Saturday, February 28, 2009

Quick Saturday night wrap-up

My battery on my phone died early tonight. Not a big surprise really. The text messages were flying in at a quick pace. The web-browser was working overtime trying to collect the scores. And, of course, plenty of phone calls to keep T-Mobile in business in this dire economic state.

So, what did we learn in the first round?

1. Region 6-AAAAA is no joke.
2. Class A is probably the best tournament from top to bottom in the state.
3. Most impressive road win? Riverdale at Groves. Monster win on the road. OR Long County traveling nearly five hours across the state to beat Early County.
4. Walton’s Ryan Harrow against McEachern’s Trae Golden was the match-up that delivered.
5. South Atlanta is great with numbers. The Hornets are beating Georgia teams by an average of 40 points a game. Saturday’s win was a 41-point blowout over Thomson.
6. Round two will be even better.

Upsets of round 1:

AAAAA – Central Gwinnett over Collins Hill. Huge win for the 14-14 Golden Knights. Freshman Jordan Adams has a monster game while Collins Hill abandons great high/low game in the second half.

AAAA – Cass, a No. 4 seed, overcomes 20-point fourth quarter deficit on the road to beat Loganville, a No. 1 seed, 88-86 in overtime.

AAA – North Hall, a No. 4 seed, beat Franklin County 54-44 at the No. 1 seed’s home court. That’s a big win on the road and against one of the best players in the AAA bracket in DeMario Mayfield. OR Cedar Grove, a sub .500 team, beating Carrollton at home. Carrollton is a 25-win team.

AA – Decatur traveled to Manchester and picked up a one point win in central Georgia. Manchester has only lost won game in 2009 until tonight.

A – None. Single A went as expected. The second round, however, has a number of match-ups of note. Hancock Central at Turner County, a rematch of last year’s state title game, probably already has a line outside of TC’s gym waiting to get in.

How’d we pick ‘em in the first round? Pretty good actually

AAAAA – 12-4
AAAA – 15-1
AAA – 11-5
AA – 12-4
A – 16-0
Total: 66-14

Georgia Hoops will have much, much more this weekend until Wednesday.

Central Gwinnett knocks out Collins Hill

Central Gwinnett freshman Jordan Adams should be getting used to this by now.

Adams hit four of his last five free throws and a big three-pointer late in the fourth quarter to help seal a 63-61 Central Gwinnett win over Collins Hill to advance in the AAAAA state tournament.

Adams finished with 22 points in the victory. He sat out seven games in January and just got back into the team’s rotation during the region tournament because of the hamstring injury.

Stepping up in the moment is something Adams is starting to get used to.

Six months ago, the 6-3 wing lined up under center for the Black Knights football team and won three of the last five games of the year for the football team as the starter. On Saturday night at Collins Hill, Adams came off the bench to help lead his number four seed team knock of one of the hottest teams in the state on the road.

“I tell you what, he was huge tonight. He’s a big time player,” Central Gwinnett head coach David Allen said after the game. “He has a great feel for the game. His knowledge of the game really showed there at the end. I was proud of him and the rest of our guys. They played their hearts out.”

Indeed they did. Central Gwinnett never seemed intimidated by Collins Hill’s size in the post. The Black Knights relied on perimeter shooting and aggressive rebounding late in the game.

Allen said he was happy with the way his team closed out the game. His team has lost seven games this season by four points or less. Winning a close one, on the road no less, is something that his team has fought hard to do this season.

“They really endured well late in the game. That is something that we’ve struggled with this year. So the timing was perfect,” Allen said.

Collins Hill had a monster effort from Utah bound senior Jeremy Olsen. The 6-10 big man dominated the game in the first half, scoring 19 of his team’s 34 points and only missed two shots in the first 16 minutes of play. Olsen finished with 29 points (11-15 FG, 7-8 FT), 15 rebounds and four blocks in the defeat.

Speedy sophomore guard Saah Nimley added 22 points in the defeat. Collins Hill struggled without production from Reed Buck and Derek Hood. The senior starters combined for just five points in the loss.

Central Gwinnett will travel to Milton on Wednesday for the second round of the AAAAA state tournament.

For scores for all first round games, click HERE.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Breaking down the brackets: A

Buckle up Class A basketball fans. The ride to Macon will be bumpy and beyond exciting.

The depth of the class A state tournament is ridiculous.

Nine of the 10 ranked teams in current coaches poll are in the field. Of those nine, seven are No. 1 seeds. The other two teams are No. 2 seeds. Only Metter failed to make the tournament.

All of that talent, plus talented teams like North Cobb Christian, Athens Academy, Wesleyan, Greenville, Calvary Day, Wilcox County and Dooly County round out deep tournament field.

Sure, AAAAA may have better teams. Or AAAA has the best team in the state in Miller Grove. Class AAA has the state’s best player in Derrick Favors. But class A is loaded with talent.

Moreover, the potential match-ups in the second round of the tournament and beyond may be the best Sweet 16 of any of the classes in Georgia.

The march to Macon will be hard fought and the team that hoists the championship trophy on March 14 will have certainly earned it. The strong will survive in this classification.


Dooly County at Terrell County - The potential for a four seed beating a one seed is low across the board this year in the state tournament. This is one of those games. Dooly is a fine four seed and could even potentially be a No. 1 seed in several other regions in class A. Terrell County will be ready, too. The Green Wave have knocked out Westover, Thomasville and Greenville this year. This game should be the best in the opening round of the class A tournament.

Savannah Christian at Wilkinson County - The Palace is one of the toughest places to play in the state and the WilCo fans will be ready to welcome Savannah Christian to Irwinton on Saturday night. And there is nothing more than Josh Sparks and SC would like to do than get out of the first round of the state tournament. Sparks and company will give a good fight, there is no doubt about that, but WilCo is just too big, too experienced and too good at home.

North Cobb Christian at Gordon Lee - NCC is in the state tournament in it’s first year of GHSA play and the Eagles want to continue making history. The team has size anchored by Milos Kluet, speed thanks to Romeo Lewis and toughness from Stefan Frank. Gordon Lee is a good basketball team but NCC might just be too much to handle in what should be an entertaining game.

Athens Academy at Wesleyan - The teams are evenly matched and both are led by a versatile and talented junior. Athens Academy leans on the perimeter scoring of Jeremy Burgess while Wesleyan hopes to have a healthy Griffin Schamp, who missed one game of the Region 7 tournament with strep throat and was only used for half of the other games. Home court advantage may be the difference maker in this game.


Brit Duncan, PG, Wilkinson County – He’s the leading scorer for the Warriors and one of the best guards in class A. Duncan is averaging 17 points a clip on a team with great balance. Duncan’s been through the rigors of post-season play before and the road to Macon for WilCo is not an easy one either. His leadership will be relied on a lot for Dr. Aaron Geter and the Warriors over the next couple of weeks.

Tyshawn Good, SG, Darlington – Is it possible to be one of the top scorers in the state for two years in a row and be a relative unknown in the state’s discussion for top players? Some how, some way, it is possible. Good lives up to his name. He’s a dynamic scorer, He is a quick scorer. He is a jet to the basket and has dominated North Georgia hoops since moving south from New York. Sure, the competition in Region 6-A isn’t the best but scoring over 28 points a game for two straight seasons is beyond impressive. Teams will have to game plan to contain him.

Cody Padgett, SF, Calvary Day – He’s not a sleeper in the Savannah area. That’s because he has been one of the top scorers in the city for the last couple of years. The 6-3 wing played his heart out in the region tournament and will certainly fight tooth and nail to keep his team in the tournament.

Raymond Higgs, SG, Athens Christian (pictured above) – He averages nearly 27 points a game. Here is the scary thing: Basketball is his second sport. The potential Olympic level high jumper has one of the most explosive first steps in the state and gets to the basket at will. He has game-changing ability and has picked apart any type of defense that has tried to contain his route to the rim. There probably isn’t a team in the state that can slow him.

Eric Martin, PF, Dooly County – The 6-6 senior was very impressive in a tough loss to Turner County during the Region 2-A tournament last week. He uses his length to crash the boards, score in the paint and he can even step out and knock down the midrange jumper. Dooly runs a nice high-low game with Martin and Charsini Washington. Martin anchors the team’s interior game and if the Bobcats make it through the first round, a trip to the Elite Eight is a strong possibility.


Breon Dixon, PF, Turner County – A great showing in the state tournament could potentially propel the 6-7 forward to the top of the class of 2011 individual rankings in Georgia. Dixon is knocking on that door right now. He plays a big role for Turner County, the Georgia Hoops favorite to win the class A title, and can score, rebound and blocks a ton of shots.

Kentavious Caldwell, SG, Greenville – Like Dixon, Caldwell is very close to being named the top sophomore in the state. He’s a do-everything wing that is getting better and better each time out. Now that Will Bailey, also a sophomore, is on Greenville’s team, Caldwell does not have to fight through triple teams anymore. Just double teams and box and one defenses.

Nick Marshall, SG, Wilcox County – He’s a quick trigger shooting guard that has the athleticism to match his scoring ability. Of all of the young talent in class A this year, Marshall has the best wow potential. He can score from deep but he is also a terror en route to the basket.

The Paideia kids – The Pythons have a deep roster of young talent and lean heavily on the youth to win ball games. E. Victor Nickerson is the team’s top producing youngster. The 6-7 forward does a little bit of everything while Nigel Snipes is an athletic match-up problem on the wing. Sidki Muwallif, a 6-8 center, blocks a good number of shots. Sophomore point guard Kharon Butcher and freshman combo guard Keenan Palmore both factor into the game’s outcome with their ball-handling and shooting touch. This crew will make noise for a while at the state level.

Top No. 1 seed: Turner County
Top No. 2 seed: Paideia
Top No. 3 seed: North Cobb Christian
Top No. 4 seed: Dooly County


Terrell County over Dooly County
Aquinas over Savannah Country Day
Turner County over Seminole County
Hancock Central over Portal
Athens Christian over Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy
North Cobb Christian over Gordon Lee
Greenforest Christian over Lakeview Academy
Pace Academy over Bremen
Calvary Day over Warren County
Wilcox County over Clinch County
Wilkinson County over Savannah Christian
Greenville over Lanier County
Darlington over Our Lady of Mercy
Athens Academy over Wesleyan
Whitefield Academy over Bowdon
Paideia over Commerce


Turner County vs. Greenforest Christian
Wilkinson County vs. Whitefield Academy


Turner County over Whitefield Academy

Game times for all first round boys games

The AJC saved a lot of man hours for us all! Here are the start times for all first round games. All games in red and in italics are winners.

Everyone wants to know what time the games will be played this weekend for the state playoffs. So does Georgia Hoops. All boys games will be played on Saturday, Feb. 28 unless noted otherwise below.

Northside-Warner Robins at Redan, 7:30 p.m.

Johnson-Savannah at Westlake, 5 p.m.
Riverdale at Groves, 6 p.m.
Creekside at Savannah, 6 p.m.
Peachtree Ridge at Brookwood, 6 p.m.
Union Grove at Coffee, 6 p.m.
Mill Creek at South Gwinnett, 6 p.m.
Camden Co. at Newnan, 7 p.m.
North Cobb at Centennial, 7 p.m.
Central Gwinnett at Collins Hill, 7 p.m.
Milton at Marietta, 7 p.m.
Tift Co. at Stephenson, 7 p.m.
Harrison at Wheeler, 7 p.m.
Meadowcreek at Norcross, 7 p.m.
Greenbrier at Valdosta, 7:30 p.m.
Walton at McEachern, 7:30 p.m.

Class AAAA
Evans at Jonesboro, 7:30 p.m.
Stone Mtn. at Fayette Co., 8:30 p.m.

Murray Co. at Rockdale Co., 2:30 p.m.
Glenn Hills at Forest Park, 4 p.m.
Stockbridge at Cross Creek, 5 p.m.
Clarke Central at Sprayberry, 5 p.m.
Brunswick at Westside-Macon, 5 p.m.
Wayne Co. at Bainbridge, 6 p.m.
Alcovy at Richmond Academy, 6 p.m.
McIntosh at Marist, 6:30 p.m.
Thomas Co. Central at Statesboro, 7 p.m.
Cass at Loganville, 7 p.m.
Heritage-Conyers at Hillgrove, 7 p.m.
Tucker at Lithia Springs, 7 p.m.
Upson-Lee at Glynn Academy, 7 p.m.
Sandy Creek at Miller Grove, 7 p.m.

Class AAA
Eastside at Gainesville, 8:30 p.m.

Woodland-Stockbridge at Liberty Co., 5 p.m.
Shaw at Westover, 5:30 p.m.
LaGrange at Monroe, 6 p.m.
Thomson at South Atlanta, 6 p.m.
Cairo at Kendrick, 6 p.m.
Central-Carroll at Columbia, 6 p.m.
Cedar Grove at Carrollton, 7 p.m.
Flowery Branch at Elbert Co., 7 p.m.
Hart Co. at West Hall, 7 p.m.
Burke Co. at Spalding, 7 p.m.
North Hall at Franklin Co., 7 p.m.
St. Pius at Cedartown, 7 p.m.
Ridgeland at Druid Hills, 7 p.m.
Peach Co. at Northside-Columbus, 7:30 p.m.
Rutland at Washington Co., 7:30 p.m.

Class AA
Pepperell at Riverside Military, 4 p.m.
East Laurens at Central-Macon, 4 p.m.
Charlton Co. at Thomasville, 6 p.m.
Greene Co. at Screven Co., 6 p.m.
Cook at McIntosh Co. Academy, 6 p.m.
Mitchell Co. at Appling Co., 6 p.m.
East Jackson at Coosa, 6 p.m.
Westminster at Calllaway, 6 p.m.
Crawford Co. at GAC, 6 p.m.
Long Co. at Early Co., 6 p.m.
Northeast-Macon at Dublin, 6:30 p.m.
Swainsboro at Henry Co., 7 p.m.
Jordan at Blessed Trinity, 7 p.m.
Union Co. at Dade Co., 7 p.m.
Decatur at Manchester, 7 p.m.
Chattooga at Dawson Co., 7:30 p.m.

Class A
ELCA at Athens Christian, 2:30 p.m.
Warren Co. at Calvary Day, 5 p.m.
Wesleyan at Athens Academy, 5 p.m.
Commerce at Paideia, 5:30 p.m.
Dooly Co. at Terrell Co., 6 p.m.
Seminole Co. at Turner Co., 6 p.m.
Wilcox Co. at Clinch Co., 6 p.m.
Portal at Hancock Central, 6 p.m.
North Cobb Christian at Gordon Lee, 6 p.m.
Bremen at Pace Academy, 7 p.m.
Our Lady of Mercy at Darlington, 7 p.m.
Bowdon at Whitefield Academy, 7 p.m.
Savannah Christian at Wilkinson Co., 7 p.m.
Lakeview Academy at Greenforest, 7:30 p.m.
Aquinas at Savannah Country Day, 7:30 p.m.
Lanier Co. at Greenville, 7:30 p.m.

Locations for the quarterfinals will be announced on Monday. According to sources, the location will be determined based on the location of the teams remaining.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Breaking down the brackets: AA

I was surfing the web this week and stumbled across a good story on about Greater Atlanta Christian head coach Eddie Martin.

I wondered aloud, “Can Eddie Martin win a fourth straight state title?”

Why not?

He’s won three in a row and after leaving Norcross, the Peach State veteran is looking for his first state title at Greater Atlanta Christian in his first year at the helm. Doing so is not out of the realm of possibility.

He has a talented senior Taylor Metzger, the lone senior on the team, the warrior in Trent Wiedeman, the consummate role player in Bo Herbert and the point guard in Paul Dawson. The parts of the puzzle are there to go the distance. The question is whether or not the young team has grown up enough under Martin’s keen coaching eye.

The Spartans will have challenges along the way. The biggest challenge resides off of Interstate 16 at Dublin High School. The Irish have the best team in AA and could meet up with Martin and GAC in the semi-finals of the state tournament.

That is one of the many gems of what should be a highly competitive AA state tournament this year.


Dublin vs. NE Macon - What a match-up in the first round! It could be argued that this is the best game outside of Atlanta in the first round this year. Dublin, the top team in class AA, will have it’s hands full with the men from Macon.

Sherrard Brantley is one of the top shooters in the state while Reshard Smith, a N.C. State football signee pictured above, is one of the quickest players in the Peach State with the ball in his hands. Junior big man Tawaski King rules the paint with authority and the Irish have the advantage of playing at home for the first two rounds of the state. There are few better home court advantages better than Dublin’s.

Northeast Macon won’t be intimidated though. The Raiders have size, experience, a resume of close and hard fought battles from a rigorous regular season.

Dublin may be too much to handle on it’s home court. This game will be a fun one.


Jimmy Bacon, SF, Long County – If you’ve read Georgia Hoops at all for the last three years, you know of my appreciation for the athletic 6-6 forward. He’s a do-everything stud that wants a taste of the Final Four. He’s the leading candidate for AA Player of the Year and a trip to Macon will solidify that position. Bacon is quite simply the toughest player to guard in this division.

Matthew Brabham, PG/SG, Central Macon – It seems like the 6-foot junior has been around forever. He’s been the top scorer in Macon for two straight years and he is entering the state playoffs ready for anything. Brabham dropped 40 points in the region 4 tournament last week and will be tested by an always-tough East Laurens team right out of the gate. Brabham has generally always shined in these types of games.

Sherrard Brantley, SG, Dublin – Try and find a better shooter in the tournament than the 6-2 guard. He can flat out bury the three-ball with ease. The Irish have ridden his hot hand this season and are ready for the battle that will face them over the next two and a half weeks. Brantley is a hot target for a number of low-major programs looking for a perimeter threat. Outside of playing for a title, he’s playing for a free education as a number of eyes watch him in the final weeks of his high school career.

Trent Wiedeman, PF, Greater Atlanta Christian – Behind every good Eddie Martin team is a good power forward. And Wiedeman is about as good as it gets in AA. He’s big, he’s strong, he rebounds, he can score inside and out and he can flat out pass. As Wiedeman goes, GAC goes. It’s as simple as that.

