clayton

Dec. 6 – Norcross at Peachtree Ridge

Dec. 7 – Westlake at Fayette County

Dec. 8 – Mt. Zion-Jonesboro Hoopfest:

11:30 Griffin vs. Lassiter

4:00 Mount Zion vs. Shiloh

7:00 Miller Grove vs. Wesleyan

8:30 Jonesboro vs. Pebblebrook

All games are tentative.

Top 10 games of the week

You thought last week was interesting? Wait until this week. There are a number of quality match-ups in the state this week. We picked the top 10 and give our thoughts on each.

No. 3 Centennial at No. 1 Wheeler, Friday, Dec. 7

Another week, another big game at Wheeler. The Wildcats have an even bigger challenge after picking apart McEachern in last week's match-up of top 10 programs. This week isn't looking any easier. The region rivals square off in a great match-up. Centennial brought its entire team to Wheeler for the McEachern and Whitefield scrimmages while Wheeler is playing better than any team in the state. If the Wildcats can shoot like they did against McEachern, watch out. If Centennial can utilize of all it's tools, watch out. Buckle up, this one will be a lot of fun.

Georgia Hoops pick: Wheeler

No. 5 Columbia at No. 6 Miller Grove, Tuesday, Dec. 4

Hiding in the shadows of the Wheeler-Centennial game this week is this game of a game on Tuesday night. The two Dekalb County powers will grind it out in what should be one of the best games of the year. No one is playing better individually in the state right now than Mfon Udofia. And there might not be a better overall team from top to bottom in the state than Columbia. This one will be fun and it will be close.

Georgia Hoops pick: Columbia

No. 2 Westlake at No. 16 Fayette County, Friday, Dec. 7

This is one of the best rivalry games in the state and this year's series could be at an all-time high. Fayette County won the battle last year, winning two of the three games. Westlake is hot right now but Fayette County's Noel Johnson might be just a little hotter. We will be there for the match-up and expect to see this one go down to the wire.

Georgia Hoops pick: Fayette County

No. 6 Miller Grove vs. No. 15 Wesleyan at Mt. Zion-Jonesboro, Saturday, Dec. 8

Both teams have had major tests early on. Miller Grove will be coming off of a tough game against Columbia and Wesleyan will be ready for this one. The question has to be how much will the Columbia game take out of Miller Grove and how will Wesleyan defend Mfon Udofia?

Georgia Hoops pick: Miller Grove

No. 10 South Atlanta at North Clayton, Tuesday, Dec. 4.

If it weren't for the airport nearby, the noise from the gym in this one would echo through the south side of the city on Tuesday night. We are going to be in the building for this county border war. South Atlanta's Derrick Favors is off to a hot start and North Clayton is coming off a big win at Phillips Arena. Last year's match-up at the same time came down to one bucket. We don't anticipate this one being that close. South Atlanta's defense is just too strong thanks to Favors inside.

Georgia Hoops pick: South Atlanta

No. 8 Dunwoody at Rome, Saturday, Dec. 8

Dunwoody beat the brakes off of Rome last year at home. This year a trip to North Georgia has a different feel. After losing the season opener, the Wildcats should be playing with more fire and more determination to prove themselves. Rome matches up well with Dunwoody inside, especially with Wake Forest bound Tony Woods holding up the middle. It should be a close one for the first half. Dunwoody will likely push the gas down and floor it until the final buzzer.

Georgia Hoops pick: Dunwoody

Baldwin at Hancock Central, Saturday, Dec. 8

Hancock Central could crack the power poll this week if they can string together a nice run of victories. This game against Baldwin could push the class A team over the hump. No one is hotter right now in single A than Hancock Central. This game will have the gym rocking. If you ever have a chance to see them at home, do it. The folks at both schools know how to get a gym loud.

Georgia Hoops pick: Hancock Central

Turner County at Tift County, Saturday, Dec. 8

Keep an eye on both of these teams. Turner County, a class A program, is young and big while Tift County, a traditional power, always has a team ready to play. Turner County travels to Tifton and will be met with a hostile crowd on opening night for Tift County within the state and too much speed to deal with.

Georgia Hoops pick: Tift County

Tri-Cities at Mundy's Mill, Friday, Dec. 7

Mundy's Mill cracked into the coaches' poll on Tuesday, checking in at No. 5 in AAAAA. We'll admit it, we probably slept on the Tigers. Tri-Cities is a big-time defensive team but a game on the road with a hot team might be too much. Keep an eye on Todd Salters, he's a sleeper at the point and playing to win and earn a scholarship this year for Mundy's Mill.

