Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Watson-Gayle pours in the threes and Benedict tops Augusta in Columbia

Jelani Watson-Gayle scored 18 points on 7-8 shooting (4-5 from three) in Benedict"a win.

Dimitri Cook's three point play with 3 seconds remaining broke a 79 all tie and proved to be enough to finish an 83-79 home win for Benedict College over non-conference rival Augusta University.

The Tigers were paced by former Georgia Bulldog Brandon Morris, who scored 23 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Cairo Brown added 21. The Jaguars were led by senior Tamyrik Fields (23 points and 8 rebounds), Tyvez Monroe (20 points), and Mikkel Kolstad (14 points and 9 assists).

Full Game Highlights

Benedict's fantastic freshman Jelani Watson-Gayle continued a hot start to his college career by scoring 18 points and making all but 1 shot. His inside hand layup past Augusta's Monroe with 2:31 remaining gave the Tigers a "cushion" (as Jelani called it in his post game interview below) that was enough to set up Cook's dramatic finish.

Augusta clawed back even after Watson-Gayle's bucket as Deane Williams (10 points) nailed a pair of free throws and put back a miss by Fields to tie the game at 79 with less than 30 seconds remaining.

Augusta's home opener is Saturday at 4:00 against Bowie State

Both teams play again Saturday. Augusta (2-2) hosts Bowie State at 4:00 in the season's first home game. The Tigers travel to SIAC opponent Lemoyne-Owen.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Laney tips off season and starts the journey from being a champion... to becoming a dynasty

Laney’s Lady Wildcats opened the 2017-18 season Monday with a 79-43 win over Greenbrier at Glenn Hills. Jaiden Hamilton scored 21 points and made 5 three pointers. De'sha Benjamin and Jhessyka Williams each added 18.

AugBball’s special student reporter Robert Drew was there to capture the highlights for the season debut of the prohibitive favorite to repeat as class AA’s state champion:

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t label a team as the favorite to win a state title on the first day of the season. But Laney is no ordinary team. Seniors De’sha Benjamin, who recently signed with Alabama, and Jhessyka Williams have won two state titles in three seasons under coach Otis Smart. Williams will almost certainly join Benjamin on the college basketball scene next season. When she does, we will look back at the four year run that current Clemson star Aliyah Collier (Laney ‘2015) started, and realize that every single player who played major minutes on those state title teams (whether the number of titles will stand at 2 or 3 after March) all will have become college basketball players.

To show proof, I give you the list of Lady Wildcats playing college basketball from Laney’s historic 3 year run:

Aliyah Collier (‘15) - Clemson
Gemiya Bowman (‘16) - Albany State
Jazmin Holmon (‘16) - Mississippi Valley State
Aubriana Bonner (‘17) - Alabama A&M
Jasmine Bartlett (‘17) - Savannah State
De’sha Benjamin (‘18) - Alabama

Monday night began coach Smart’s squad’s attempt to do what is unprecedented in our area: win 3 state titles in 4 seasons. Because this program is so exceptional and so extraordinary, I will continue to give the squad a label I wouldn’t give any other team before this season:* the prohibitive favorite to win a state title. Again.

And here’s another label the ladies from the Boulevard deserve without question: Dynasty.

Let’s enjoy the ride as the Lady Wildcats attempt to make area basketball history.

*I was careful to say I wouldn’t call any other team besides Laney a prohibitive favorite to win a state title before *this* particular season because, as the most die hard girls hoops fans know, there is one more local team that deserves the same label as Laney. But I’ll talk much more about that team when it officially tips off in the coming week.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Lakeside scored nearly 200 in season's first 2 games behind lights out shooting of Kalen Williams, Tyshon Briscoe and company

Sophomore Tyshon Briscoe made 8 of 14 3 pt FGs in Lakeside's first 2 games.

The Panthers are probably still scoring points Sunday judging from the way Jeff Williams’s squad put the ball in the hoop in two dominating wins at the Wolfpack Tip-off Challenge. Lakeside averaged 97 ppg in victories over Augusta Christian (109-82) and Josey (84-77).

Junior star Kalen Williams posted eye popping numbers in the wins, scoring 34 and 40 points while making 28 of 39 field goal attempts.

The dynamo posted 30 points in the first half alone Saturday when Lakeside took a 57-31 lead over Josey at the break.

Tyshon Briscoe, a sophomore, and Tucker Gilbert, a 6’6” junior, also shined. Briscoe tallied 33 points in the two outings, making 8 of 14 threes. And Gilbert recorded 25 points and 23 rebounds.

Lakeside (2-0) will face Statesboro Friday (7:00 PM) and Richmond Saturday (8:00 PM) in a Thanksgiving tournament at Paine College. The Panthers are coming off the best season in school history (21-5 overall and 13-0 in region play). Many wonder if coach Williams's 2017-18 team can be as good as last year's region championship group. After seeing the game against Josey, I will be surprised if the new Lakeside Panthers don't prove themselves to be much improved.

Greenbrier poured in the threes against Augusta Christian and started the season 3-0

Richard Crawford makes the first of eight Greenbrier threes in a 4:30 time span.

The Wolfpack started fast with 3 wins in the season's first week, beginning with a 61-34 victory over Harlem, which was followed by back-to-back wins over #4 ranked (Georgia’s class AA) Josey (59-49) and Augusta Christian (79-52) in the Wolfpack Tip-off Challenge.

Leading returning scorers Austin Canaday and Richard Crawford III drained a combined 10 threes in the win against Augusta Christian, including 7 bombs in a 4:30 spurt in which the Wolfpack used a 27-0 run to put away the Lions.