Wendell Williams, PG/SG, Appling County – The Region 2-AA Player of the Year has speed, strength and a knack for scoring the ball. The long time varsity star has performed at a high level in tough road games but always gets the job done when it matters. He and his teammates will have challenges in their section of the state bracket and his experience could be the difference maker.


Willie Clayton & Robert Carter, PFs, Thomasville – The dynamic duo of Clayton and Carter have played big roles for Bulldogs this season. Both stand in the 6-6 neighborhood Both work well on the glass. Both are solid athletes. Both only know winning. Clayton’s role is a little bigger at this stage of the game and he should have a productive run in the tournament.

Quan Bray, PG & LaMichael Fanning, C, Callaway – The sophomores are popular names on the football side of things but the duo are also good-looking basketball players. Bray, a speedy 5-11 guard, and Fanning, a mammoth 6-7 forward, are fire and ice. Bray can score by attacking the rim and defending well on the ball. Fanning is an immovable force in the low post.

Paul Dawson, PG, Greater Atlanta Christian – When the speedy point guard was out earlier in the season with a hand injury, GAC suffered one of it’s three losses of the year. Since he’s been back, the Norcross private school is flat out rolling. Dawson glues the team together perfectly and is poised for a deep run in the state playoffs.

Brandon Garrett, SF, East Jackson – The 6-3 wing is an athletic scorer that has helped put East Jackson on the basketball map. He has been his team’s top scorer for two straight seasons and can rebound well from his position. The pieces are starting to come together for the sophomore.

Top No. 1 seed: Dublin
Top No. 2 seed: Blessed Trinity
Top No. 3 seed: Long County
Top No. 4 seed: Northeast Macon


Thomasville over Charlton County
Greene County over Screven County
McIntosh Academy over Cook
Swainsboro over Henry County
Riverside Military over Pepperell
Blessed Trinity over Jordan
Dade County over Union County
Callaway over Westminster
Dublin over Northeast Macon
Long County over Early County
Central Macon over East Laurens
Appling County over Mitchell County
Greater Atlanta Christian over Crawford County
Chattooga over Dawson County
Manchester over Decatur
East Jackson over Coosa


Thomasville vs. Blessed Trinity
Dublin vs. GAC


Dublin over Thomasville

Breaking down the brackets: AAA

The awards are starting to pile up on Derrick Favors’ dresser at home. The state’s top player will win every individual award that the state can give. He’s a McDonald’s All-American. He’ll be a Parade All-American. He could be the EA Sports Player of the Year. You name it, he has a plaque for it.

The only thing that has escaped the grasp of the 6-9 center from South Atlanta High School is a state championship.

That could change this year.

Last year, Favors and his South Atlanta teammates watched East Hall walk away with a first round win the state tournament. All Favors could do in that game was sit and watch from the bench with foul trouble mocking him along the way.

This year’s playoff bracket is favorable for Favors and his 24-3 team. With the addition of Auburn bound senior Andre Malone (pictured above) and the progression of point guard Nick Watkins and sophomore Nick Jacobs, South Atlanta is beating Georgia teams by an average of 40 points a game.

Favors and company are taking no prisoners this season. The ridiculous margin of victory could continue all the way to Macon this year.

And maybe, just maybe, Favors is cleaning off a spot in his hardware cupboard for the AAA state championship.


Someone will surprise you. If you haven’t already penned out your bracket, think twice about some of the games you might want to pick. There are a number of teams in the AAA bracket that can make a run to Macon.

Don’t sleep on Franklin County or Elbert County. The two schools swung it out in Region 8 play this season. Franklin County leads on DeMario Mayfield, one of the top seniors in the AAA bracket and a future Georgia Bulldog. Elbert leans on Rod Rucker, one of the featured sleepers below. Both teams could make a push for Macon. Franklin County may have an easier path though.

The top left section of the bracket boasts a number of teams that can make a run to the Final Four. Westover, Shaw, Liberty, Northside Columbus, Spalding and Burke County can all be making the trip to middle Georgia on March 13 for the semi-finals.

Dig deeper into the bracket and you can argue that Druid Hills could make a push to the semi-finals. The Region 5 team quietly took care of business in the region tourney.

Washington County, winners of Region 3, and Carrollton, winners of Region 6, shouldn’t be looked over either.

Must see games

Westover vs. Shaw - Both teams enter the playoffs with a chip on it’s shoulder. Westover was forced forfeit it’s final four games of the year (all victories) and had to scrap through the region tournament to earn a No. 1 seed in the state tournament. Shaw is 2-3 in February after going 21-1 through January. Both teams have a lot to play for. Both teams have technically won 23 games to date. The game will be physical, no doubt, and it will be a great match-up of good guards.

Franklin County vs. North Hall - The present will meet the future in this game. Franklin County senior DeMario Mayfield, a Georgia signee, will lock horns with North Hall rookie Kanler Coker. Mayfield has been one of the best players in Northeast Georgia history and he has his team rolling at the right time. Coker, a two-sport star, has received rave reviews in Year One of his young career.

Ridgeland vs. Druid Hills - This match-up of two 20-plus win teams is intriguing. Ridgeland, tucked away quietly in Northwest Georgia, has won 25 games this season. Anyone other than Ridgeland know that? Probably not. Druid Hills was in the Elite Eight just two years ago. The team’s best player, Byron Dickerson, remembers it well. He should be the difference maker.


Rion Brown, SG, Liberty County – Last year, Brown and his teammates traveled to Columbus for an Elite Eight match-up against Carver and had to make the long drive home to Hinesville after a difficult loss. That memory has remained with the long 6-5 shooter this season. He’s coming into his own and playing very well this season. Few teams can match-up with him on the wing because of his size and quick trigger.

Martaveous Smith, C, Burke County – Size matters in AAA. And it will matter in the second round of the tournament if the 6-8 center and his teammates win in round one. The prize for winning could be the very big Columbus Northside team. Smith is vastly improved in the post and blocks a number of shots. If Burke wants to move on, he must play well.

Rod Rucker, SF/PF, Elbert County – Okay, okay, the 6-6 junior probably can’t be called a sleeper after being named Co-Region 8 Player of the Year but surprisingly, he isn’t mentioned by the peanut gallery as one of the top players in the state. He’s my third best wing forward in the class behind Jalen Kendrick (Westlake) and Jamel Jones (Greenforest). A potential meeting against Columbia in the quarterfinals could be a golden moment in March.

Brandon Johnson, PF, Monroe – The 6-7 junior forward is a blue collar hustler with good size, good length and a good motor. The Albany star and his teammates have a tough one in round one against LaGrange but his size could be the difference maker in that match-up.


Nick Jacobs, PF, South Atlanta – The sophomore understudy to Derrick Favors is quietly awaiting his turn. When his number is called, he has shown that he is one of the top 2011 prospects in the state. The Hornets have been blowing opponents out all year long and the blowouts could continue all the way to the Macon Centreplex. When Jacobs is on the floor, he makes a big difference.

Jordan Price, SG, Columbia – Fewer freshmen in the state has a bigger profile than him and now that the spotlight is on, the Eagles will certainly lean on the aggressive guard more than usual. Paired with JerShon Cobb, one of the top players in AAA, Price has the advantage of one-on-one situations and loves to attack with aggression. Teams will struggle matching up with him and Price could be the difference maker in a game or two.

Tim Dixon, C, Kendrick – The 6-9 sophomore is one of the top shot-blockers in the state. He is skinny, sure, but he has good timing, runs the floor well and knows what his best strength is. If he can help his Columbus team win at home on Saturday, a likely meeting with South Atlanta on March 3 awaits he and his teammates. That would be interesting to watch to say the least.

Kanler Coker, SG, North Hall – Those that have watched the 6-3 guard this season speak highly of his intelligence on the court, his scoring touch and his overall skill set in the backcourt. Some have even called him the next Zac Swansey, a former Hall county product now at UGA. That’s good company. The tournament could be the time for Coker to show the comparison is legit or not.

Jacquez Rozier, SF, Burke County – The 6-5 wing was one of the nice revelations of Georgia Hoops’ many road trips this season. Rozier helped his squad beat a very good Liberty County team. He’s an aggressive attacker to the basket and in the big region win over Liberty, Rozier absolutely took over down the stretch. Can his star shine even brighter in the tournament?

Top No. 1 seed: South Atlanta
Top No. 2 seed: Liberty County
Top No. 3 seed: Burke County
Top No. 4 seed: Shaw


Westover over Shaw
Liberty County over Woodland-Henry
Northside-Columbus over Peach County
Burke County over Spalding
Franklin County over North Hall
Cedartown over St. Pius X
Gainesville over Eastside
Druid Hills over Ridgeland
Washington County over Rutland
LaGrange over Monroe
South Atlanta over Thomson
Kendrick over Cairo
Carrollton over Cedar Grove
Elbert County over Flowery Branch
Columbia over Central Carroll
Hart County over West Hall


South Atlanta vs. Columbia
Liberty County vs. Franklin County


South Atlanta over Franklin County

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Breaking down the brackets: AAAA

Columbia held a strong hold on the AAAA level for the last couple of years but now that the Eagles are in AAA, the field is wide open.

Or is it?