Georgia Hoops pick: Mundy's Mill

Pebblebrook vs. Jonesboro at Mt. Zion-Jonesboro, Saturday, Dec. 8

This will be a track meet. And we can't wait. Georgia Hoops will be on hand for this one. Both clubs enter the week undefeated and could very well be come Saturday. Jonesboro guard Brandon Hosley is off to a hot start, putting up big numbers. His counterpart, Chris Beasley, is off to a similar start.

Georgia Hoops pick: Jonesboro

Note: All of the rankings for teams are from the preseason power poll. This will be updated on Monday. We went 6-3 in our picks from last week.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Top 20 Power Poll: Week 1


With the season's first full week of work in the books, the Top 20 Power Poll has a couple of big shifts, three new teams in and a number of key match-ups to watch this week.

1. Wheeler (1-0)
Notable victories: McEachern (No. 7 at the time) 87-78
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 at Alpharetta, Dec. 7 vs. No. 3 Centennial
Last rank: 1
Notes: If there were any questions about just how good the Wildcats are going to be this year, the AAAAA powerhouse certainly answered them. With a lineup of five Division I players, Doug Lipscomb might have his best team ever at the Cobb County school. But isn't that always the assumption at the start of the year? A convincing win over McEachern proved the point home. A huge match-up against Centennial awaits the team this week. Get your popcorn ready.

2. Westlake (2-0)
Notable victories: Creekside (NR) 76-61
This week's schedule: Dec. 7 at Fayette County (No. 16), Dec. 8 at Star's Mill
Last rank: 3
Notes: Senior Ray Willis is off to a hot start this year. The Oklahoma bound wing is averaging 23.5 points a game so far for the Lions. Junior forward Javoris Bryant scored 27 in the season opener against Creekside. A major test comes this week when the team travels to 2-AAAA foe Fayette County for a huge game in Fayetteville. Georgia Hoops will be on hand for this one.

3. Centennial (2-0)
Notable victories: Whitefield Academy (No. 6 at the time) 51-43
This week's schedule: Dec. 7 at Wheeler (No. 1)
Last rank: 4
Notes: The Knights are diving right into the season and have one of the best games of the year already on the calendar against Wheeler, the state's top team. Both victories haven't come easy for Centennial and playing on the road will be a challenge. We'll learn a lot about the Roswell school on Friday night. It proves to be one of the biggest games of the year, just three games into the season.

4. Norcross (1-0)
Notable victories: Collins Hill 76-43
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 vs. Forsyth Central, Dec. 6 at Peachtree Ridge (Thursday game)
Last rank: 5
Notes: The two-time AAAAA state champions picked up where they left off from last year in a blowout win over Collins Hill. Al-Farouq Aminu, the state's top senior, scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the season opener. Guards Denzail Jones and Taariq Muhammad both did what they are known to do. Jones shot the lights out and Muhammad directed the offense well.

5. Columbia (4-0)
Notable victories: Antioch (TN) 85-62
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 at Miller Grove (No. 6), Dec. 7 at SW Dekalb, Dec. 8 vs. Cedar Grove
Last rank: 8
Notes: The Eagles traveled to Nashville to take on one of the best teams in the Music City and did some damage on the road. Travis Leslie, one of the top unsigned seniors in the state, scored 25 while fellow uncommitted 2008 player Kenny Mitchell put in 21. South Carolina signee Darius Morrow scored 15 points.

6. Miller Grove (4-0)
Notable victories: Redan 51-50, Tucker 70-62
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 vs. Columbia (No. 5), Dec. 7 at Washington, Dec. 8 vs. No. 15 Wesleyan (at. Mt. Zion-Jonesboro for Georgia Hoopfest)
Last rank: 15
Notes: The Wolverines won the Dekalb County Thanksgiving Classic with a one point win over Redan. Junior point guard Mfon Udofia was named tournament MVP after averaging 26.6 points and seven assists a game in the tournament. Senior wing Justin Allen emerged as another scoring option for the Lithonia team. Udofia scored 40 against Tucker, the defending AAAA state champions on Saturday.

