The Harlem Bulldogs were recently pegged as Georgia's 9th best team in class AA. I thought before the season that the Bulldogs could make a deep run in the state playoffs simply because Florida Gulf Coast bound Reggie Reid is a very good player who can overpower many of his opponents with his speed and athleticism. The Bulldogs now take a 12-1 record into the holidays and coach Kim Chambers team has yet to lose with Reid on the floor. But Chambers and the Harlem faithful have also benefited from something I view as a surprise: the emergence of senior Torien Beard. The athletic guard with a nice shooting touch has not posted the gaudy stats his more heralded teammate has, but he gives the Bulldogs another matchup problem on the perimeter. He doesn't need to be the focus of the offense to make an impact as he scores in all ways: in transition, off the offensive glass, catching and shooting from deep, and driving to the rim. This provides a great complement to Reid, who can always be relied on to create easy shots for himself and others.
But when called upon, Beard is ready. Example: Friday's come-from-behind 63-61 win over county rival Grovetown. Beard scored the team's last 9 points, helping the Bulldogs overcome an 11 point deficit in the game's final three minutes. With the win, Harlem, long an also ran in the county, finished a 7-1 run over the past 60 days versus AAAA rivals Lakeside, Evans, Greenbrier, and Grovetown. The only loss (to Greenbrier) came in Reid's absence.
Beard played his best when his teammates needed him most, scoring 9 of his 17 points in the final 3 minutes. He also did it in style. His shooting stroke is simple and smooth. He makes a high percentage of his threes, and he has a knack for making touch shots on the move. These are shots he is able to get pretty easily because of his exceptional athleticism. See his late game spurt here:
Before Beard's heroics, Reid kept Harlem close by never letting his foot off the gas offensively. Contrary to what I saw in the win against Lakeside, he attacked on virtually every possession and forced Grovetown to foul him frequently. Harlem will need this kind of resolve if the Bulldogs are to go deep in post season play. Reid led all scorers Friday with 26 points.
Grovetown has long been a team dominated by its now trio of seniors: Logan Morris, Solomon Gause, and Kenny Joseph. Morris has all the tools, including a deep shot and the ability to beat defenders off the dribble and score with floaters and at the free throw line. Gause and Joseph struggled to keep possession down the stretch against Harlem's pressure. But they both can score the ball. These three will need to learn to lead a winning team in upcoming region play as they enter the end of their high school basketball tenure together. See them here: