Friday, February 29, 2008

Dublin knocks out Randolph-Clay

SAVANNAH, GA -- St. Patrick's Day around these parts is a pretty wild scene. Leave it to Dublin High School to get the town ready for the annual celebration. The Irish beat Randolph-Clay 80-79 in one of the best games of the season in the Elite Eight round of the GHSA AA state tournament.

As soon as Dublin head coach Clint Thomas made his way off the court, he pulled an aluminum chair off the rack, wiped his sweaty brow with the towel off of his shoulder and let out a sigh of relief after the game.

He should. The game was wild. Dublin held a seven point lead with less than two minutes to play but Randolph-Clay, the only team with an undefeated record going into the state playoffs, scrapped back and cut the lead to as many as one with 59 seconds to play.

Randolph-Clay senior DeAndre Johnson hit a three-pointer with a hand in his face with 59 seconds to play, cutting the lead to 77-76 in favor of Dublin. A couple of possessions later on a clear path to the basket, he dribble the ball of his foot and gave the ball to Dublin.

Dublin junior guard Sherrard Brantley hit a pair of free throws with 17.5 to play, giving Dublin a four-point lead. The next possession, Randolph-Clay senior Dexter Ellington drilled a three-pointer with nine seconds to play, putting the Red Devils within one.

With five seconds to play, Dublin junior Chris Smith missed both free throws. Randolph-Clay had a moment to win the game with a last-second shot by Jason Martin that hit side rim as the buzzer sounded.

"That was a game of two well-conditioned teams out there," Thomas said. "It was one of those games where the kids just played their hearts out."

Rashard Smith (pictured) led Dublin with 24 points (5-16 FG, 14-21 FT) and seemed to come up with big play after big play throughout the game. His defensive pressure and free throw shooting for three quarters came up big for the Irish.

His cousin, Ben, helped Dublin claim a state title two years ago.

"There is something in that family that makes them step up," Thomas said. "He's the quarterback for the football team and he's just so under control."

Smith said he tried to keep his nerves in the tight situation.

"It was wild game and we just came out and stuck to our game plan," Smith said. "We stay composed when it mattered."

Brantley came up with key three-pointers in the fourth quarter that gave Dublin a comfortable seven point cushion for a good part of the fourth quarter. He finished with 18 points in the win. Ellington led the way with 30 points in the defeat.

The trip to the Final Four is Dublin's third in the last four years for the Irish. The AA powerhouse also improved to 5-0 at Savannah State.

Dublin will play the winner of Pace-Wesleyan game on March 6 at Macon Centreplex at 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More links from Tuesday night

Glenn Hills and Jordan was the best game outside of the Atlanta area on Tuesday night. By the sound of it, the match-up lived up to the billing. The trio of Reggie Middleton, Jerel Stephenson and Chris Reynolds scored 49 of their team's 52 points.

East Laurens was paced by senior Ken Taylor, who scored 30 points in a 70-64 win over Josey. Dublin won the battle at the foul line and used a big third quarter to knock off Swainsboro. For recaps for both games, click HERE.

Liberty County sophomore Rion Brown hit a three-pointer at the end of regulation against Shaw to force the game to overtime. It remained tight in overtime as Liberty County advances with a 55-54 win.

Columbus Carver continues to surge at the right time as the Tigers knocked off Westover 76-55. Junior Marcel Hawkins led Carver with 21 points and 13 rebounds.

Lost in the shuffle on Tuesday night was a major win by Northview at Marietta 71-61. Sounds like Jonesboro's 58-57 win over Statesboro was a hard-earned, tough battle on the road.

A crucial reversal of a call played a large role in Fayette County's four-point win at Thomas County Central on Tuesday night.

Rome snuck by Stone Mountain 58-57 thanks to on the ball pressure. Randolph-Clay remains perfect with a 73-64 win over Appling County.

Jimmy Bacon scored 32 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to help pace Long County over Laney in the AA bracket.

Pace Academy traveled to Macon for the second round and came away with a 61-54 win over Rutland. Washington County was led by UNC Greensboro bound forward Elhanan Bone, who scored 19 points in a 67-50 win over Central Macon.

In the AA bracket, Coosa won an 85-82 shootout over higher seeded Greater Atlanta Christian in Rome. Both Valdosta area teams - Lowndes and Valdosta - dropped games to Atlanta area teams as Douglass and Hiram move on in the tournament.

Terrell County moves on in the Class A playoffs with an 86-77 win over Chattahoochee County. Portal beat Wilcox County 69-49 thanks in large part to 25 points from David Buchanan.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tuesday night game recaps

Too much Travis Leslie proved to be the case for Columbia as the AAAA powerhouse won a tight game against Pebblebrook on the road.

Savannah made the trek from the coast to Mundy's Mill for the second time this year. The first outcome was a two-point overtime loss. The second outcome had 30 different reasons why it was different.

Wesleyan won right from the tip against Macon County. Literally. Cherokee gave Miller Grove a fight but couldn't win out in the end. The dream season continues for Flowery Branch.

Guard play outweighs the size in Lithia Spring's win over Dacula. Berkmar gets past South Forsyth. The East Hall train continues to roll down the AAA tracks.

Norcross wins the sequel

What a crowd tonight at Norcross. The standing room only crowd saw a game that was better than the score related. I filed my story for our national page on You can read it by clicking HERE.

Mercer head coach out at end of year

Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker will not be brought back next season as the men's basketball head coach. Mercer Athletic Director Bobby Pope announced the news on Tuesday.

Slonaker will coach the Bears in the final two games of the regular season and in the Atlantic Sun tournament.

Slonaker was at the helm for 11 years. I hate to see Slonaker go. He's a true gentleman in the game and a great advocate of Georgia basketball.

Monday, February 25, 2008

10 questions heading into the second round

Here we are in the Sweet 16. How about 10 questions that need answers going into Tuesday's slate of games?

1. What are my top 16 games for Tuesday night in order:

Jordan at Glenn Hills

Columbia at Pebblebrook

McEachern at Wheeler

Lithia Springs at Dacula

Appling County at Randolph Clay

Savannah at Mundy's Mill

Centennial at Norcross

Jonesboro at Statesboro

Blessed Trinity at Hart County

Westover at Carver-Columbus

Northview at Marietta

Franklin County at Dunwoody

Dublin at Swainsboro

Laney at Long County

Hancock Central at Gordon-Lee

2. Who are my winners from those games:

Glenn Hills



Lithia Springs

Appling County



Blessed Trinity





Long County

Hancock Central

I was 65-15 in my first round picks in all classes. Someone buy me a cookie. Preferably the ones they sell at the Lithia Springs games.

3. Who has the biggest chance to pull off the upset on Tuesday night?

I like Pebblebrook to beat Columbia. Why? Simple, Bennie Gibbs has his team playing big-time basketball with speed in the backcourt and a great pressure defense from end to end. Chris Beasley, Pebblebrook's top player, is a scoring machine. Columbia received a scare in the region tournament from North Springs because of a press and key perimeter scoring. Guard play is the biggest question mark with Columbia right now. Plus, the game is at Pebblebrook.

Randolph Clay is 27-0. Appling County is 26-2. Between the two AA schools, that is 53 wins this season. Think this one will be exciting? I like Appling County in this one by a bucket. Appling's defense wins out over Randolph-Clay's offense. Should be a close one and a great one!

4. What team is surging at the right time?

Keep an eye on the winner of the Westover-Carver game. Both teams are playing as good as anyone in the AAA bracket right now. Westover may be sleeping in the AAA bracket. There is a strong chance that the team can make the march to Macon. They have that kind of talent, led by senior Chris Edwards.

Carver beat a good Mary Persons team easily and like a lot of teams, they are making a move at the right time.

5. What sleeper should the state get to know for the second round of the tournament?

How about Statesboro's Eric Ferguson? The 6-6 senior can shoot the three, athletic enough to play at the rim and his team is rolling at the right time. Statesboro is playing at home and the Blue Devils could very well upset the visiting Jonesboro squad.