7. Blessed Trinity (5-0)
Notable victories: Dunwoody (No. 2 at the time) 73-68; Marietta (No. 9 at the time) 50-35
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 at Chamblee, Dec. 7 vs. North Atlanta, Dec. 8 vs. Pace Academy (5 p.m.)
Last rank: NR
Notes: Only two weeks into the season and we already have a major surprise in the state. The Titans went to Dunwoody and played a tremendous game against one of the top powers in the state. Senior guard Jordan Callahan led the attack with big shots and great passing. The team is well-balanced and well-coached. The spotlight is now on the Roswell school.

8. Dunwoody (1-1)
Notable victories: None
Notable loss: Blessed Trinity (NR) 68-73
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 vs. Druid Hills, Dec. 7 at Grady, Dec. 8 at Rome (4 p.m.)
Last rank: 2
Notes: For the first time in forever, Dunwoody lost at home. Blessed Trinity came into Wildcat Country and defeated one of the best teams in the state handily. Dunwoody rebounded and beat a talented Chamblee team the game after. A big test comes when the AAA powerhouse travels north to Rome for a tough road match-up against Rome, featuring Wake Forest bound Tony Woods. Last year's game saw Delwan Graham go for 19 and 19 against Woods.

9. Whitefield Academy (2-1)
Notable victories: Marietta (No. 9 at the time) 66-54
Notable loss: Centennial (No. 4 at the time) 43-51
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 vs. Our Lady of Mercy, Dec. 8 at Meadowcreek
Last rank: 6
Notes: After a tough loss on the road to Centennial, Whitefield rebounded well and came back for its first win of the year against Eagle's Landing Christian on the road. The Wolfpack also went on the road to Marietta, one of the toughest places to play in Atlanta, and walked away with a moral boosting 12-point victory over the Blue Devils. The brutal non-region schedule continues with a tough road game against Meadowcreek on Saturday.

10. South Atlanta (2-0)
Notable victories: None
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 at North Clayton, Dec. 7 vs. Clarkston (at Price Middle School)
Last rank: 11
Notes: The state's best player, Derrick Favors, scored 42 points in the season opener against Washington High School. The Hornets have a huge non-region rivalry game on Tuesday night against a good North Clayton team on Tuesday night. Georgia Hoops will be on hand for that one.

11. Swainsboro (1-0)
Notable victories: Dublin 78-75
This week's schedule: Unknown
Last rank: 12
Notes: Won a tough one on the road against Dublin without a full roster of players. Alabama bound Tony Mitchell scored 39 in the win.

12. Jordan (3-0)
Notable victories: None
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 at Shaw, Dec. 7 at Hardaway, Dec. 8 at Central Talbotton
Last rank: 13
Notes: The defending AAA state champions are off to a hot start, blowing teams out by at least 20 so far. Unsigned senior Terrence Hill scored 40 against LaGrange. Don't sleep on the Jackets again this year. They have major scoring power.

13. Tucker (0-1)
Notable victories: None
Notable loss: Miller Grove (No. 15 at the time) 62-70
This week's schedule: Dec. 7 vs. North Springs
Last rank: 10
Notes: Junior Manny Atkins scored 25 points for the defending AAAA state champions in the season opening loss to Miller Grove. The Tigers have a light load this week but should still be counted on as a major contender within region play this year.

14. McEachern (0-2)
Notable victories: None
Notable losses: Harrison (NR) 65-68, Wheeler (No. 1) 78-87
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 vs. South Cobb, Dec. 7 at North Cobb, Dec. 8 vs. Walton
Last rank: 7
Notes: Two games in and the Indians have some major soul searching going on right now. The Powder Springs club dropped its first two games of the year but don't sleep on them. The talent is there. Trae Golden is just a sophomore but he can absolutely go. The team has size and senior Darrius Garrett is showing a nice, and improved, offensive game early on.

15. Wesleyan (2-1)
Notable victories: None
Notable loss @ Christ School (N.C.) 72-74
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 at Creekview, Dec. 7 vs. Holy Innocents, Dec. 8 vs. (No. 6) Miller Grove (at Mt. Zion-Jonesboro, 7:00 p.m.)
Last rank: 14
Notes: Despite 31 points from Howard Thompkins, the AA powerhouse dropped a tough one out of state to a very good Christ School team. A game later, he put in 35 points on the second leg of the North Carolina trip.

16. Fayette County (5-1)
Notable victories: Creekside 74-72
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 at Woodward Academy, Dec. 7 vs. (No. 2) Westlake, Dec. 8 vs. Parkview
Last rank: 16
Notes: Junior Noel Johnson scored 42 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against McIntosh last week. The Tigers continue to win big games and the biggest test of the year comes this week against Westlake on Friday night.

