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tournament highlights compiled by Jimmi
By Jimmie Haywood
The GSHA State Basketball Tournament commenced this past weekend with a condensed schedule. The ice storms that disrupted the region tournaments have pushed the state tourney into a four rounds in nine days format. Luckily, for many local teams the season is still alive after the first round.
The Patriot season lives on after the Sandy Creek boys team turned back visiting Dalton by a final score of 67-40.
“Dalton came out hard and it took us a little while to adjust to them,” said Sandy Creek coach Willie Reese. “I really think our defensive effort was the difference.”
Javon Jackson came of the Patriot bench and scored a game-high 18 points, which included four three pointers. Brandon Lindsey (13), Allen Lee (11) and Jarina Smith (10) also scored in double figures for Sandy Creek.
“We executed and played defense like coach said and we got steals and easy buckets,” said Jackson. “We just got to keep going, and playing good defense -- and hopefully I’ll stay hot like I was today.”
Sandy Creek travels to Gainesville to face Johnson, which has four players that score over 10 points per game, led by forward James Hodges who alone averages 20.5 points a contest.
“We’re starting to put it all together, but we’re not quite there yet,” Reese said. “When we can just clamp down and just shut teams down (which is what we can do) then we will really be dangerous.”
Tiger basketball represented in a big way as both Fayette County teams advanced. The boys did it after blowing past Gilmer by a final score of 76-55.
Chaz Berry led the way for the Tigers with 19 points, CJ Johnson followed up with 18 points, and Dante’ Sterling chipped in with 14 points.
Gilmer jumped out early but Fayette quickly took control of the game. The Tigers led 35-24 at the half, and pulled away even further in the third quarter going up 61-40 en route to victory.
They traveled to face Columbia in the second round on Tuesday night. It would be a rematch of the 2008 state title game which was won by Columbia 69-93.
“They have a couple of big guys about 6’6" that we gotta prepare for,” said Tigers assistant coach Earl Caruthers. “But we are just going to have to go in there and play hard and see what the best way is to take them out.”
The Lady Tigers advanced after plowing through Heritage in round one and Grady in round two to set up an Elite Eight meeting at Redan.
McIntosh's basketball season will continue after the boys hosted Lakeside and came away with a 69-53 victory. It was the first home playoff game in school history for the boys.
“I thought we played with a lot of poise throughout, which is good because we haven’t always done that this season,” said McIntosh coach Jason Eisele.
Jordan Lyons led the way for the McIntosh with 24 points (19 in the first half), as the Chiefs went up early in the game and never trailed.
Eisele’s team will now travel to Northside, Columbus for its’ second round contest
“They are a tough draw for us,” said Eisele. “They have a 6’9" sophomore who is the real deal and they have little more athleticism than Lakeside did. It will be a different type of game for us, but we will be prepared.”
The Starr’s Mill girls rounded out the list of round one winners after narrowly escaping from Grovetown with a 39-38 win.
“We did’t shoot the ball that well but we played pretty good defense,” said Lady Panthers coach Shane Ratliff. “We got lucky there at the end of the game too.”
Danielle Garcia played the entire game for the Lady Panthers and finished with a team-high15 points, but none were more important than the free throw that put her team up for good. Starr’s Mill sophomore Riley Clark nailed a three pointer to tie the game at 38 with 30 seconds left. With 5.8 seconds left and the score still tied, Starr’s Mill’s Katie Wilson put up a shot that missed and was rebounded by Garcia who was fouled on the putback attempt with 2.8 seconds left on the clock. After Garcia hit one of two free throws, the Panthers managed to hold off a final shot attempt by Grovetown for the win.
The win set Starr’s Mill up for a road game at Effingham in the Sweet 16.
“We’re just going to have to go down there and play the best game we possibly can because they are a good team,” Ratliff said. “They are guard heavy and so are we so I think we matchup pretty well with them.”
The Sandy Creek girls basketball season ended after losing to River Edge by a final score of 55-44.
Jasmine Jones had a team-high 16 points for Sandy Creek, but, after leading by two at halftime, the Lady Patriots eventually were overcome by River Edge’s size (6’ Ally Sakharov and 6’2" Jessica Alaska) and ability to control the rebounds in the second half.
“I thought we battled well,” said Lady Patriots coach Elmer Williams. “But we eventually had to foul at the end and they hit their free throws.”
Sandy Creek overcame a lot to make it to the state playoffs after losing five key members from their state title team from last year.
“We returned only two players with any varsity experience so I feel like we did a really good job,” said Williams. “We’re are in a tough region and to deal with that plus the slew of injuries we had to our better players, I think it was a really good make it to the state playoffs.”
The Whitewater boys also saw their season conclude after falling to Warner Robins by a final of 60-47.
Despite the loss, Wildcats center and player of year candidate Philip Cofer made major noise when he threw down a monstrous dunk that brought down the rim with Whitewater leading by four in the second quarter.
After the 10 minute delay to repair the goal, the momentum all but left the Wildcats although they managed a 19-18 lead at halftime. In the second half, the Wildcats could not manage a perimeter shot as Cofer was double and triple teamed.
“They let us shoot and we could not score,” said Whitewater coach Mark Fisher.
Whitewater was hot to end the regular season with four straight wins as they entered the region tournament as a top seed, but after the snow delayed the first round of the tournament the Wildcats lost much of their steam.
“The last three games after that snow stoppage we couldn’t score . We couldn’t throw it in the ocean,” Fisher said. “I know from coaching that kids are all about routine and when the snow came and we couldn’t practice and games change we got out of routine and we never recovered.”
This year's Whitewater team lost three seniors from last year and on top of that it was Fisher’s first year ever coaching basketball. Despite all that remained theyformidable.
“I thought overall we did quite well,” said Fisher. “We had some really good wins and I chose a difficult schedule and to come out with 18 wins and go to the state tournament was satisfying.”