6. What are the five best individual match-up on Tuesday?

Wheeler's Phil Taylor vs. McEachern's Trae Golden – The two sophomores should see some time against each other in the great Cobb County battle on Tuesday. In fact, both are in the final running for the Georgia Hoops Sophomore of the Year running. Taylor glues it all together at Wheeler and Golden is one of the most dynamic guards in the state.

Norcross's Al-Farouq Aminu vs. Centennial's Lorenzo Brown – Do any two players do more for their teams individually at such a high level than these two? They probably won't log too much time against each other but this is one of the best elite level match-ups all year long. Both players should have tremendous individual out puts.

Long County's Jimmy Bacon vs. Laney's Harold Doby – Looking for a sleeper match-up? Try this one on. Both are long 6-5 (or taller). Both are athletic. Both are inside-out kind of players. Both are under the radar juniors. Both are Division I prospects. Buckle up. This one could have some serious fireworks.

Franklin County's DeMario Mayfield vs. Dunwoody's Pierre Jordan – Mayfield, a junior committed to Georgia, is a tremendous scorer. Jordan, a Florida State signee, is a big time defender. Oil and water. Someone has to win out. Mayfield and his mates beat South Atlanta last year in the tournament. Can they play giant killer again?

Jordan's Terrence Hill vs. Glenn Hill's Jerel Stephenson – The two seniors are major parts to the puzzle for their respective teams. The winner of the game and the match-up could very well be in Macon next week playing for a state title. Hill has one. Stephenson wants one. It will be a battle of who wants it most.

7. What do I think about the higher seed home team?

Don't like it one bit. Think about the great opportunity for basketball on Tuesday. Four games at one venue (two girls and two boys games) has been the norm for so long. Now we are limited to back-to-back rounds of singular games.

This means less excitement, less fans, poorer officiating, less college coaches in town to see players and a lot of 10 p.m. phone calls to friends to find out scores.

I've heard through the grapevine that next year's state tournament might be worse with the Final Four being the only non neutral court. Two major thumbs down to the GHSA if that happens. And two major thumbs down to the local colleges with the big gyms that can't see the benefit of hosting a state tournament.

Here is my suggestion:

AAAAA – Georgia Tech/Georgia

AAAA – Georgia State/Savannah State

AAA – Kennesaw State/Georgia College

AA – Mercer/Albany State

A – Clayton State/Rome Forum

8. After one round, what bracket looks the strongest going into Tuesday?

I still like the AAA bracket the best with the AAAA bracket right behind it. The top half of the AAAAA lacks real star power and a team that is a state championship level type of club. Single A needs to call Brian Mcnamee for some human growth hormone. It's a little weak right now. That will change next round.

9. Where will Georgia Hoops be on Tuesday?

I'll be at Norcross. I missed last year's AAAAA state final because of a national assignment at another tournament. I can't miss this one this year. Someone save me a seat. And a parking spot.

10. What will be on the iPod?

For those of you that know me well, you know that I can't watch a game without a trio of things. My shot chart sheet, a pack of gum and my iPod. Everyone wants to know what I'm listening to, too. I'm going old school for Tuesday. I just put on Bill Withers "Greatest Hits" on the iPod. Don't interrupt me if I'm bobbing my head.

Enjoy the games on Tuesday!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

More from the first round

Catching up on other games from Friday night, here is what I know...

The biggest surprise of the night state wide, in my opinion, was Savannah Johnson losing in double overtime to Lowndes, who went 12 of 14 in the second overtime to win 68-63. Down the road, Savannah High rolled through Tift County 68-46. Click HERE or HERE for a Savannah scoreboard.

Glenn Hills says the played with a little swagger. That was enough to push the top team in Augusta over Cairo. Now Glenn Hills moves on to play Jordan, in a terrific AAA match-up. Jordan held off Perry to advance.

Josey, Laney, Richmond Academy and Swainsboro all move on. Bainbridge beat Evans. Click HERE for the Augusta area box scores.

Shaw takes advantage in overtime to upset Northeast Macon. Looking for a sleeper in AA? Try Rutland's Jonathan Brooks. His 26 points and 17 rebounds helped his team beat Savannah Christian. No surprise here, Wilkinson County looks strong in the Class A bracket. Click HERE for the Macon area box scores.

For the second straight year, Central Macon beat Columbus Northside. Sounds like this one will take a while to overcome for the kids in Columbus.

Dougherty lost on a last second shot. Major upset!

Want a second round upset? Pebblebrook certainly has a chance to do that against Columbia on Tuesday. The Mableton school won big over NW Whitefield. When South Forsyth gets hot from the perimeter, they are tough, tough, tough. Campbell found that out. More on the Dacula-Tucker game. Watch out for Dacula!

Friday, February 22, 2008

First round wrap up

Since human cloning is completely out of the picture, I simply can't be at 37 places at a time tonight. I love the instant access age of the Internet.

Here's a rundown of what happened on the opening round of the state tournament.

Norcross and Wheeler won big. Surprised? I'll be honest, I am. Norcross jumped on the shoulders of McDonald's All-American Al-Farouq Aminu and picked up a 72-49 win over Harrison. Aminu scored a game-high 30 points in the win. Norcross plays host to Centennial(who won 75-72 over Meadowcreek) in a rematch of last year's AAAAA state championship game from last year on Tuesday. Should be a great one.

Wheeler beat the brakes off of Parkview 92-72 in the opening round of the tournament. Six players scored in double digits for Wheeler. The Wildcats will play host to McEachern on Tuesday in a battle of Cobb County teams.

The top two teams in the state had difficult draws in the first round of the tournament but had zero trouble picking up big wins. Think the two powers are aiming for the title game?

I am obviously eating some crow after Friday night. Why? I didn't think Norcross could make it to the Final Four. I thought Marietta would be a better team. Little did I know the Blue Devils will be without the services of senior DeAndre Cannon and junior point guard Chris Tanzy is still not 100 percent from an injury. Can I pull a mulligan?

Back to the games...

Dunwoody won big over Gainesville, thanks in large part to 21 points from junior Isaiah Grayson.

Ralph Sampson III recorded yet another triple double in a win over Central Gwinnett.

Greater Atlanta Christian looks strong in the AA bracket, winning easily over Dawson County.

Dacula took advantage of it's size and knocked out Tucker to move on in the AAAA bracket.

Through the grapevine...Savannah Johnson lost to Lowndes. Shocker! I thought they had enough to get to the Final Four. Whoops. Dougherty, another No. 1 seed, lost on a last-second shot. The Hiram-ML King game was a good one, from what I was told. Don't sleep on Hiram.


East Hall likes no Favors

GAINESVILLE, GA -- If there was a thread to pull to unravel the stitching of South Atlanta, it was putting the state's top player Derrick Favors on the bench with foul trouble.

East Hall found the thread and yanked early. Favors was on the bench for the majority of the game and when he played, he was limited because of the penalties. East Hall exploited that and came away with a big 63-60 win in the AAA state tournament.

The Vikings (23-6) plugged away and held off a flurry of runs from South Atlanta. East Hall head coach Joe Dix said he liked the way his team responded when they were on the ropes early on.

"The kids showed a lot of heart, guts and poise and they found a way to win," Dix said. "They hunt in there and found a way to win. That's what these kids do."

East Hall let South Atlanta stay in the game, making just one of 11 free throw attempts under five minutes to play. Senior Dedric Ware came up with a big block on a Quentin Trent three-point attempt with less than 10 seconds to play, which would have given the Hornets the lead and possible win.

Sophomore Joshten Hopkins came off the bench to hit four three-pointers and 14 points for East Hall.

South Atlanta opened the game up with a 14-2 run, sparked with a big two-handed reverse alley-oop dunk from Favors right out of the tip. Favors picked up his second foul at the 5:26 mark in the first quarter and East Hall responded with a run of its own, going 15-4 with Favors on the bench.

"We talked openly about [getting Favors] into foul trouble," Dix said. "We knew that they are a very different team without him in there."

That is an understatement, says South Atlanta's head coach Michael Reddick.