Miller Grove would often run into the Columbia buzzsaw but now it is the Wolverine’s turn to wear the AAAA bulls-eye. Seniors Mfon Udofia, Stephen Hill, Joe Caldwell, Malcolm Frank and Xavier McGahee have been through the rigors of talent rich Region 6 long enough to know what it takes to win it all. After all, the last three state champs hail from Dekalb County’s tough region.

This year the AAAA title is up for grabs and Miller Grove is sitting in position to take it.


Sleepers abound. See below. There are a number of players that are lying under the state’s radar. Expect a lot of players to step into the big spotlight over the next three weeks.

Marist. Last year the team watched Stone Mountain come from behind and take their spot in the state tournament away in the region tournament. Marist watched the state tournament from the stands. Not this year. The War Eagles are ready. You should be scared to death, too. Senior J.J. Mann is putting up ridiculous numbers this year, scoring and rebounding with the best of them. Point guard Dee Goens is one of the best at his position in the tournament and playing under control and with a goal in mind. Junior Kash Manzelli is one of the toughest players to match-up on the wing. Throw in one of the best young coaches in the state in Greg McClaire and you have a team that can, and will, be playing in Gwinnett.

Atlanta vs. everyone else. The Atlanta area has produced the state champion every year but one since 2001. Dougherty won it that year. Since then it has been an ATL domination. There are a number of contenders from other parts of the state. Statesboro, Richmond Academy, Glynn Academy, Bainbridge and Glenn Hills could all make a surprise run to the Final Four.


The class AAAA bracket doesn’t have many games that stand out as must-see games in the first round. The later rounds are intriguing with some monster match-ups. But for the time being, there are two games that stand out from the get go.

Tucker at Lithia Springs – This one will be a physical one. Count on that. Both James Hartry and Jason Slate have their teams ready for a battle. Both teams enter the state tournament mentally tough after a knock-down, drag-out region tournament. Tucker has good balance and size while Lithia Springs will press and rely on it’s start to finish intensity. Expect this one to go down to the wire and expect players from both teams to find the trainer as soon as the game is over.

Evans at Jonesboro - The tournament will start out strong on Friday night as these two fight it out on the south side of Atlanta. Jonesboro always plays teams tough and Evans makes the trip down Interstate 20 from Augusta with a sense of urgency. Over the last 11 games, Evans is 4-7. It doesn’t help that Jonesboro is nearly impossible to beat at home. Look for the Cardinals to win this one.


Trey Bussey, SG, Lithia Springs – When the 6-2 junior missed his team’s game against South Cobb, Bussey sat on the sidelines with a hip injury. If he doesn’t play in the region tournament, Lithia Springs could be sitting at home this week and not in the state tournament. He is a good shooter that can slide over and point the point when asked. Bussey is on the radar for some mid-level schools and a good showing in the tournament could shake things up for him.

Chris Davis, SG, Stockbridge – The junior is the latest of sleepers to hail from Stockbridge. The other two, Markel and Quin Humphrey, have done pretty well for themselves at the college level. The 6-2 guard could be next. He’s a capable scorer but he can also put on his passer’s hat when he needs to.

Ricardo Glenn, PF, Richmond Academy – Anchoring the frontline for the top team in Augusta, the 6-7 forward has enjoyed a great senior year and would certainly like to finish the year up in Gwinnett. He’s a capable scorer, a tough rebounder and an intriguing post player for low Division I schools still looking for a player to fill a post spot. This is his stage to earn the offers.

Marquis Cuyler, SF, Glynn Academy – The 6-4 junior wing is playing at a high level as he and his teammates enter the state tournament. He plays bigger than his size and is scoring the ball at a high rate right now. After a competitive year in Region 2, Cuyler and his teammates will be ready for a hefty challenge of playing Upson Lee in round one.

Santoine Butler, PF & Jahmad Saleem, PG, Cross Creek – The 1-2 punch of Butler and Saleem is one of the best in Augusta. Butler, a junior, is a bouncy forward that rebounds well on both ends of the floor while Saleem, a senior, can score and pass with the best of them in East Georgia.

Quin Bivins, PG, Westside Macon – The 6-1 point guard has been a steady performer for what seems like an eternity in central Georgia. He knows how to run his team. He limits his mistakes. He scores the ball. Experienced guard play goes a long way in the tournament.

James McRae, PF, Brunswick – The 6-5 post player is all grit all the time. He’s a blue collar forward that keeps it simple. Sometimes keeping it simple works. That simplicity will fare well in the first round against Bivins and Westside Macon.

Mario Jackson, PG/SG, Statesboro – Lee Hill always has players and this year’s go to guy is Jackson, a 5-11 senior scorer. He’s quick to the hole and experienced in post-season play and in big time match-ups.


Tony Parker, C, Miller Grove – The 6-8 freshman is one of the top big men regardless of class in the AAAA bracket. He’s been one of Mfon Udofia’s go-to guy in the pain this year and Parker has delivered when his number was called. Few teams can match his size and skill in the post. In fact, it could be argued that he is the most skilled of any big man in the AAAA tournament. Parker will get his first taste of what will be several trips to the state tournament.

Kevin Ware, SG, Rockdale County – The 6-3 guard might be the most explosive player in the tournament. Think Senario Hillman. Ware’s role with Rockdale is a little mystifying. He’s one of the first players off the bench and isn’t a big scorer for the Bulldogs. Ware is clearly a match-up problem for whoever Rockdale County plays. Perhaps the state tournament is where he can prove himself with his high school team.

The Fayette County’s Malcolm Brogdon, Adam Smith and Maurice Williams – Brogdon and Smith are the second and third leading scorers for FC, behind USC bound wing Noel Johnson. Williams is the third leading rebounder and the best post defender on the team. All three players have played large roles in Fayette County’s success this season. Brogdon stepped up in the region championship with his scoring while Smith is a fine shooter and Williams has helped win games with his length in the post. All three sophomores are worth watching.

Top No. 1 seed: Miller Grove
Top No. 2 seed: Lithia Springs or Marist
Top No. 3 seed: Tucker
Top No. 4 seed: Evans


Bainbridge over Wayne County
Stockbridge over Cross Creek
Statesboro over Thomas County Central
Glenn Hills over Forest Park
Cass over Loganville
Marist over McIntosh
Hillgrove over Heritage
Tucker over Lithia Springs
Richmond Academy over Alcovy
Brunswick over Westside Macon
Jonesboro over Evans
Glynn Academy over Upson Lee
Miller Grove over Sandy Creek
Rockdale County over Murray County
Fayette County over Stone Mountain
Clarke Central over Sprayberry


Richmond Academy vs. Miller Grove
Statesboro vs. Marist


Miller Grove over Marist

SCORE Atlanta ranks the top 25, Georgia Hoops cook up a dozen

SCORE Atlanta ranks the top 25 teams in the state regardless of class prior to the state tournament.

Here is their top 10:

1. South Atlanta
2. McEachern
3. Wheeler
4. Miller Grove
5. Centennial
6. Milton
7. Norcross
8. Columbia
9. Walton
10. Westlake

Here is my hot dozen going into the state tournament:

1. Miller Grove
2. South Atlanta
3. Wheeler
4. McEachern
5. Turner County
6. Centennial
7. Norcross
8. Dublin
9. Columbia
10. Westlake
11. Newnan
12. Valdosta

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Breaking down the brackets: AAAAA

Norcross High School raised it’s third straight state championship banner earlier this season and the Blue Devils looked skyward and watched history hang above them all season long.

But gone is Eddie Martin. Gone is Al-Farouq Aminu. Gone are the high-major signees. A new batch of Blue Devils are hanging strong. And the new batch of players and new coach Jesse McMillan won 25 games and only losing two all season long.

While the faces have changed, the goal remains the same. The goal is the fourth state championship. The quest for that goal is now beginning. For 31 other teams, the goal is starting a new legacy.

Can Wheeler finally make it happen? Can a team outside the Atlanta area finally win the AAAAA state championship this year? Will there be an upset? Will there be any surprises? Will there be a breakout performance from a star in the waiting?

Those questions will be answered over the next three weeks. And that is why we love Georgia high school basketball so much.


Walton at McEachern - This is the best game of any first round match-up in the state tournament. The two Cobb County teams are both stocked with talent.

McEachern is deep inside, anchored by Furman bound center Collin Reddick and Providence bound power forward Kadeem Batts. Wings Charlie Reddick and Alioune Diouf are two of the more versatile players in the AAAAA bracket. Junior Trae Golden, the Georgia Hoops Region 5 Player of the Year, glues it all together. He’s one of the best scorers in the tournament.

Walton is paced by the scoring prowess of Glen Rice, Jr. and Ryan Harrow, who will both play college ball in the ACC, can easily score 30 points in any game. Rice is a triple double in waiting in every game while Harrow’s speed will clearly be a factor. Defense has been the Achilles heel all season long for Walton. It could be the difference maker in this one.

McEachern’s size inside, overall depth and home court advantage make the Indians my pick for the victory.

The winner of the game will likely have Norcross in the second round. How’s that for a reward for a battle in the first round?

Milton at Marietta - The young Eagles looked good in the region tournament but so did Marietta. Marietta’s Chris Tanzy is playing the best basketball of his career and his match-up against sophomore Shannon Scott will be entertaining to say the least. Mix in the fact that the two coaches, Milton’s David Boyd and Marietta’s Charlie Hood, have a combined five state titles between the two of them and you have a game that is very intriguing on so many levels. Marietta’s magic will make this game close but Milton’s talent could shine through.