Coach Casey Heckathorn was as impressed with the Wolfpack's three point barrage as I.

"That was ridiculous. Our kids couldn't even sit down on the bench. I've never been part of a run like that!" Heckathorn said in a message Sunday.

Canaday led the Wolfpack with 22 points against Augusta Christian and Crawford added 18. The duo has scored in double figures in each of the first three games. And Heckathorn has been pleased with the play of frontline players like junior Justin Stevens, who scored 13 points Saturday.

"Stevens is slowly emerging. He is crazy athletic! You need to see him in dunk contest at (this weekend's Thanksgiving tournament)," said Greenbrier's coach.

The Wolfpack will face two tough teams this weekend at the Thanksgiving tournament at Paine. Friday's (3:30 PM) opponent, Glenn Hills, was ranked #7 in class AA by the AJC. And Saturday's foe, Laney, claimed the #4 spot in the same poll.

Dunlop impresses and Augusta Christian hangs tough, for stretches, against Lakeside and Greenbrier

Nate Dunlop scored 65 points in 2 Wolfpack Challenge Tip-off games.

The Lions, led by 6’5” junior scoring phenom Nate Dunlop, competed fiercely and evenly against two impressive teams, Lakeside and Greenbrier, in both Wolfpack Tip-off Challenge games last weekend. At least until the 40 point mark in both games. Lakeside pulled away from a 41-40 stalemate to hang 109 on AC despite 39 points from Dunlop. And after Dunlop’s 3 point play with 2:31 remaining in the third against Greenbrier gave the Lions a 41-37 advantage Saturday night, the Wolfpack went on a 27-0 burst, and AC fell to 1-2.

Dunlop, who averaged 28 ppg last season, is more versatile than any area high school player I’ve seen here in quite some time. He is certainly the area’s top post player and that is not even his primary position. He works hard to get position, he has sure hands, he draws fouls and finishes through contact, and he grabs tough rebounds.

On the perimeter he has a pure stroke from distance, and he handles and passes the ball extremely well. Like his inside play, his play away from the basket is as good as anybody’s within short driving distance.

Nate scored 39 and 26 points Friday and Saturday, overshadowed only slightly by Lakeside’s Kalen Williams’s 74 in two wins. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Today's AugBball Schedule

Today’s local hoops schedule:

High school games on the AugBball radar:

Baldwin​ vs Johnson (Savannah at Evans
- According to the AJC​, Baldwin is the #4 team in GA’s class AAAA and Johnson is #4 in AAA

Laney vs Savannah at Evans
- Laney is #5 in AAA

Lakeside vs Josey at Greenbrier

Augusta Christian at Greenbrier

College games on the AugBball radar:

Charleston Southern​ at USC Upstate on ESPN2
- Preseason Big South Conference​ first team pick Christian Keeling will make his 2017-18 debut in this one!

Augusta University​ at West Georgia
- The Jaguars will aim to improve to 3-0. Coach Dip Metress’s squad has 5 players averaging double figures after 2 games.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Previews for the 3 HS tip-off tournament games featured Friday at AugBball: Baldwin-Flora, Lakeside-AC, and Greenbrier-Josey

Kalen Williams (left) and Nate Dunlop (right), 2 of the area's best, meet tonight at Greenbrier

For Friday’s live highlights and updates from Greenbrier’s Wolfpack Tip-off Challenge and Evans’ Hoopfest Tip-off, follow the following @AugBball channels:

@AugBball on Facebook
@AugBball on Instagram
@AugBball on Twitter

Friday at the Evans Hoopfest Tip-off

Baldwin vs AC Flora at Evans at 5:30

- Buck Harris’ Braves are the defending region champs and are ranked #4 in the AJC’s preseason class AAAA rankings as well as 4th on my preseason list of this area’s best teams.

Friday at Greenbrier’s Wolfpack Tip-Off Challenge

Lakeside vs Augusta Christian at Greenbrier at 7:00

- Lakeside went 21-6 in coach Jeff Williams’ first head coaching season, complete with a 13-0 league record and the school’s first ever region championship. The Panthers return junior star Kalen Williams and a good mix of returnees and newcomers.

- Augusta Christian is finally able to play Georgia’s public schools and 6’5” 210 pound junior guard Nate Dunlop is the area’s top returning scorer and probably the top player entering the season. Dunlop averaged 28 ppg and shot 38% from 3 last season.

Josey at Greenbrier at 8:30

- Josey clocked in as the #4 ranked class AAAA team in the AJC’s poll to go nicely with the Eagles’ final 4 finish last March. Rodriguez Daggett will lead the Eagles who I hope are eager to prove me wrong for not putting them on my preseason area top 10 list.

Austin Canaday: Sr, Greenbrier

- Greenbrier’s Austin Canaday and Richard Crawford make for a dangerous backcourt. The Wolfpack will try to improve to 2-0 tonight after beating Harlem soundly Wednesday.

Last season tipped off when Crawford and Laney’s Donald Henley Jr. dueled in Friday’s Wolfpack Challenge night cap game:

In a recent text interview, Greenbrier coach Casey Heckathorn told me about the great relationships and matchups that the Challenge has fostered over its 3 year history and the neat addition of Augusta Christian:

We love having both Laney and Josey and have great relationships and cross rivals with those schools now. We did draw Laney for another tournament so we’re happy for that.

With Laney out this year and the opportunity to include private schools we thought ACS was a great fit as their fan base and population is greatly based out of the lakeside and greenbrier zones. There’s a lot of interest in them proving themselves against public schools. We thought it was a good fit.

Sounds like a great fit and a great night of area high school hoops!