"The extra punch they had was Derrick sitting on the bench," Reddick said. "He changes the game in every way imaginable. Without him in there, we had to do things a lot differently."

Senior Ken Wise scored 10 of his team high 19 points in the first half and did his best work at the rim as Favors sat and watched.

South Atlanta, the No. 7 team in the state regardless of class in the Georgia Hoops Power Poll, finishes the year at 27-3. East Hall moves on to play the winner of the Cartersville-Stephens County game on Tuesday night.

Predicting the field

Want predictions? I've got predictions. Here are my winners in all rounds for all classes.


First round winners: Coffee, Newnan, Johnson, M.L. King, Berkmar, Campbell, Wheeler, McEachern, Mundy's Mill, Savannah, Douglass, Valdosta, Marietta, Northview, Norcross, Centennial

Elite Eight: Newnan, Johnson, Berkmar, Wheeler, Savannah, Douglass, Marietta, Norcross

Final Four: Johnson, Wheeler, Savannah, Marietta

Championship: Wheeler, Marietta

Winners: Wheeler


First round winners: Thomas County Central, Fayette County, Statesboro, Jonesboro, Tucker, Lithia Springs, Miller Grove, Cherokee, Riverdale, Evans, Westlake, Richmond Academy, Pebblebrook, Columbia, Rome, Stone Mountain

Elite Eight: Fayette County, Jonesboro, Lithia Springs, Miller Grove, Riverdale, Westlake, Columbia, Stone Mountain

Final Four: Fayette County, Miller Grove, Westlake, Columbia

Championship: Miller Grove, Westlake

Winners: Westlake


First round winners: Dougherty, Central Macon, Glenn Hills, Jordan, Hart County, Blessed Trinity, Cartersville, South Atlanta, Northeast Macon, Liberty County, Mary Persons, Westover, Dunwoody, Franklin County, Flowery Branch, Sandy Creek

Elite Eight: Dougherty, Glenn Hills, Blessed Trinity, South Atlanta, Northeast Macon, Mary Persons, Dunwoody, Flowery Branch

Final Four: Glenn Hills, South Atlanta, Northeast Macon, Dunwoody

Championship: South Atlanta vs. Dunwoody

Winners: Dunwoody


First round winners: Randolph-Clay, Appling County, Swainsboro, Dublin, Pace Academy, Rutland, Wesleyan, Darlington, East Laurens, Josey, Long County, Laney, Manchester, North Oconee, Coosa, GAC

Elite Eight: Randolph-Clay, Swainsboro, Rutland, Wesleyan, East Laurens, Long County, Manchester, GAC

Final Four: Swainsboro, Wesleyan, East Laurens, GAC

Championship: Swainsboro, East Laurens

Winners: East Laurens


First round winners: Terrell County, Chattahoochee County, Portal, Greenville, Lakeview Academy, Whitefield Academy, Gordon Lee, Hancock Central, Central Talbotton, Calhoun County, Turner County, Atkinson County, SACA, Jefferson, Wilkinson County, Athens Academy

Elite Eight: Chattahoochee County, Portal, Whitefield Academy, Hancock Central, Central Talbotton, Turner County, SACA, Wilkinson County

Final Four: Portal, Whitefield Academy, Turner County, SACA

Championship: Whitefield Academy, SACA

Winners: SACA

Breaking down the bracket: 3A

From top to bottom, there isn't a better bracket in the state than the AAA bracket.

Every game in the first round in the tournament could go either way and the chances of a blowout are rare.

And that makes for perfect drama this time of year.

Researching the No. 1 seeds

Dougherty 18-3
Region 1 tournament champions
Wins against playoff teams: Mitchell County 88-40, Lee County 74-51, Lee County 81-44, Manchester 75-65, Cairo 65-60, Worth County 59-55, Mitchell County 56-54, Worth County 75-67, Cairo 64-63, Westover 69-65
Notable losses: Westover 50-55, Westover 71-78, Cairo 61-67
Notes: Chances are you've probably never heard of Bryan Bryant unless you are from South Georgia. That is too bad, too. The 6-4 senior is having one of the best seasons of any player in the state, regardless of class. He can score with the best of them. The supporting cast is talented and knows how to get it done, too. Keep an eye on this team. Remember how Jordan snuck up on everyone last year en route to winning the AAA title?

Carver 15-9
Region 2 tournament champions
Wins against playoff teams: Northside 73-64, Shaw 64-61, Northside 81-68, Shaw 74-69, Northside 76-55, Jordan 66-58
Notable losses: Jordan 52-67, Shaw 56-63, Jordan 62-74
Notes: The Tigers have caught fire at the right time, winning big games down the stretch and are 11-2 since Jan. 11. The year started slowly as the top players (Jarvis Jones and Jarmon Fortson) were still in football mode. Now that the two are back and paired with junior Marcel Hawkins, Carver is a tough team to beat. Physically, they will battle with anyone. The first round won't be easy against Mary Persons.

Glenn Hills 24-2
Region 3 tournament champions
Wins against playoff teams: Josey 64-53, Richmond Academy 75-60, Laney 67-52, Laney 69-52, Washington County 43-40, Thomson 76-64, Richmond Academy 80-70, Washington County 40-37, Washington County 58-48, Liberty County 49-39
Notable losses: None.
Notes: The top team from the Augusta area should not be slept on. Why should they? The team has yet to lose to a state opponent all year long. The Division I bound trio of Chris Reynolds (Campbell), Jerel Stephenson (UNC Wilmington) and Reggie Middleton (Winthrop) are a tough group to deal with. The Spartans are hoping to redeem themselves from last year's early departure in the state tournament. This is a dangerous, dangerous, dangerous team. Watch out for them.

Northeast Macon 24-2
Region 4 tournament champions
Wins against playoff teams: Perry 68-63, Central Macon 70-69, Manchester 71-54, Dublin 67-60, Perry 69-63, Central Macon 69-62, Central Macon 79-63, Perry 74-57
Notable losses: Beach 53-59, Wilkinson County 52-68
Notes: The undervalued team (including by myself) is a team to watch in the deep AAA bracket. There is Final Four potential with this team thanks in large part to the play of Hugh Robertson, the top upperclassmen in Macon, the quickness of Virginia bound football player Javaris Brown and the rebounding touch of sophomore Marvelle Harris.

Dunwoody 24-3
Region 5 tournament champions
Wins against playoff teams: Rome 67-65, Meadowcreek 91-66, Blessed Trinity 69-60, Southside 83-51, Blessed Trinity 58-49
Notable losses: Blessed Trinity 68-73
Notes: The Wildcats emerged champions out of the powerful Region 5 tournament. That feat in and of itself is a major moral victory as Region 5 is the best in the state. Scott Bracco and his players have been to the Big Dance plenty times before as Dunwoody is one of the true dynasties in the state. With Delwan Graham, Pierre Jordan and McDonald's All-American Chris Singleton leading the way and junior Isaiah Grayson proving to be just as deadly as the big three seniors, knocking out the Wildcats will be tough to do in the tournament.

Cartersville 14-6
Region 6 tournament champions
Wins against playoff teams: Cedartown 83-67, Carrollton 76-64, Adairsville 78-64, Cedartown 81-58
Notable losses: Sandy Creek 53-55, Rome 72-77, Sandy Creek 68-74, Cedartown 55-75, Carrollton 56-63
Notes: Every bracket has a mystery No. 1 seed for me and the Canes are that for me. They have a winnable game in the first round against Stephens County, a team under the .500 mark. The reward? How about the winner of the South Atlanta-East Hall game?

Flowery Branch 24-3
Region 7 tournament champions
Wins against playoff teams: Pace Academy 72-69, St. Francis 85-53, Chestatee 76-60, East Hall 79-59, Gainesville 86-67, Chestatee 86-77, Gainesville 75-72, Gainesville 85-67, Gainesville 71-66, East Hall 85-81
Notable losses: East Hall 71-75, Marist 55-64
Notes: The Falcons are the biggest surprise in AAA this season, going from 4-17 last season to a No. 1 seed, region champions and two wins against region powerhouse East Hall. The team doesn't boast a major point producer but relies on balance, crisp passing and well executed plays. Senior A.C. Bailey and junior Izaan Cross are considered the top two players on the team this year.