Riverdale at Groves - Very intriguing match-up here. Riverdale is a scrappy bunch. Grove is a deep and big bunch. Riverdale has a long scorer in Judson Dillard. Groves is paced by balance yet organized chaos on defense. Riverdale comes to the tournament after being battle tested in Region 4 while it could be argued that Groves is the best team in Savannah. Groves is my pick in this one. Playing in Savannah is a tough task.

Meadowcreek at Norcross - The Mustangs are hungry for an upset after a disappointing region tournament. The Blue Devils are ready for redemption after losing the Region 7 tournament. Emotions should be high in this game. If this game comes down to a shooting match, which it very well could, Norcross should prevail.


Reed Buck, SF, Collins Hill – The senior shooter is coming on strong in tournament play and people are starting to notice. The Eagles have size, thanks to Utah bound Jeremy Olsen and Derek Hood, and speed from point guard Saah Nimley. Buck has been the beneficiary of laying under the radar and having clean looks from the perimeter. Having shooters is the difference between packing up and going home or moving on the tournament. Collins Hill could be an Elite Eight (or higher) level team because of that.

Chris Tanzy, PG, Marietta – The football star is playing like a man possessed in the tournament. He’s been healthy, a major plus for the Blue Devils, and because of that, he picked apart Cherokee and nearly beat McEachern with his play. Milton will be a major test right out of the gates. He should be ready.

Judson Dillard, SF, Riverdale – The wiry senior will have his hands full in the first round against Groves, one of the best teams in Savannah. The 6-4 wing is always around the basket and finds ways to get involved in every play. He is a high energy player that can score big points in a hurry.

Jarvis Brown, SG, Meadowcreek – The tough-minded senior is the heart and soul of the over-achieving Mustangs this season and he’s been one of the toughest players to defend in Gwinnett this season. He’s a bull to the basket and he could be the toughest guard the Norcross will play this season. Keep an eye on that first round match-up.

Jareal Smith, SG, Johnson – The 6-3 junior was the Region 3 player of the year. That’s impressive considering the talent in the region. He and his Johnson teammates have a tough draw against Westlake but if there is an area to attack the Lions, it is in the backcourt. Don’t be surprised to see Smith impressing while on the west side of the ATL on Saturday.


Jay Rome, SF/PF, Valdosta – The 6-5 forward is one of the toughest players to defend because of his natural strength, scoring ability and touch on the glass as a rebounder. The sophomore is a football star and plays with that reckless abandonment that you’d expect from a gridiron star. Valdosta’s side of the bracket is filled with physical players and Rome will be tested right out of the gate.

Four of Milton’s starting five – The youngsters have lived up to the hype all season long and will now be challenged at the state level. The road to Gwinnett won’t be easy but the Eagles have proved themselves against Walton, GAC, Riverdale and Brookwood but lost against Wheeler and Centennial during the season. Can the Dai-Jon Parker, Shannon Scott, Julian Royal and Evan Nolte step up to the plate?

Dominique McCoy, SF, Meadowcreek – The 6-6 sophomore wears a lot of hats for the Mustangs and he’ll have to bring all of them when Meadowcreek takes on Norcross in round one. He can handle the ball, he can rebound, he can defend the perimeter and he can score in the paint. He’ll need to touch the ball more than he did when Parkview almost beat Meadowcreek in the region tournament. If he can score in double digits, Meadowcreek is always in good position to win.

Chris Bolden, SG, Brookwood – The freshman is known for his quick trigger and he was firing away in the region tournament. It seems the bigger the stage, the better he plays. The Broncos will need a big game from Bolden right out of the gates as the team travels to Peachtree Ridge for a tough battle in round one.

Cory Blackwell, PF/SF, Peachtree Ridge – See Jay Rome. How do you defend the 6-5 monster truck with legs? Blackwell is one of the most unique players in the state and he’s one of the toughest kids to defend because he can burn you inside but also step out and knock down the midrange jumper. The sophomore is a dynamic rebounder and one that can quickly pull down 10 boards before the half. A potential match-up between he and Richard Howell at Wheeler would be fun to watch.


Depth from Region 6. There is no denying the strength of the region. All four teams that advanced (Wheeler, Centennial, Milton and Walton) can win the state tournament. Lassiter and Campbell, two teams from the region that were ousted early in the region tournament, could have very easily been a No. 2 seed in the tournament, too.

Ari Stewart, a senior at Wheeler, believes Region 6 is a great test for the state tournament.

“We have one of the toughest regions in the state. We have Walton, Centennial, Milton, Lassiter, Campbell. The list goes on and on. I do think we have one of the toughest regions in the state. I do think this was the hardest part, winning the region tournament,” Stewart said minutes after winning the region tournament.

“But we still have to play hard. We still have to play good teams like a Centennial. We don’t know anything about the teams we are about to play. We’ve never seen them play. We have to go and play good defense. I find it will be really hard for teams to beat us if we play like we did [against Centennial].”

Russell Powell is the best player in metro Atlanta that no one is talking about. Win. He has a string of winning DNA in his system and that’s all he has done in high school. He quarterbacked his team deep into the state playoffs. In hoops, he has changed the mentality of his team and can easily score 25 points, glue his team together like a Tom Brady and also defend like Bruce Bowen. Keep an eye on the Jacksonville bound point guard. He’ll be playing on March 12 and 13th in Gwinnett.

What non-ATL team will have success? Every year there is one that makes a run to the Final Four. Valdosta? Groves? Savannah? Coffee? Which one can it be? Valdosta makes the most sense as the Wildcats sit at 26-1. The South Georgia power destroyed the competition all season long and looks to be rolling at the right time.

Top No. 1 seed: Wheeler
Top No. 2 seed: Centennial
Top No. 3 seed: Milton
Top No. 4 seed: Walton


Valdosta over Greenbrier
Groves over Riverdale
Redan over Northside Warner Robins
Newnan over Camden County
South Gwinnett over Mill Creek
Centennial over North Cobb
Collins Hill over Central Gwinnett
Milton over Marietta
Savannah over Creekside
Coffee over Union Grove
Westlake over Savannah Johnson
Stephenson over Tift County
Wheeler over Harrison
Peachtree Ridge over Brookwood
McEachern over Walton
Norcross over Meadowcreek


Newnan vs. Centennial
Westlake vs. Wheeler


Wheeler over Newnan

State AAAAA playoff bracket

Monday, February 23, 2009

Notes from the Notepad: Feb. 23


1. A great state tournament. While there are great teams in the field, every team is beatable. There are no clear cut favorites across the board in every classification.

Take a look at how the top team in the coaches’ poll fared this week and what they have to do to get to the state title game.

Centennial – Lost to Wheeler in the 6-AAAA region championship. A potential game against South Gwinnett in the second round will be a test. Other than that, the Knights have a favorable path to the Gwinnett Arena.

Miller Grove – Had to fight to beat Marist for the 6-AAAA region championship. Fayette County could await the Wolverines in the third round. FC beat MG last year in the Final Four. That could be the only hiccup en route to the title game.

South Atlanta – Won easily in it’s region tournament, claiming the title with a 104-45 victory over Spalding. And that was the closest game in the tournament for the Hornets. Columbia could be the team waiting for them at the Macon Centreplex on March 13.

Dublin – Some trusted eyes at the college level think the Irish have the best team in the state. A major test awaits in the first round as Dublin plays host to NE Macon, a team that can pull off an upset. Then a potential game against Long County in the second round could be next. The kicker is a possible Final Four game against GAC. That’s a tough road to the title game.

Turner County – See below.

2. Reseeding the tournaments. Wrestling did it this year for the first time and by all accounts, that was a fantastic move. Why not do it for basketball?

Here is how it would work:

- The region tournament winners get an automatic No. 1 seed as they always have. That doesn’t change. Neither does earning a state tournament bid by making it to the semi-finals of your region tournament. So if a 5-17 team runs the table in the region tournament and finish third in the tournament, then they are in.

- From there, the rest of the deck is reshuffled. For example, Region 6-AAAAA teams Centennial, Milton and Walton should all be No. 2 teams in the tournament. However, the 5-17 team from above would likely be a No. 4 seed.

- The brackets need balance. Look at the AAA bracket for example. South Atlanta and Columbia, the two clear cut top teams in the class, will likely play each other in the state semi-finals. They should be playing for all the marbles at the end of the day. The same can be said for AA with Dublin and GAC on the same side of the bracket. Or take the classic Norcross first round win over Wheeler two years ago. There is no reason why that game was a first-round game.

- Making the state playoffs is a reward for the high school athlete. The current set-up takes a back seat to the region tournament. There is no sense of importance in the first two rounds. Alpharetta High School was the spot in Atlanta for sports on Saturday. Imagine if that game was played at Georgia State or Georgia Tech. The gym would have likely been close to capacity. That experience is something most high school athletes will never forget. Too bad they can’t have that memory in the first two rounds of the state tournament.

