Friday, January 11, 2008

Ranking the regions: #7 5-AAAA

Our countdown continues as we break down the top regions in the state. Today's edition focuses on one of the toughest regions in AAAA.

7. 5-AAAA

Power teams: Lithia Springs might be the most underrated, underappreciated and undervalued team in the Atlanta area. The Lions are a well-balanced attack and don't have one star on the roster but a great all-around team. This group will scrap with anyone and embody head coach Jason Slate's intense mentality. Don't be surprised to see the Lions finish the year deep into the state tournament.

In his second year at the helm at Pebblebrook, head coach Bennie Gibbs has helped turn the program around in a quick hurry. The Falcons boast great speed, a great scorer in Chris Beasley and an experienced senior in Chris Deny. Pebblebrook won't win the battles inside but they have been incredibly successful with speed and toughness.

Cherokee continues to play it's brand of basketball – high-energy, three-pointers and tough-nosed defense. The Warriors have good balance in the backcourt with Ryan Fleming, Chase Waters and Michael Kvam. The frontcourt is anchored by Shawn Kemp, Jr., a 6-foot-9 defensive presence inside. Only two teams on the remaining Cherokee schedule are below the .500 line. Keep an eye on how they finish the season. The talent and coaching is there to do some damage.

Notes: Lithia Springs hasn't lost to a state foe all season long and the lone loss was a one-point defeat in a helter skelter game in a tournament against Spartanburg (S.C.). Lithia Springs has only lost two games to in-state opponents in the last two years. That’s saying something.

Jan. 25 is the date to watch. That is when Lithia Springs plays at Pebblebrook.

Hillgrove is looking like a contender, even in it's infancy of a program. Sophomore big man Heath Houston has a chance to be one of the top big men in the region down the road.

Playoff projection: Lithia Springs, Pebblebrook, Cherokee, Hillgrove

Counting down the regions

8. 2-AAAA

9. 5-AAAAA

10. 6-AA