Hart County 20-5
Region 8 tournament champions
Wins against playoff teams: Oconee County 70-49, Jefferson 58-48, Central Gwinnett 67-54, Stephens County 69-58, Jefferson 80-43, Oconee County 62-55, Stephens County 55-45, Stephens County 78-74, Stephens County 64-58, Franklin County 61-54
Notable losses: Franklin County 52-62, Franklin County 79-83
Notes: The top two teams from Region 8 traditionally perform well in the tournament. This year shouldn't be any different. With a good number of players back from last year's Elite Eight run, particularly Quint Clinkscales and Hotrod Walker, the Bulldogs should still have some bite in this year's tournament.

Must see games

Chances are the line to get into East Hall's gym will begin around 10 a.m. on Friday morning for the first round game between EHall and South Atlanta. And that isn't an exaggeration.

East Hall's home court advantage is one of the best in the Southeast and South Atlanta star Derrick Favors is the best in the nation. Pair that together and you have the recipe for a tremendous first round game in the state tournament. In fact, we'll even go out on a limb and call it the best first round game of any classification.

Favors is the most difficult player to defend in the state this year and my pick for Mr. Georgia Basketball right now. He controls the game on both ends of the floor and is a quiet killer in the process. East Hall has plenty of depth and experience to give the Hornets some trouble.

This game could truly go either way. East Hall isn't intimidated by anyone. According to a report in Friday's Access North Georgia, the Vikings are 7-0 against McDonald's All-Americans. Favors will certainly play in the burger game next year as he is, in my opinion, the best player in the nation in 2009.

My pick? South Atlanta by a hair. I'll be there for it.

The East Hall-South Atlanta game is not the only big time match-up on Friday night. In fact, you could argue that 90 percent of the first round games are must see games.

Others I'm watching closely include: Perry vs. Jordan, Glenn Hills vs. Cairo, Carver vs. Mary Persons, Northeast Macon vs. Shaw, Blessed Trinity vs. Chestatee.

News & Notes

Except a number of upsets, if you want to call them that, in the AAA bracket. It is a shame that a number of these games won't be played at a neutral venue on the same. For pure promotion of the state's best teams and players, having two game sets like in time's past would be ideal for the AAA bracket.

Nearly every game has a Division I prospect in it.

The first two rounds of the state tournament will be played on the home court of the higher seed.

Top 1 seed: Dunwoody
Top 2 seed: South Atlanta
Top 3 seed: Blessed Trinity
Top 4 seed: Washington County

Keep an eye on…

The state tournament always brings out the sleepers. Here are three sleepers to watch:

Hugh Robertson, Northeast Macon – The 6-4 senior is the best senior in the Macon area and one of the best college prospects in Middle Georgia. He's a do-everything player with ideal college size. He has proven that he can score at all three levels (post, midrange and perimeter) and is the team's hardest player to defend. Given his academics fall into place, Robertson will be a steal for a Division I school late in the game.

Bryan Bryant, Dougherty – Any other year, the 6-3 guard would be a no-brainer selection for AAA Player of the Year. But with the likes of Derrick Favors, Chris Singleton and Delwan Graham amongst those in the running, Bryant is on the outside looking in. Bryant is the best player in Albany and arguably the best player south of Atlanta this year. He's an elite scorer and a versatile performer. He'll be battle tested as Dougherty's road to Macon is not an easy one.

Terrence Bowman, Cairo – College coaches are trying to figure out who to see on Friday – Bryant or Bowman. Bowman, a 6-4 guard, is a tough player to defend because of his versatility. He's a wiry player that can play multiple positions. A match-up against Glenn Hills in the first round will be big for him and his Syrupmaker teammates.

Three young players to watch

DeMario Mayfield, Franklin County – The junior committed to Georgia before the season and he's playing like a SEC player this season. The 6-3 guard can score, shoot, handle and pass it. A potential meeting at Dunwoody could really propel him into a bigger spotlight after dominating Northeast Georgia all season long.

Malcolm Jackson, Sandy Creek – Keep an eye on him and his teammates. There is a chance they can do some damage in AAA and reach the Elite Eight. He's a high-flying athlete that gets to the rim at will and he's great in the mid-range.

Jordan McRae, Liberty County – Tucked away in Hinesville, the 6-5 sophomore is having a good year for the Region 3 team. In fact, he's a strong contender for Sophomore of the Year in the state. He's in the mold of former Tucker star Cameron Tatum in the sense he's long, athletic and a perimeter threat.

First round predictions

Dougherty vs. Washington County
Central Macon vs. Columbus Northside
Glenn Hills vs. Cairo
Jordan vs. Perry
Hart County vs. Cedartown
Blessed Trinity vs. Chestatee
Cartersville vs. Stephens County
South Atlanta vs. East Hall
Sandy Creek vs. Oconee County
Flowery Branch vs. Southside
Franklin County vs. Dunwoody
Dunwoody vs. Gainesville
Mary Persons vs. Carver
Westover vs. Thomson
Liberty County vs. Worth County
Northeast Macon vs. Shaw

Bolded and italicized teams are my picks to win

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Breaking down the bracket: 4A

There isn't a more confusing bracket in this year's GHSA state basketball tournament than the AAAA bracket. Last year's defending champs, Tucker, limped in. A perennial power, Columbia, is a three seed, and the top team in AAAA, Westlake, has a favorable road to the Gwinnett Arena.

Who will it be this year? We break it down in our continued look at the brackets.

Researching the No. 1 seeds

Thomas County Central 22-5
Region 1 tournament champions
Wins against playoff teams
: Lowndes 79-72, Valdosta 71-70, Lowndes 56-53, Valdosta 79-73, Jefferson 97-58
Notable losses: Cairo 57-60, Turner Co. 48-71, Americus-Sumter 53-56
Notes: For me, TCC is a mystery. I don't know much about them. Judging by past results, the team has good balance and is led by Demetrius Mickens, a 5-6 senior who is the team's leading scorer amongst a deep rotation. Keep an eye on them. They could surprise.

Westlake 25-2
Region 2 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams
: Creekside 76-61, Fayette County 65-59, Banneker 92-71, Morrow 71-50, Riverdale 53-52, Creekside 79-59, Fayette County 64-59, Banneker 68-51, Banneker 62-53, Fayette County 73-58
Notable losses: Norcross 57-62
Notes: The Lions have all of the parts of the puzzle to win the AAAA state championship. Led by Mr. Georgia candidate Ray Willis, Westlake is a big team with plenty of depth to do work throughout the tournament. The sheer size of every player at every position is the difference maker on both ends of the floor. Westlake is the No. 3 team on the Georgia Hoops Top 20 power poll for a reason. The team has a fairly easy ride to the Gwinnett Arena, too.

Statesboro 8-11
Region 3 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams
: Richmond Academy 74-49, Evans 56-39
Notable losses: Savannah Johnosn 49-58, Beach 47-64
Notes: Long time coach Lee Hill has been around long enough to know how important the region tournament is. He and his team advanced through the tournament and claimed the top spot out of Region 3 and a number one seed. According to the records on, Statesboro and Lee County, the team's first round match-up, have a combined nine wins on the year.

Riverdale 17-8
Region 4 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams
: Forest Park 70-69, Forest Park 64-46, SACA 66-60, Jonesboro 67-32
Notable losses: Mundy's Mill 62-70, Jonesboro 62-72, Long County 64-65, Westlake 52-53, Mundy's Mill 57-59, Forest Park 51-53
Notes: The Raiders are rolling into the post-season with a lot of steam and a lot of confidence. Winning region 4-AAAA is no easy task. Senior Rashad Hassan is one of the biggest sleepers in the state and the team has size, experience in senior guard Ishmael John and potential in junior forward Terrell Barnes. The first round game against Creekside won't be easy. After the first round, things look brighter en route to Fort Valley State.