17. Savannah Johnson (1-0)
Notable victories: None
This week's schedule: Dec. 7 at Camden County, Dec. 8 vs. Statesboro
Last rank: 17
Notes: The Atom Smashers picked up a 22-point win to start the season. Quietly, this team could string together a good run of wins and creep up on the state as the year rolls forward. Don't sleep on them.

18. Cherokee (1-0)
Notable victories: None
This week's schedule: Dec. 7 at Hillgrove, Dec. 8 vs. Etowah
Last rank: 18
Notes: Shawn Kemp, Jr. scored 24 points for the Warriors in a 94-84 overtime win that looked more like a track meet against East Paulding High School.

19. M.L. King (3-0)
Notable victories: None
This week's schedule: Dec. 4 vs. Lithonia, Dec. 7 at Luella
Last rank: NR
Notes: With wins over North Atlanta, Chattahoochee and North Gwinnett in the South Forsyth tournament, the Lions have shown off great balance and athleticism early. Seniors Greg Henry and Demetrius Bates are leading the team early.

20. Savannah (3-0)
Notable victories: Liberty County 88-82 OT, Beach 65-50
This week's schedule: Dec. 7 vs. Windsor Forest, Dec. 8 at Richmond Academy
Last rank: NR
Notes: The Jackets are off to a hot start with a pair of important wins against area teams. A 65-50 win over cross-town rivals Beach is equivalent to Georgia Tech winning a football game against Georgia. South Cobb made their way down to the coastal city and were beaten by 16 points. Guards Kevin Williams and Norris Rumph are tough to deal with in the backcourt.

Dropped out: Marietta, East Hall and Meadowcreek

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Any questions?

MARIETTA -- If there was any questions about just how good Wheeler High School will be this year, the Wildcats certainly put any sort of doubts to rest on Saturday evening.

Wheeler, the top team on the Georgia Hoops Power Poll, shot the lights out en route to a 87-78 victory over No. 7 McEachern. All five starters for Wheeler scored in double figures, including a team high 24 from sophomore Phil Taylor and 23 points from junior Ari Stewart.

Up only by three points at the halftime break, Wheeler went on a 15-0 run to start the second half and thus cracked the game wide open. The Wildcats mixed in hot shooting on the perimeter and athletic plays at the cup to spark the game-changing run.

Taylor, junior Tahj Tate, Dequan Jones and Richard Howell all hit key three-pointers in the second half. McEachern simply didn't have the answers to stop all of the size and athleticism that Wheeler rolled out on the floor.

Jones, a Miami signee, was outstanding in all aspects. He scored 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds, blocked four shots and handed out four assists. Tate, who had a monster dunk in transition, scored 14 points on great-looking jumpers. Howell added 11 points and key passes in the victory.

McEachern had it's bright moments, courtesy of Richmond bound Darrius Garrett. The 6-8 senior played big around the basket, scoring with thundering dunks, blocking shots with authority and knocking down three-pointers late in the game.

Garrett finished with 17 points while sophomore guard Trae Golden put in 19 points. Golden's game is predicated on aggressiveness and the Indians never seemed to find its edge. Thus Golden, an Ohio State commitment, was a little tarnished on the big stage.

Junior Alioune Diouf was quietly effective in the defeat as the wing put in 18 points.

What we learned:

- When all of the wheels are rolling, Wheeler is the best team in the state. No one has more weapons, size, athleticism an versatility in a starting lineup.

- Even with all of the size, Wheeler can be just as dangerous on the wing as shooters. They won't always be knocking down shots like they were on Saturday night but when they do, watch out.

- Phil Taylor, only a sophomore, looked like the most poised player on the court in this one for Wheeler. He's solid each time out, makes the right decisions and has done a fine job of running this team full of Division I talent.

- We're not sure how long we can say this but Tahj Tate is the biggest sleeper in the state. The 6-2 junior can fly, knock down shots and has the tools to be a nice looking guard at the college level.

- If Trae Golden can't power his way to the basket, he really struggles.

- McEachern seemed to play at half speed on both sides of the ball. With a team full of athletic players, it was odd to see the team move rather lethargically.

- McEachern showed some resiliency in the second quarter and battled back thanks to key plays from Darrius Garrett. But giving up a 15-0 run to start the second half will usually be detrimental.