- Each bracket would have a four game slate for the first round. Instead of the higher seed hosting the individual game of the first two rounds of the tournament (like the current step-up), there is a natural site. Gym space should not be a problem. There are plenty of gyms to use in Georgia. Games would be on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and alternate between girls games (Wednesday, Friday) and boys games (Thursday, Saturday).

- Georgia is home to some of the best high school basketball in the country, why not promote it at a state level with an even playing field and on a big stage?

3. Turner County. I had my first chance to see the top ranked class A team last week in the 2-A region tournament and suffice it to say, I was impressed. So impressed, in fact, that Turner County should be considered one of the top five teams in the state.

There is something refreshing about the Rebels. They are a tight-knit group that performs with purpose. Every minute of the team’s pre-game routine is choreographed. There is no wasted time before the tip and as the team enters the gym after the halftime break, they dive right into another exact warm-up ritual.

The support for the team is outstanding and positive from the locals, something that is dying in the Atlanta area. Turner County has a roster stocked deep of talent. Seniors Ternell Davis and Tray Pearce are both seasoned starters while Chris Spears and Breon Dixon (pictured above) are both over 6-7.

Davis is off to Chipola Junior College next year, says his coach Eric Holland, while Pearce is being recruited by a number of low-majors. Spears, a chiseled junior, will go down the same recruiting road as Pearce. Dixon, a long-armed 6-7 forward, has the tools of being one of the elite sophomores in the state. His national profile is on the cusp of blowing up.

The road to Macon won’t be easy for the Rebels. If Turner County and Hancock Central both win on Saturday, last year’s championship game will be on the docket. Coming out of Region 2 will have the team prepared for the deep Class A state tournament. The goal for any team is to win it all. For Turner County, winning it all is the expectation.

4. Great week of basketball.

Win of the week: Turner County over Dooly County. Great game, coming from behind and closing out with a 29-9 run.
Hi, my name is…Player of the Week: Westley Hinton, PF, Providence Christian, Senior
Youngster of the week: Breon Dixon, PF, Turner County, Sophomore
Gritty performance of the week: Tony Dukes of Morrow shooting with his off hand because of a wrist injury on his shooting hand in front of a number of college coaches when playing against Westlake.
Player you never bet against: Russell Powell of Newnan. Don’t be surprised to see the two-sport star pilot his team to a trip to the Gwinnett Arena. Few compete better than he does.

5. Sleep and chiropractor. After watching 16 games over a six day span, Georgia Hoops needs some rest. Thankfully this week can provide such a wish. My back, however, may be un-curable after a long week of bleachers and a long year of sitting in gyms.


- The name Reed Buck keeps showing up on my phone in the form of a text message from college coaches. After putting in nearly 30 points against Norcross, on one of the top defensive teams in the Southeast, Buck is a popular guy amongst recruiters. The 6-5 senior is one of the late-blooming prospects in the state that coaches are frantically searching for more information. Throw Georgia Hoops into the mix, too. Collins Hill still sits on the must-see list for the year. He’s a mystery man from my perspective but the word is, he is certainly worth looking at. (I mistakenly reported Buck hit the game-winning shot. He did not. Sophomore Saah Nimley did.)

- The point guard class of 2010 is one of the hardest groups to figure out. However, three players have separated themselves this week in region play. Walton’s Ryan Harrow and Mays’s Aloys Cabell and Wheeler’s Phil Taylor had great weeks and proved themselves as players that are tops in their class.

Harrow played through a sinus infection and delivered a gritty performance in a tough loss to Milton. He certainly proved himself in his first season in Georgia as one of the top high schoolers in his class within the Peach State borders.

Cabell put on a brilliant performance against Fayette County. He is one of the best midrange jump shooters in the state and one of the toughest competitors at his position. He’ll be a popular player this summer because of his grit.

Taylor is a shot-maker. Plain and simple. He delivers the power punch for Wheeler but he is also playing better as a passer and distributor. His rebounding against Centennial was a major factor in the win, too.

- I’d love to see a match-up between Milton’s Dai-Jon Parker and Wilcox County’s Nick Marshall someday. The two 6-2 guards are both good perimeter shooters. Both are good athletes. Both have wow potential. And both are two of the elite players in the sophomore class.

- The more I watch Greenville sophomore Kentavious Caldwell, the more I love his game. He’s as versatile as they come and could enter the summer as one of the top 50 players nationally in 2011.

- Terrific effort from Mays guard Desmond Williams against Fayette County. The 5-9 senior drilled seven of eight three-pointers in a heart-breaking and season-ending loss in the 5-AAAA region tournament.

- Zach Lamb played a huge role in Norcross’s state championship run last year after being inserted into the starting lineup. The same could happen for Joey Jerome at Wheeler. He’s an important piece of the puzzle on Holt Road.

- SCORE Atlanta looks at the five best teams that didn't make the tournament.

- Nice ballot stuffing on the “Who is the best Junior in the state?” poll.

- Carter’s Fried Chicken in Americus is a must-stop whenever you are in town. Just outside of the campus gates, the local hot spot was the best food stop of the week. However, Marietta Diner still sits atop the Georgia Hoops restaurant rankings.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wheeler gets defensive against Centennial

It’s no secret that the Wheeler Wildcats can pump in the points on the offensive side of the ball. That’s never been a question for the team from Marietta. With two ACC bound seniors and a host of other Division I prospects waiting in the wings, Wheeler can put points on the board in a hurry.

The question with Wheeler, however, is can the team keep the opposition from doing the same?

The answer was an emphatic yes as Wheeler beat Centennial 76-56 on Saturday night in the Region 6-AAAAA championship game at Alpharetta High School.

Wheeler started the game on a 13-0 run thanks to a trio of three-pointers from Phil Taylor, Joey Jerome and Ari Stewart. From there, Wheeler never let up and locked down on defense from tip to finish.

“That set the momentum of the game, hands down,” Stewart, a Wake Forest signee, said. “When a team goes down 13-0 to start a game, they go into panic mode. Eventually they scored but we played hard, rebounded the ball, played good defense and fought well.”

Defensively, Wheeler set the tone inside the paint and forced Centennial to take perimeter shots and challenged every dribble penetration from the speedy squad from North Fulton. Richard Howell, the strong-bodied post headed to N.C. State, set the tone inside with his physical play.

The big man owned his match-up against junior Kam Belin. Howell scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Howell said Wheeler is coming together at the right time.

“I think we are coming together real well. I think playing together in AAU ball really helped us a lot because we got to know each other really well,” he said. “I think we are finally coming together as a team. We can’t backtrack. There was a lot of adversity but we overcame it. We stepped up to the challenge.”

Wheeler has dealt with some personnel adversity late in the season but head coach Doug Lipscomb said he is happy with the way his team prevailed in the semi-finals and on Saturday night in front of a raucous crowd of 2,700 people.

“We’ve been playing very hard. We’ve been through some adversity. We didn’t play with Karl [Cochran] last night and we’ve been without Tahj [Tate]. We had to step up our game with other people. I’m always happy when we are working our butts off because that’s the main reason why we got here. I’m proud of our kids. Very proud of them,” Lipscomb said.

“We just played a very good team and beat a very good team. I’m please with our kids. I’m pleased but not satisfied as we are going into the tournament. We have a long ways to go but overall I’m happy with the effort that they gave me.”

He has to be happy with the 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists from Phil Taylor. Stewart added 18 points and 10 rebounds, too. Jerome has been outstanding in relief for Tate late in the season. His defense and passing played a huge part in the win and helped contain the speed of Centennial’s backcourt.

Brown did all he could do. He scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the defeat. Despite his effort, Brown just couldn’t do it on his own. Stewart said he was happy with the way his entire team shut down the Centennial attack.

“Defense is something that we’ve been emphasizing all year. If we don’t play defense, we don’t win. When you play against a great player in Lorenzo and his team, it’s going to be tough,” Brown said. “When he gets into the lane, it’s a wrap. He’s going to score. He is going to get his teammates involved. He’s going to get the ball to the open person. We focused on stopping him from getting to the basket.”

Wheeler plays host to Harrison on Saturday in the first round of the state tournament. Centennial will host North Cobb on Saturday.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Quick Saturday night wrap-up

Couple of quick hitters for now and much more tomorrow...

Wheeler overwhelmed Centennial defensively and came away with an easy 76-56 win in the region championship game. Huge crowd saw the Wildcats play aggressive on the wings and protected the basket with great purpose.

Wheeler came out firing, going on a 13-0 run to start the game. They never looked back. Phil Taylor led the way with 23 points while Richard Howell scored 22 and Ari Stewart put in 18 points. The trio combined for 28 rebounds, too.

Lorenzo Brown scored 23 points and had 11 rebounds in defeat.

Milton won a shoot out against Walton, 95-91, thanks to the scoring and poise of Shannon Scott, Dai-Jon Parker and Evan Nolte. The trio combined for 61 points. Julian Royal added 12 in the win.

Ryan Harrow led all scorers with 31 points. Not bad for a kid with a major sinus infection. Glen Rice was quieter than usual scoring the ball. He put in 11 points but also had nine rebounds and seven assists.

In other games...

Reed Buck hit a game-winner for Collins Hill in an upset over Norcross. McEachern beat Marietta. Greenforest had 30 from Jamel Jones and beat Paideia for the 7-A title. Turner County won 57-50 over Greenville in Americus. Miller Grove beat Marist in a close one.