Pebblebrook 26-2
Region 5 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams
: Banneker 68-40, Sprayberry 75-58, Jonesboro 72-50, Stephenson 87-84, Campbell 73-68, Hillgrove 63-59, Lithia Springs 77-65, Cherokee 65-48, Cherokee 52-50, Lithia Springs 71-53
Notable losses: Lithia Springs 55-58
Notes: If there is a team that can do some damage in the bracket, this is the team. Good guard play, check that, great guard play is the foundation for Bennie Gibbs's team. Seniors Chris Beasley and Chris Deny are two of the biggest sleepers in the AAAA bracket. Beasley is a jet quick guard that can score with the best of them. Watch for the Falcons to press and cause havoc on the defensive end of the floor. The team's quickness and defense could be the thing that pushes the team over a club like Columbia.

Miller Grove 23-5
Region 6 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams
: Stephenson 84-65, Redan 51-50, Tucker 70-62, Wesleyan 53-51, Stone Mountain 83-81, Stone Mountain 65-46, Redan 57-47, Tucker 68-48, Stone Mountain 64-63
Notable losses: Columbia 66-82, Columbia 59-61, Wheeler 77-82
Notes: Winning the Region 6 tournament is a major plus for the Wolverines as it is one of the best regions in the state. Junior Mfon Udofia has been one of the best guards in Georgia this year and junior forward Stephen Hill is starting to come into his own. Athletically, he's one of the best in the Atlanta area while senior Justin Allen helps steady the rotation. A trip to the Gwinnett Center is not out of the picture for Miller Grove.

Rome 19-3
Region 7 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams
: Dalton 57-49, NW Whitefield 70-62, Pepperell 47-16,Coosa 77-50, Cartersville 77-72, Ridgeland 65-54, Dalton 58-54, NW Whitefield 56-43, Ridgeland 66-63
Notable losses: Dunwoody 65-67
Notes: The kids from the mountains are pretty good. Wake Forest bound big man Tony Woods is the toughest big man in the AAAA bracket. He's athletic, long and a defensive presence. Still a bit unknown in the state, Rome could very well be a nice sleeper on its side of the bracket.

Dacula 26-2
Region 8 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams
: Central Gwinnett 67-64, Parkview 71-55, GAC 62-49, Winder-Barrow 72-50, Clarke Central 51-41, Cedar Shoals 51-49, Clarke Central 42-36
Notable losses: Wesleyan 48-55, Winder-Barrow 61-63
Notes: Is there a bigger surprise in AAAA this year than these guys? Probably not. The team has great size and go to it often inside the paint. Junior Brian Cole and senior Trent Kammerer. Things won't be easy for the Falcons in the first round as the team plays host to Tucker.

Must see games

Tucker, last year's AAAA state champs, are coming into the tournament as a four seed and that is a scary thing for Dacula, the biggest surprise in AAAA this season.

Tucker is led by the 1-2 punch of junior Manny Atkins and senior Aric Miller. Both players can go for 25 points (or more) any given game. The Tigers will press all game long and that could be a difference maker against Dacula.

Dacula, a team that relies on size and strength in the halfcourt, has an advantage against Tucker. Atkins gives up five inches to Brian Cole, Dacula's best player. The home court advantage could prove to be the difference maker. The match-up is the best in the opening round. I like Tucker by six in this one.

Others we are watching closely: Rome vs. Hillgrove; Riverdale vs. Creekside; Jonesboro vs. Banneker; Fayette County vs. Upson Lee; Americus-Sumter vs. Richmond Academy

News & Notes

The first two rounds of the state tournament will be played on the home court of the higher seed.

Top 1 seed: Westlake
Top 2 seed: Lithia Springs
Top 3 seed: Columbia
Top 4 seed: Tucker

Keep an eye on

The state tournament always brings out the sleepers. Here are five sleepers to watch:

Chris Beasley, Pebblebrook – A good part of Pebblebrook's success can be traced to the 5-11 senior. He's a pure scorer and one of the best players in Cobb County this season. You could argue that he is the leading contender for Region 5 Player of the Year. A couple of Division I schools will be on hand to see him play on Friday night, too.

Kevin Murphy, Creekside – The unsigned senior slept a little under the radar is in his own region as guys like Westlake's Ray Willis and Fayette County's Noel Johnson dominated the headlines all season. Murphy might be more of a MVP to his team than the other two 6-5 scoring wings. Murphy can shoot the rock, handle the ball and is one of the deadliest scorers in the AAAA bracket.

Brian Cole, Dacula – Aptly named Big Red, the red-headed center can also be called Big Fundamental. The 6-8 junior knows what he is and does fine simplistic work down low in the blocks. He's one of the biggest sleepers in the state and has a body of work that proves his consistency this season.

Brandon Holsey, Jonesboro – When it comes to scoring the ball, the 5-9 senior is one of the best. His match-up against Banneker, a team that loves to press, is an intriguing one. Holsey should shine in it. A rematch of he and Beasley would be fun to watch. Beasley and Pebblebrook won big earlier in the year.

Rashad Hassan, Riverdale – Slowly and surely, the 6-5 senior has improved and now he's playing the best basketball of the year for his team. His recruitment could really receive a shot in the arm with a great showing in the state tournament. His match-up against Murphy in the first round is one of the best in the entire AAAA bracket.

Four young players to watch

Jershon Cobb, Columbia – The 6-4 guard is next in line at the AAAA power. He's a start for Phil McCrary and knows his role. Much like Travis Leslie a couple of years ago, Columbia could lean on the sophomore down the stretch en route to another trip to Gwinnett. Cobb is a likely high-major player at the end of the day.

Heath Houston, Hillgrove – The 6-7 sophomore has a big test right out of the gates as he and his teammates face Tony Woods, a 7-footer headed to Wake Forest, and his Rome teammates. Houston faced off against Shawn Kemp, Jr. from Cherokee in the region tourney and had a tough time. This one won't be any better. But keep an eye on Houston. He's pretty talented.

Maurice Dorsey, Fayette County – When it comes to scoring numbers, Fayette County looks to upperclassmen. When it comes to rebounds and energy, the 6-5 freshman is the man to look for. He's had a good year for a rookie and certainly has the tools of becoming one of the top players on the south side of the city.

Tres Houston, Banneker – The sophomore played a big role in a big win against McIntosh in the Region 3 tournament. His ability to get to the foul line is his biggest strength. Facing Jonesboro is no easy task either. However, Houston can really score the ball.

First round predictions

Thomas County Central vs. Ware County

Fayette County vs. Upson-Lee

Statesboro vs. Lee County

Jonesboro vs. Banneker

Riverdale vs. Creekside

Evans vs. Bainbridge

Westlake vs. Forest Park

Richmond Academy vs. Americus-Sumter

Pebblebrook vs. NW Whitefield

Columbia vs. Clarke Central

Rome vs. Hillgrove

Stone Mountain vs. Winder-Barrow

Cherokee vs. Dalton

Miller Grove vs. Cedar Shoals

Lithia Springs vs. Ridgeland

Tucker vs. Dacula

Bolded and italicized teams are my picks to win

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dunk you very much

The popular Atlanta Journal Constitution dunk contest is back. Click HERE for the video poll. They did a great job of compiling some of the top dogs in the city. Dwight Howard set the bar high in New Orleans. Will the city produce another high-flyer?

The following players are in the poll:

Shaq Barber, Griffin
Brandon Boykin, Fayette County
Derrick Favors, South Atlanta
Delwan Graham, Dunwoody
Stephen Hill, Miller Grove
Travis Leslie, Columbia
Dorian Smith, Southwest Atlanta Christian
Marcus Thornton, Westlake
Khamori Watts, Westlake
Teondre Williams, Meadowcreek

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Aminu, Singleton named McDonald's All-Americans

Two Atlanta basketball stars were named to the 2008 McDonald's All-American game on Tuesday night. Norcross forward Al-Farouq Aminu and Dunwoody forward Chris Singleton were two of the 24 players announced for the annual post season all-star game on March 26 in Milwaukee.