Much, much more on Sunday afternoon.

Turner County, Greenville ready for 2-A finals


As the third quarter of the Turner County-Dooly County was about to start, one of the officials working the game came over to the media table and couldn’t hold back a smile from ear to ear. Even the men in stripes knew they were watching a big time match-up at Georgia Southwestern University on Friday night.

The two 2-A teams put on a show in the semi-finals in one of the best games of region tournament play this week. Turner County had to fight back in the second half to claim the 69-60 over Dooly County and advanced to the region championship finals on Saturday.

Turner County, the number one team in class A, was in a position that the Rebels have rarely, if ever, been in this season. They were fighting from behind.

Dooly County had a monster shooting game from skinny-as-a-rail senior Alex Barron. The 6-2 guard pulled up from several feet behind the three-point line for some amazing long range buckets. He hit four straight and had his team up by as many as 13 in the second half.

However, big men Eric Martin and Charsini Washington were subbed out of the game late in the third quarter and that’s when Turner County turned up the heat and went on a 29-9 run to close the game out.

For Turner County coach Eric Holland, his virtually unchallenged team had to learn a little something about them in the hard fought win.

“I’d rather be up against the ropes in the semi-finals than being up against the ropes in the state playoffs,” Holland said.

His players certainly agreed.

Ternell Davis, a Chipola Junior College bound senior guard, scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and helped spark the emotion in his teammates down the stretch. Davis said there was some complacency in the first half.

“We learned that we can’t let up to anyone. We have to come out and work harder next time out,” a tired Davis (pictured above) said after the game.

Junior big man Chris Spears said Dooly County may have done his team a favor by making them come from behind in the region tournament.

“Being the number one team in the state will make you have a big bullseye on your back at all times. We know it’s going to get even bigger next week [during the state tournament],” Spears said.

Spears was one of the four Turner County players in double figure scoring. He finished with 14 points. Senior Trey Pearce added 15 and sophomore big man Breon Dixon put in 12 points.

Dixon, a long-armed 6-7 post, is one of the top players in the class of 2011 in Georgia. He’s on the cusp of emerging into a nationally recruited prospect. Dixon certainly claimed stake to one of the top five spots in the state’s loaded sophomore class rankings.

Turner County can make an argument for being one of the top five teams in Georgia regardless of class. The Rebels have size, depth, star power and youthful talent waiting in the wings. Turner County is the most balanced and well-oiled machine of any of the elite teams in the Peach State.

Dooly County had a huge game from Barron, who scored a game high 25 points while senior big man Eric Martin added a loud 17 points. The 6-6 senior made a big impression with his play in the post, scoring tough shots and claiming big rebounds down the stretch.


Two of the best sophomores in the state met face to face for the first time this season on Friday night at Georgia Southwestern in a 2-A semi-final match-up. Kentavious Caldwell led the charge for Greenville and knocked off Nick Marshall and Wilcox County 64-53.

Caldwell turned his ankle at the start of the fourth quarter and the usually unemotional guard looked like he was headed to the bench with the injury. Despite the grimaces and obvious pain, he went back on the floor and played even more aggressive than he did before.

Caldwell attacked the basket with a purpose and scored 12 of his game high 22 points int eh fourth quarter. The 6-5 junior finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, five steals, and four assists in the win. He showed nearly every facet of his game, minus his usually reliable shooting touch from the perimeter. Wilcox played an aggressive box and one on him throughout the match-up.

Marshall, too, had to free himself up from the grasp of a stifling box and one that Greenville played on him. Marshall, a 6-2 sophomore, struggled to find good looks on the offensive end of the floor. He did finish with 20 points on 8-21 shooting from the floor and 3-12 from three.

Despite his cold shooting moments, Marshall had several wow plays, including a NBA range pull up three point jumper from the left corner. His bucket cut the lead to two with two minutes left to play. Unfortunately, that was the closest Wilcox would get in the final minutes of the game.

Marshall has been one of the top players in South Georgia this season. And not just in basketball. He’s one of the top athletes on the gridiron and he quarterbacked his team to a 12-1 record.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Close calls


Malcolm Brogdon’s calling card is doing the little things. And on Thursday night, one little thing turned out to be a season-saving play. The sophomore from Fayette County grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled with 1.6 seconds left to play on a put back attempt. He calmly stepped up and nailed both free throws to give Fayette County a 64-62 win over Mays.

Brogdon (pictured above) finished with 17 points and seven rebounds in the quarterfinal win in the 5-AAAA tournament. Brogdon’s bucket was the first lead Fayette County had in the entire fourth quarter.

Mays gave a great fight thanks to the play of senior guard Desmond Williams. The 5-8 guard was brilliant all game long from behind the three-point line, hitting seven of eight from deep. However, he missed a wide open chip shot at the rim with 15 seconds left to play. Williams finished with 25 points before fouling out.

His backcourt mate Aloys Cabell was absolutely brilliant, scoring 25 points, too. The 5-11 point guard was the best player on the floor in this game. He controlled the pace throughout the game and played like a seasoned veteran from tip to finish.

Fayette County had 16 points from Southern Cal bound senior Noel Johnson and sophomore guard Adam Smith finished with 15 points.


Lithia Springs head coach Jason Slate worried about having a 12-day wait in between games prior to his team’s match-up against Tri-Cities on Thursday evening. He was problem even more worried because Tri-Cities beat his team in overtime in January.

And after watching his team score a season-low 20 points in the first half, he was almost sprouting up grey hairs in the locker room.

But a huge three-pointer from junior Trey Bussey with three minutes left to play was a huge bucket and calm free throws down the stretch from senior Alex Dean was enough to give Lithia Springs a 67-65 win over Tri-Cities and a bid to the state tournament.

Having nearly two weeks off gave Bussey the perfect amount of time to rest his injured hip he suffered at the end of the regular season.

“That time was exactly what I needed. It got me to 100 percent,” Bussey said.

Thursday night’s game wasn’t one for those that were at 90 percent either. It was a long, physical and emotionally draining game for all parties involved.
“(The time off) helped us because Trey wouldn’t have been able to play but the other guys looked like they haven’t played in 12 days,” an exhausted Slate said after the game.

Tri-Cities was paced by the 23 points of sophomore Bernard Dozier.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quick hitters from Wednesday's action


The pressure cooker was fired up on Wednesday as a host of teams had to step up and win or go home.

No. 3 Riverdale matched up with No. 6 Pebblebrook and No. 2 Westlake played host to No. 7 Morrow on Wednesday night and the higher seeds made it look easy.

Riverdale relied on the play of Judson Dillard, a 6-4 senior wing pictured above, to close the door on Pebblebrook 63-47. Dillard has been closing the door on a number of teams late in the season this year.

He scored 49 points against Mundy’s Mill in the regular season final. Scoring big numbers is nothing new, says Riverdale head coach Derrick Powell.

“He’s been putting up numbers consistently all year long and considering that it is his first year with us, that’s been impressive,” Powell said. “He’s accepted his role as they guy that we need to go to and he’s been comfortable with that. Judson is just a natural scorer.”

Dillard relied on his constant energy and hustle to outwork Pebblebrook for scores around the basket. He’s a tough player to defend and Dillard said he doesn’t want to miss a beat any time he’s on the floor.

“When it gets down to crunch time, I want to be in position to make a play. I think that’s what happens when you play hard all the time. Your teammates trust you,” Dillard said. “I’m going to try and play hard all the time. There are 32 minutes in a game and I want to make sure I’m playing hard in every one of those.”

Westlake relied on it’s depth and offensive balance. Javaris Bryant scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Jordan Brown, a junior guard, scored 10 points off the bench.

Westlake will play Riverdale on Friday at 5:30 in the semi-finals. Newnan will play Creekside at 8:30 in the other semi-final.


There are still a number of talented unsigned/uncommitted seniors in the state that coaches need to lay some eyes on.

J.J. Mann, Marist – The 6-6 forward had a monster night in a 71-50 win over Southwest DeKalb. Mann scored 31 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in the win that locked Marist into the state playoffs. The game before, Mann pumped in 31 points and 15 rebounds against North Springs.

Westley Hinton, Providence – Had a wow game against Greenforest Christian at the 7-A region tournament. The 6-8 big man put on a show in a tough defeat. His best basketball is ahead of him.

Blaise White, Lassiter – The complete competitor. The 5-8 point guard led his Trojans into several battles, set the tone with his hard-nosed play each and every night and earned the respect of basketball purists in Atlanta this season.

Ryan LeGates, Blessed Trinity – Always playing with great confidence and craftiness, the 6-2 senior has the Titans playing well once again. Try this number on: BT is 69-15 since LeGates sophomore year.

Tony Dukes, Morrow – The 6-foot shooting guard had his right wrist taped up and that limited his effectiveness. So what do good players do when faced with adversity? You make good with what you have. Dukes shot the ball with his left hand in the second half against Westlake. Gritty effort with a number of coaches watching.

Derek Zittaruer, South Forsyth – Nice effort against Northview, defending, scoring simple plays, running the floor and leading by example.