Aminu, a 6-foot-8 forward for the two-time defending 5A state champions, is having the best season of any senior in Georgia this year for the Blue Devils. He signed a National Letter of Intent with Wake Forest last fall.

Singleton, also a 6-foot-8 forward, is one of the toughest players to defend in the Peach State because of his inside-out capabilities and overall skill set. The Dunwoody big man signed with Florida State in the fall.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Breaking down the bracket: 5A

Thirty two teams in the AAAAA classification have a ticket to the Gwinnett Arena. Only four teams will make it and only one will be happy come March 7.

Who will it be this year? In a year that has a pair of powerhouses at the top and a million of others close behind, the AAAAA state tournament should be wild and one that people will be talking about. Sounds a lot like last year's tournament, doesn't it?

The favorites are two fold, in our opinion. Wheeler, the top team on the Georgia Hoops Top 20 power poll, is the best team in the state and no one in the state has knocked off the Wildcats. The same can be said for Norcross, the other favorite.

There are a number of teams chasing down the Atlanta area programs. The race to knock them out begins on Friday, Feb. 22.

Researching the No. 1 seeds

Coffee (19-3)
Region 1 tournament champions
Wins against playoff teams: Atkinson County 64-39, Ware County 40-31, Atkinson County 66-55, Ware County 50-48, Lowndes 66-42, Valdosta 58-53, Valdosta 67-65, Tift County 63-42
Notable losses: Americus-Sumter 43-54, Washington County 39-58, Tift County 52-54
Notes: There is always a surprise out of region 1 and Coffee certainly has the makings of that. The team's best player is a sophomore in Trevis Simpson and the 6-5 multi-positional prospect is one of the best players in South Georgia this season regardless of class.

Douglass (19-4)
Region 2 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: Stephenson 75-72, Redan 51-48, M.L. King 78-56, Newnan 53-44, Southside 72-49, Redan 41-40, Redan 51-47, Stephenson 68-63
Notable losses: South Atlanta 68-83, Stephenson 65-67, M.L. King 56-58 (OT)
Notes: The Astros don't wow you with great size but they are tough, deep, and scrappy on the defensive end of the floor. Coach Tilford Ellerbee has a team that could quietly win enough games to reach Savannah State.

Savannah Johnson (23-4)
Region 3 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: Statesboro 58-49, Statesboro 52-42, Beach 67-59, Groves 62-46, Groves 56-48, Beach 70-38, Savannah 65-52
Notable losses: Savannah 75-89, Savannah 52-55
Notes: Every year there is a team from Savannah that advances to the Gwinnett Arena. This team could very well be that team. The Atom Smashers are playing great basketball at the moment and all of the cylinders are clicking at the right time. The team has size and athleticism inside with Toby Veal, Josh Smith and Ben Evelyn and talented young guards, especially in Jareal Smith.

Mundy's Mill (22-4)
Region 4 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: Shaw 54-51, SACA 61-47, Riverdale 70-62, Peachtree Ridge 47-45, Newnan 76-62, Riverdale 59-57, Savannah 71-69, Morrow 88-71, Newnan 68-66, Hiram 68-61
Notable losses: Hiram 64-77, Forest Park 47-56, Hiram 81-86, Newnan 48-51
Notes: Every year this team gets better and better. The size is there with the Tigers, anchored by LSU bound Dennis Harris and 6-7 center Michael Allen. Guard play will have to be the key for Tu Willingham's crew. Senior Todd Salter has been here before. Freshman Adam Smith has not. Overall, keep an eye on this group. They might just be the best team in the quadrant they are in.

Marietta 25-3
Region 5 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: Campbell 56-45, Harrison 59-53, McEachern 74-58, Centennial 63-59, Harrison 76-71, Campbell 64-52, McEachern 74-65, Campbell 70-66
Notable losses: Blessed Trinity 35-50, Whitefield Academy 54-66, McEachern 56-63
Notes: The Blue Devils lost to Norcross last year in the state tournament. If all goes well, Marietta could face the Gwinnett County power in the third round of the playoffs. And Marietta could very well win that game (but we aren't counting on that to be a reality). That is the kind of team Charlie Hood is working with though. The team is balanced, experienced and should have junior point guard Chris Tanzy back for the tournament. That's scary.

Wheeler 26-2
Region 6 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: McEachern 87-78, Centennial 93-64, Sprayberry 68-59, Sprayberry 85-79, Miller Grove 82-77, Northview 84-66, Northview 74-42, Centennial 76-67
Notable losses: None to Georgia teams
Notes: Meet our clear cut favorite to win the AAAAA state championship. The Wildcats have the best starting five in the state and of those starters, only one is a senior in Mr. Georgia Basketball candidate Dequan Jones. Sophomore point guard Phil Taylor and junior big man Richard Howell have been steady all season and have a great feel for their respective roles on the team. Taylor has been the steady force throughout and has proven himself as a deadly scorer when needs be, too. Juniors Ari Stewart and Tahj Tate are both capable of high-scoring numbers and don't lack for athleticism. If the bench, the clear weakness on the team, can step up, watch out.

Norcross 24-2
Region 7 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: Collins Hill 76-43, Peachtree Ridge 70-37, South Forsyth 77-30, Westlake 62-57, Collins Hill 65-54, Peachtree Ridge 64-29, South Forsyth 61-47, South Forsyth 61-54, Peachtree Ridge 82-32
Notable losses: None to Georgia teams
Notes: Can Eddie Martin and his staff make it three in a row? If Al-Farouq Aminu continues to play like has been this season, it isn't out of the picture. The Wake Forest bound big man is having the best season of any senior in the state and raised the level of play up for Norcross this season. He's truly embraced his role on his team and having a tremendous season. Big man A.J. Hawkins has proven himself as an interior defender while Denzail Jones can hit the big shot and Taariq Muhammad has tasted the big game before. Depth is the big question mark with this team.

Berkmar 21-5
Region 8 tournament champions
Wins against tournament teams: Clarke Central 78-65, Tucker 77-64, Central Gwinnett 81-56, Meadowcreek 80-63, Central Gwinnett 69-53, Meadowcreek 66-58, Meadowcreek 63-49, Central Gwinnett 75-52
Notable losses: Parkview 62-63, Parkview 66-68
Notes: For the first time since the turn of the century, Berkmar has a team that can do some damage. The scoring punch of Wesley Witherspoon, the most versatile player in the state, and Demarion Gordon has proven to be a worthy 1-2 in AAAAA play this year. The Patriots have only lost two games in state and both came against Parkview. Both losses came by a bucket, too.

Must see games

What is it about the first round of the tournament and Norcross? Last year's tournament began with a bang as the Blue Devils held off Wheeler in one of the greatest games in Georgia high school basketball history.

While Norcross doesn't have the same team it did last year and a match-up against Harrison won't have a line that wraps around the school, this match-up in the opening round is intriguing.

While the Hiram-M.L. King game doesn't scream sexy to the Atlanta area crowd but expect this one to come down to the wire. Both teams have laid low under the radar this season.

Hiram has one of the best backcourts in the Atlanta area with Stewart Clark, Antonio Nuckles and Justin Garner while M.L. King has a true brusier in Greg Henry and a high-flyer in Demetrius Bates. This one should be a classic.

Others we are watching closely: Wheeler-Parkview; Mundy's Mill-Redan; Savannah-Tift County; Stephenson-Newnan.

There will be a major upset in the first round. Of all of the brackets, the first round match-ups in AAAAA are clearly the best and don't be surprised to see one of the big dogs go out early.

News & Notes

The first two rounds of the state tournament will be played on the home court of the higher seed.

Last year's state championship game could happen again if Norcross and Centennial win in the first round. The two would play Feb. 26 at Norcross.

Savannah and Mundy's Mill could meet up again. Mundy's Mill beat Savannah in January by a bucket.