Obviously there are several other players out there worth mentioning. I’ll see a number of other seniors of note this week, including a four-game slate at Lithia Springs.


Alpharetta High School will be punched into quite a few GPS systems this weekend. The action at the school right off Georgia 400 will be the place to be on Friday and Saturday.

Wheeler will play Milton at 6 p.m. on Friday. Walton will play Centennial immediately after. The winners will then play each other on Saturday at 7:30 for the 6-AAAAA region title. Between the four teams, there are at least 15 Division I players in the games. That’s impressive.


- One very trusted source at the Dublin-Jefferson County game said the Irish are an absolute buzzsaw. Dublin won by a landslide thanks to the sharp-shooting of Sherrard Brantley, one of the top unsigned seniors in the state, Rashard Smith (a NC State football signee) and junior big man Tawaski King.

- Central Macon junior guard Matt Brabham knows how important this time of year is. The top scorer in Macon lived up to his reputation and scored 40 points in a 62-60 win over Southwest on Wednesday night.

"I just had this adrenaline rush and went into killer instinct mode,” Brabham told Jonathan Heeter of the Macon Telegraph after the game. “It’s just about having that belief that you aren’t going home. This is the postseason, and my team needed me. So I brought a little killer instinct.”

- South Atlanta center and all-world senior Derrick Favors is the lone Georgian on the 2009 McDonald’s All-American game. He will play on the East team. The game is on April 1 in Miami, Florida.

- Clemson freshman and former Wesleyan star Tanner Smith was featured on on Wednesday. Dana O'Neil penned a great story on Smith, who is one of the class act kids in the country.

- Marietta beat Cherokee, the No. 2 seed in the 5-AAAAA tournament, at home on Wednesday night. Paced by the speed and defense of senior guard Chris Tanzy, the Blue Devils will now play in the state tournament next week as the No. 7 seed in it’s region tournament.

- North Cobb beat South Cobb. Hillgrove makes it look easy against Rome. Harrison rolls past Kennesaw Mountain. Milton's youth knocks out Lassiter's experience and toughness. It's a shame that two teams from region 6-AAAAA won't make the state playoffs. Whitefield rolls through Walker.

Brookwood back in the state playoffs on a last second shot from Taylor Mann. Welcome to the state playoffs, Mill Creek. Peachtree Ridge is one step closer to the region finals. Collins Hill, Athens Christian and Loganville all move on.

- Johnson wins on a last second shot from Region POY Jareal Smith and Groves moves on. Camden County wins in overtime over Windsor-Forest.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quick hitters from Tuesday's action


The Greenforest-Providence game was supposed to be the best game on the four game slate at Wesleyan on Tuesday at the 7-A region tournament. And it certainly was.

Paced by the 17 second half points from Region 7-A player of the year Jamel Jones (pictured), Greenforest held off a pesky Providence team for a 72-57 win. Greenforest is now guaranteed a spot in the class A state playoffs.

Jones hit a big three in the left corner with 2:30 to play to help give Greenforest the eventual lead. The 6-5 junior said he did not want to make the trip back to Decatur without the win and the punched ticket for the state playoff.

“We felt like we had to go out there and prove to ourselves and everyone else that we are good enough to be in the state tournament. We didn’t do that last year and we lost in the same round and just missed out. We didn’t want to go out early again,” Jones said.

“We had to dig deep and calm ourselves down but, at the same time, play Greenforest basketball.”

Jones finished with a game high 23 points.

While Jones and fellow junior Joe Chase (16 points) had it rolling, it was the play of Providence’s Westley Hinton that had the gym talking. The 6-7 senior had a dazzling game, scoring 22 points on 10 of 13 shooting from the floor.

Hinton made four straight buckets in the fourth quarter and challenged Greenforest in the paint time and time again. He was dazzling in defeat. Hinton also ripped down 11 rebounds, blocked five shots and handed out four assists.


Paideia cruised past Mt. Pisgah 49-30 to move into the final four of the 7-A region tournament. Sophomore E. Victor Nickerson led the way with 14 points.

The Pythons will play Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy on Friday. ECLA beat St. Francis 64-55 in overtime to advance.

Wesleyan beat W.D. Mohammad 60-55 thanks to 30 points from sophomore Andrew Frerking, who hit eight of nine three-pointers in the victory. Wesleyan will play Greenforest on Friday.


Meadowcreek’s Thomas Hines hit a huge three-pointer with less than 15 seconds left to play from the left corner to give the Mustangs the go ahead score in a back-and-forth game. Meadowcreek won 54-49 despite giving up a number of three-pointers to Parkview.

Jarvis Brown led Meadowcreek with 21 points. Rachard Lofton was huge down the stretch for Parkview, scoring on a driving lay-up and hitting a deep three to keep the game tied.


The 2009 McDonald’s All-American team will be announced on Wednesday at 6 p.m. EST on ESPNU. South Atlanta’s Derrick Favors will be one of the announced players for this year’s team. The game will be held April 1 in Miami, Florida.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Georgia Hoops: Region Tournament Schedules

Forget March. The madness begins now. The region tournaments tip off on Monday across Georgia.

We will update this link regularly with tournament information.

Region 8-AAAAA
Region 7-AAAAA
Region 6-AAAAA
Region 5-AAAAA
Region 4-AAAAA
Region 3-AAAAA

Region 7-AAAA
Region 6-AAAA
Region 5-AAAA
Region 2-AAAA
Region 1-AAAA

Region 7-AAA
Region 5-AAA
Region 4-AAA
Region 3-AAA
Region 2-AAA

Region 7-AA
Region 6-AA
Region 5-AA
Region 4-AA
Region 3-AA
Region 2-AA
Region 1-AA

Region 7-A
Region 3-A
Region 2-A
Region 1-A

If you have a bracket for a region tournament, please email it to

Notes from the Notepad: Feb. 17


After a blowout win against Lovejoy last Friday night, Westlake senior Javaris Bryant was the last player on his team to make it into the locker room. He casually strolled to the back door, took a couple of last pictures inside the new, spacious Westlake gym, hugged some well-wishers and eventually exited the floor.

You can’t blame him for staying on the court. The Bethune-Cookman bound senior has found great comfort on that court. He has found great comfort within the walls of Westlake High School. He has found great comfort from the people that hold the thread of the school together since his freshman year.

Sure, one of the reasons why he is so well liked at the school is because he is the most valuable player on a loaded basketball team and one of the most undervalued players in the state. That is one of the reasons why so many people wished him the best after Senior Night last Friday.

But the 6-5 forward’s memories will certainly run deeper than any box score of night filled with balloons or special ceremonies. Two years ago, the school and the people inside of it were all that he had.

Two years ago, Bryant buried his mother.

“This means a lot to me,” Bryant said after he walked off the floor and into a back hallway leading to the locker room. “I was really trying hard not to get emotional. This is my family. They were with me when my mom passed away. I went through some tough times but they were always there. Always.”

Bryant’s eyes drifted away into thought. You knew where his mind was going.

So did Westlake head coach Darron Rogers.

“The reason why he gets so emotional is because he has had so much success in that gym. He hit the game-winning shot against Newnan. He’s been the guy to pound his chest and life up his teammates. He’s been very emotional this whole season because I think he really feels blessed,” Rogers said.

Bryant’s story will have a happy ending. He’s been fantastic all season long and he should play major minutes as a freshman at Bethune-Cookman. He is so talented that he should be an all-conference level player for the MEAC team.


Chattahoochee was up quite a bit in the first half against Duluth but saw it’s lead diminish in a quick hurry in the second quarter and eventually won 69-62 in overtime.

Senior guard Hajj Waldman turned it up late in the fourth quarter with two big three-pointers and two huge assists, one that was a three-pointer from A.J. Hobbs to help the Cougars advance in the 7-AAAAA region tournament.

Duluth made it a game with a first half 23-2 run but freshman forward Jaron Blossomgame’s 14 points and 12 rebounds were a difference maker along with Waldman’s strong play in the fourth.

South Forsyth won a slowed down game against Northview 40-33 thanks to the controlled tempo and senior leadership inside from Derek Zittrauer.

The 6-8 senior scored 10 points, blocked five shots and grabbed five rebounds but moreover, he held Northview’s talented freshman Kyle Meyer to two points and bucket-less from the field.

Scribble notes

- The Westlake-Jalen Kendrick relationship didn’t even last a full year. The talented 6-5 wing was suspended for two games two weeks ago and with his injuries, he decided to make the suspension last the full season. He and the team split ways officially. Kendrick remains a student at Westlake but several sources say he is looking at other options. Norcross was mentioned as was Findlay in Nevada, Montverde in Florida and a handful of prep schools in New England.

- If you haven’t seen the online dunk contest yet on, check it out. Pretty cool. But I would like to bet Westlake’s Marcus Thornton would like to have his replaced with this monster he threw down against Lovejoy last Friday.

- Redan head coach Dalton Greene is no longer the head coach of his team. According to sources, he resigned from his post due to unspecified public reasons.

- Former Griffin head coach Ferris Qualls suddenly passed away last week. He was one of the true gentlemen of the game.

- Lorenzo Brown scored his 2,000th point last week in his final game at Centennial last week.

- I've released my top 25 prospects across the country for the class of 2010 on my other blog, the National Hoops Report.