Top 1 seed: Wheeler

Top 2 seed: Savannah

Top 3 seed: McEachern

Top 4 seed: Harrison

Keep an eye on

The state tournament always brings out the sleepers. Here are five seniors to watch:

Yaw Gawya, Parkview – For Gwinnett County hoops fans, the Colgate bound forward is no sleeper. In fact, he's the most prolific scorer in Parkview basketball history. That is saying something. Don't be surprised to see him go for 25 and 15 against Wheeler.

Matt Sundberg, Harrison – For Cobb County hoops fans, the College of Charleston forward is no sleeper. In fact, he's the best player to come from the school since the coach that recruited him to CofC in Andrew Wilson. Sundberg and Al-Farouq Aminu will be a fun match-up to watch in the first round.

Will Tollfree, Stephenson – The 6-6 senior is coming into the tournament after posting 30 points and 20 rebounds in a region tournament game. He's long, defensive minded and

Kevin Williams & Norris Rumph, Savannah – Okay, this isn't exactly one but the two combo guards are the heart and soul of the storied program on the coast. Williams, a 5-11 combo, has a quick trigger from deep while Rumph plays with power at the rim.

Yannick Crowder, Redan – The 6-7 post won't put up big numbers but he'll make his presence felt inside with blocked shots and rebounds at the cup, freeing up the other block for the team's best offensive force.

Five young players to watch

Phil Taylor, Wheeler – There isn't a sophomore in the state with as much control over a team like he has with the No. 1 ranked Wheeler Wildcats. He's been around the winning program for a long time and has been big in the big moments this season.

Trae Golden, McEachern – Like Taylor, Golden is no sleeper. The Ohio State bound guard has big time scoring potential and has also been asked to run his team like a veteran. He'll have his work cut out for him in the bracket.

Trevis Simpson, Coffee – The 6-5 sophomore is the power and punch for the top big school from South Georgia. He's a high-flier that should earn some more notoriety with a big state tournament showing.

DeVonta White, Central Gwinnett – Is there a hotter sophomore guard in the state right now than him? He's playing tremendous basketball and playing like a seasoned veteran. There is a great opportunity for him to shine against Northview in the first round.

Jay Rome, Valdosta – The freshman doesn't play like a freshman. The well-built 6-4 power forward is the muscle inside for Valdosta and has played like a seasoned veteran all year long.

First round predictions

Coffee (19-3) vs. Groves (15-12)

Stephenson (18-7) vs. Newnan (19-8)

Savannah Johnson (23-4) vs. Lowndes (11-15)
Hiram (21-6) vs. M.L. King (22-6)

Berkmar (21-5) vs. Sprayberry (12-15)

Campbell (19-9) vs. South Forsyth (17-9)

Wheeler (26-2) vs. Parkview (20-6)

Peachtree Ridge (17-10) vs. McEachern (21-7)

Centennial (23-5) vs. Meadowcreek (17-9)

Norcross (24-2) vs. Harrison (20-8)

Central Gwinnett (13-14) vs. Northview (19-8)

Marietta (25-3) vs. Collins Hill (20-8)

Valdosta (15-9) vs. Beach (13-14)

Douglass (19-4) vs. Morrow (14-12)

Savannah (25-2) vs. Tift County (21-6)

Mundy's Mill (22-4) vs. Redan (14-9)

Bolded and italicized teams are my picks to win

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Power Poll: Ranking the top 20 teams in GA


Top 20 Power Poll – Feb. 17, 2008

1. Wheeler (26-2)
Notable victories: McEachern 87-78, Centennial 93-64, Bishop O'Connell (Va.) 76-70, Boys & Girls (N.Y.) 77-75, Miller Grove 82-77, Word of God (N.C.) 98-84, Northview 84-66, Northview 74-42, Centennial 76-67
Notable losses: Findlay Prep (Nev.) 54-68, Duncanville (Texas) 57-69
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Parkview
Last rank: 1
Notes: Won the region 6-AAAAA tournament and is the favorite to win the AAAAA state tournament. The Wildcats have never left the top of the Power Poll all season long and have the talent to beat any team in the state regardless of class. There isn't a better starting five in the state than the crew that Wheeler starts games with.

2. Norcross (24-2)
Notable victories: Collins Hill 76-43, South Forsyth 77-30, Westlake Prep (Fla.) 81-44, Westlake 62-57, Helen Cox (La.) 59-48, Collins Hill 65-54, South Forsyth 61-47, Veritas (N.C.) 65-41, South Forsyth 61-54
Notable loss: Kathleen (Fla.) 45-51, Oak Hill (Va.) 65-68
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Harrison
Last rank: 2
Notes: Won the region 7-AAAAA tournament with a 50-point victory over Peachtree Ridge. Like Wheeler, Norcross is a heavy favorite to reach the Final Four. Why shouldn't the Blue Devils be? The team hasn't lost to a state foe all year and South Forsyth came the closest, losing to the defending AAAAA state champs by seven in the region tournament.

3. Westlake (25-2)
Notable victories: Creekside 76-61, Fayette County 65-59, IMG (Fla.) 60-55, Riverdale 53-52, Wenonah (Ala.) 45-43, Creekside 79-59, Fayette County 64-59, Fayette County 73-58
Notable losses: Neumann-Goretti (Pa.) 58-65, Norcross 57-62
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Forest Park
Last rank: 4
Notes: The Lions won the Region 2-AAAA tournament with authority. Capping off a tremendous regular season is Oklahoma bound guard Ray Willis, who was the toughest player to defend in his region this season. There isn't a tougher team in AAAA right now that Darren Rogers's team. There is great size at every position and a bench that is deep, deep, deep.

4. Dunwoody (24-3)
Notable victories: Rome 67-65, Chamblee 78-72 (OT), Scott County (Ky.) 86-65, Jackson (Fla.) 85-61, Lee (Fla.) 78-59, Chamblee 75-50, Druid Hills 77-54, Meadowcreek 91-66, Blessed Trinity 69-60, Blessed Trinity 58-59
Notable losses: Blessed Trinity 68-73, Pace (Fla.) 67-72, Bishop O'Connell (Va.) 67-69
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Gainesville
Last rank: 6
Notes: We said it last time we ran the Power Poll and we'll say it again, there isn't a hotter team in the state than the Wildcats. From top to bottom, Dunwoody has a team that wants to prove itself as the best in the state. Delwan Graham and Chris Singleton are tough inside while guards Pierre Jordan and Isaiah Grayson are scoring with ease. The right side of the AAA bracket isn't easy. Dunwoody seems to be up for the challenge.

5. Columbia (25-3)
Notable victories: Antioch (TN) 85-62, Miller Grove 82-64, Mays 56-54, LaSalle (Ohio) 65-62, Stone Mountain 70-61, Miller Grove 61-59, Tucker 66-60, Stone Mountain 81-58, Tucker 82-67
Notable losses: Archbishop Carroll (D.C.) 38-43, McEachern 69-79, Stone Mountain 68-76
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Clarke Central
Last rank: 3
Notes:: The 6-AAAA region tournament was interesting for the Decatur powerhouse. A close win over North Springs was followed by a big loss to Stone Mountain and a big win against Tucker. Keep an eye on the team's guard play. That has been the position to exploit for Columbia this year.

6. Blessed Trinity (26-3)
Notable victories: Dunwoody 73-68; Marietta 50-35, Chamblee 75-68, Chamblee 79-72, Druid Hills 52-48
Notable losses: Marist 55-61, Dunwoody 60-69, Dunwoody 49-58
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Chestatee
Last rank: 10
Notes: What a week of emotions for the Titans. A major win over South Atlanta and Derrick Favors and then a tough loss to Dunwoody in the region tournament championship capped off a busy stretch of games for Blessed Trinity. Hard work, great balance and a no fear attitude is the foundation for the AAA team going into the state tournament.

7. South Atlanta (27-2)
Notable victories: Douglass 83-68, Jeanette (Pa.) 96-57, Lincoln (N.Y.), Southside 85-55, Booker T. Washington (Va.) 90-46, Campbell Hall (Calif.) 78-77 (2 OT)
Notable losses: St. Benedicts (N.J.) 43-57, Blessed Trinity 66-67
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. East Hall
Last rank
: 5
Notes: We said Region 5-AAA is the toughest in the state this year and that was certainly evident in the region tournament. The mighty Hornets were stung by giant killer Blessed Trinity. South Atlanta instantly became the toughest No. 3 seed in the post-season. When Derrick Favors is handcuffed with fouls, South Atlanta is beatable. When Favors has room to roam, there isn't a more dominant player in the nation.

8. Randolph Clay (26-0)
Notable victories: Eufaula (Ala.) 90-75, Terrell Count 84-79, Eufaula (Ala.) 91-69, Terrell County 74-54, Wilkinson County 79-73, Cook County 69-47
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Westside Augusta
Last rank: 9
Notes: Quietly, the AA powerhouse went undefeated and had little trouble doing it this season. The margin of victory this year is 32 points a game, a remarkable feat no matter the classification. Can the team finish the year undefeated?

9. Jordan (26-1)
Notable victories: Shaw 71-69, Northside 74-69, Shaw 64-58, Northside 88-70, Carver 74-62, Shaw 86-73
Notable loss: Carver 58-66
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Perry
Last rank: 8
Notes: The defending AAA state champs ran into a familiar road block in Carver, a surging team out of Columbus, and lost an eight point game in the semi-finals in the 2-AAA region tournament. The team responded with a key win over Shaw in the third place game. Winning the state title this year is much tougher because the team isn't under the radar any longer and the depth in AAA is ridiculous.

10. Savannah (25-2)
Notable victories: Liberty County 88-82 OT, Beach 65-50, Windsor Forest 89-78, Richmond Academy 72-53, Savannah Johnson 89-75, Jonesboro 61-45, Irmo (S.C.) 62-38, Tallahassee Lincoln (Fla.) 87-67, Bradwell Institute 76-69 (OT), Savannah Johnson 55-52, Bradwell Institute 64-81, Groves 75-65, Beach 62-54
Notable losses: Mundy's Mill 69-71, Savannah Johnson 52-65
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Tift County
Last rank: 7
Notes: Apparently beating a team three times in a season is as tough as they say. Johnson knocked out the Blue Jackets easily in the 3-AAAAA region tournament. Guards Kevin Williams and Norris Rumph continue to lead the way as two of the best scorers outside of Atlanta.

11. Marietta (25-3)
Notable victories: Campbell 56-45, Harrison 59-53, Kansas City Ruskin (Mo.) 60-55, San Diego (Calif.) 58-46, McEachern 74-58, Centennial 63-59, Harrison 76-71, McEachern 74-65, Campbell 70-66
Notable losses: Blessed Trinity 35-50, Whitefield Academy 54-66, McEachern 56-63
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Collins Hill
Last rank: 11
Notes: The Blue Devils won the 5-AAAAA region tournament with a challenging win over Campbell. Marietta hopes to have point guard Chris Tanzy back for the state tournament, too. The team won the region tournament without him. J.C. Ward and DeAndre Cannon have been tremendous this season for the legendary Charlie Hood.

12. Miller Grove (23-5)
Notable victories: Redan 51-50, Tucker 70-62, Wesleyan 53-51, Stone Mountain 83-81, Jeannette (Pa.) 76-65, Stone Mountain 65-46, Redan 57-47, Tucker 68-48, Stone Mountain 64-63
Notable losses: Columbia 64-82, Archbishop Moeller (Ohio) 48-51 (OT), Columbia 59-61, Wheeler 77-82, Marist 86-87 (3OT)
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Cedar Shoals
Last rank: 12
Notes: The 6-AAAA region tournament was a wild one and Miller Grove came out on top as the region champs, a feat that is much harder to do than it looks on the surface. Keep an eye on junior Stephen Hill. The 6-5 athlete is surging at the right time, giving the Wolverines another option alongside Mfon Udofia.

13. Glenn Hills (24-2)
Notable victories: Josey 64-53, Richmond Academy 75-60, Laney 67-52, Laney 69-52, Washington County 43-40 (OT), Thomson 76-64, Washington County 40-37, Washington County 58-48, Liberty County 49-39
Notable losses: North Augusta (S.C.) 47-49, Craigmont (Tenn.) 58-59
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Cairo
Last rank: 13
Notes: The big three of Reggie Middleton, Jerel Stephenson and Chris Reynolds helped the Spartans claim the 3-AAA region tournament. Glenn Hills has not lost to a state foe this year either.

14. East Laurens (26-1)
Notable victories: Montgomery County 96-85, Dublin 95-82, Dublin 90-82
Notable loss: West Laurens 77-79
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Savannah Christian
Last rank: 18
Notes: For the second time in as many seasons, East Laurens is the 4-AA region champions. This team is big, athletic and versatile not to mention dangerous in tournament settings. Jimmy Williams has this bunch playing great ball this year.

15. Centennial (23-5)
Notable victories: Whitefield Academy 51-43, Craigmont (Tenn.) 81-79 (OT), La Cueva (N.M.) 64-63, Rose Hill Academy (Ky.) 55-53, Northview 57-55, Northview 77-63, Sprayberry 75-67, Sprayberry 66-48
Notable losses: Wheeler 64-93, Lone Peak (Utah) 57-75, Mason County (Ky.) 57-81, Marietta 59-63, Wheeler 67-76
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Meadowcreek
Last rank: 14
Notes: Despite a heroic effort from junior Lorenzo Brown, Centennial dropped the region title to Wheeler. But losing to Wheeler isn't a bad thing. In fact, playing the state's top team is a great prep for the next level of games as Meadowcreek and Norcross/Harrison await.

16. Pebblebrook (26-2)
Notable victories: Jonesboro 72-50, Stephenson 87-84, Lithia Springs 77-65, Cherokee 65-48, Cherokee 52-50, Lithia Springs 71-53
Notable losses: Lithia Springs 55-58, Osborne 74-77
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. NW Whitefield
Last rank: 19
Notes: Is there is a bigger sleeper in the AAAA tournament, if you can call a team with 26 teams a sleeper, than Pebblebrook? A convincing win over Lithia Springs in the 5-AAAA region championship game has propelled the fast-paced Falcons into the state tournament with major momentum.

17. Lithia Springs (25-3)
Notable victories: Villa Rica 88-80, Alexander 85-67, Newnan 74-58, Pebblebrook 58-55, Hiram 93-74, Decatur 55-54 (OT), Woodland 81-52, Alexander 68-51, Cherokee 66-50
Notable losses: Spartanburg 72-73 (OT), Pebblebrook 65-77, Pebblebrook 53-71
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Ridgeland
Last rank: 15
Notes: Pebblebrook just proved to be too much for Lithia Springs. When Jason Slate has his team rolling on defense, they are one of the toughest teams to beat in AAAA. That will be the team's calling card in the post-season.

18. Hancock Central (25-2)
Notable victories: Washington County 45-41, Washington County 50-37, Greenforest Christian 47-44, Wilkinson County 60-58
Notable loss: Wilkinson County 52-64, Wilkinson County 57-70
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. St. Francis
Last rank: 16
Notes: Wilkinson County seems to have Hancock's number this year as the Warriors have both of the team's losses this year. Lucky enough for Hancock wouldn't meet up with WilCo until the A state title game if both teams can win out.

19. Appling County (25-2)
Notable victories: Bacon County 66-52, Bacon County 51-36, Long County 69-67 (OT), Long County 69-67
Notable losses: Worth County 55-56, Long County 43-51
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Dodge County
Last rank: 17
Notes: A tough loss to Long County in the region championship game was tough but don't sleep on this team. They have good size, good athletes and a good mindset heading into the state tournament.

20. Portal (26-1)
Notable victories: Rutland 70-60, Statesboro 55-52, Statesboro 69-57
Notable loss: West Laurens 73-78
This week's schedule: Feb. 22 vs. Seminole County
Last rank: 20
Notes: Keep an eye on the Panthers. Is this the year someone outside of the powerful 5-A region wins the Class A tournament? If David Buchannon continues to play like he and his teammates have been playing, the chances are strong.