|Josey will try to even its region record tonight versus Westside|
But the focus of today’s “region roundup” is to inform about the teams in the AugBball coverage universe not named Laney or Butler. I won’t see these games first hand. But I will look forward to learning the results and factoring them into the ongoing “region race” leading to postseason play.
Washington County (2-1) at Glenn Hills (1-3)
In a recent win over Josey, Washington County looked formidable, scoring 44 second half points and allowing only 41 in the game’s final 28 minutes (or right after dynamo Darius Williams gave Josey an almost instant 13-2 lead with a game opening scoring barrage). Coach Carlos Hope’s team, as currently constructed with its football players now in basketball uniforms, gives a different look than the team that lost at home to Butler in December.
The Golden Eagles will take their 2-1 region record on the road to Glenn Hills (1-3) Friday in what could easily be called a “trap game,” as the Spartans are much better than their record indicates. Glenn Hills’ region schedule has been brutal early. Its three losses, on the road at Butler and Josey and at home to Laney, would trip up all but the very best teams. The temporary loss of senior Zi Cook to a wrist injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. But the Spartans still have plenty of fight left, as they proved in nearly winning at Josey Tuesday. Coach McRae’s teams always compete. And I expect his guys to fiercely defend their home court Friday.
Westside (0-3) at Josey (1-2)
Josey is a good team. Its 1-2 region record is misleading because the two losses came against two of the state’s top teams, Butler and Washington County. And the latter was on the road. The Eagles will look to start its first streak of region wins, following Tuesday’s victory over Glenn Hills, in which scoring machine Darius Williams poured in 37 points. But Josey’s success is about more than only Williams. The team applies pressure all over the court and attacks with confidence.
Despite a slow start, Westside may be positioned to handle that pressure and get its first region win in a hostile environment Friday. Laney coach Buck Harris recently told me Patriot sophomore Christian Robinson did a particularly good job handling the Wildcats’ pressure. Robinson has averaged over 16 points per game in the past four contests and junior Demontrez Hawes played his first game since mid December Tuesday. I haven’t seen the Patriots play in person this season. But I’ve expected them to be competitive in the area’s best region. It is not too late to get started.
Cross Creek (2-0) at Evans (1-1)
I’ve thought about calling this region “the place for new beginnings.” Only Grovetown entered region play with a winning record. So far only Cross Creek has taken full advantage of the clean slate by winning at Grovetown Saturday, and at home against Greenbrier Tuesday. Seniors Mickell Berry and Shandon Coleman have have scored a combined average of 37 ppg in region play. And sophomore Artis Chapman has been very valuable in many ways.
The Razorbacks’ opponent Friday, Evans, will attempt to win its second consecutive game for the first time this season, following up on an important win over Lakeside Tuesday. The Knights shouldn’t be counted out as coach Kenny’s program has enjoyed more consistent success throughout the past several years than any team in region 5A. A win at home Friday, and a 2-1 start to region competition, would be a great start to Evans’ new beginning in this new year.
Grovetown (1-1) at Greenbrier (0-2)
Grovetown aims to improve to 2-1 after dropping an important home game to Cross Creek and rebounding to steal one on the road at Richmond Tuesday. I didn’t see the game at Richmond, but I believe the Warriors relied far too much on perimeter shooting in its loss last Saturday. Seniors Solomon Gause, Logan Morris, and Kenny Joseph can all score, especially attacking the paint. Getting high percentage looks will need to be part of any plan to get a road win over a hungry Wolfpack squad.
Greenbrier’s 0-2 start may be an aberration. The team led Lakeside in overtime with 4 seconds remaining before a banked-in three changed its fortunes. And one half of the Wolfpack’s dangerous guard combo, Jakob Nelson, was banged up and seated for most of the second half of Tuesday’s loss at Cross Creek. Justen Hartfield and Nelson will need to be in good form for Greenbrier to get its first win against its county rival Friday.
Richmond Academy (1-1) at Lakeside (1-1)
I once believed these would be the region’s two best teams. It is early and that may still come to be. I was surprised to learn both lost Tuesday. I thought Lakeside’s momentum from Saturday’s win and its chemistry, which I attribute at least in part to senior point guard BJ Raymond, would carry the Panthers to a 2-0 start. And like Lakeside, Richmond has an impressive inside-outside mix that should put the Musketeers in position to challenge for the regular season region title.
But one of these teams will exit Friday’s game with a 1-2 record. I’ll be interested in knowing whether the famed Lakeside student section is present and rowdy for this crucial contest. That group made a huge difference in region contests when Lakeside’s region was exclusively Columbia County schools. Hopefully they will cheer their classmates along now that the region includes teams from across town.
Screven County at Harlem (1-1) and Harlem at Dublin (Saturday)
Harlem is the only region 2A team I track. I said in episode 1 of "Region Race 2015" I believed Harlem would win its region and advance deep into the state playoffs. A friend who probably knows the intimate details of 2A ball better than me recently questioned my enthusiasm for the Bulldogs' prospects. Maybe he was on to something.
Harlem was beaten 73-49 by Swainsboro Tuesday in its first game since mid December. Harlem should bounce back quickly Friday night versus winless Screven County. But waiting for them Saturday is a Metter team that has scored 491 points in the past five games. For those without calculators or speedy mental math skills, that is more than 98 points per game!
Lincoln County at Aquinas (2-1)
Here's a quick rant. The GHSA and its members have very much ruined the single A classification. Apparently public and private school teams compete in the same region during the regular season and the region tournament. The two types of teams are then separated and seeded in distinct state tournaments in an attempt to "level the playing field." So what to make of the fact that Aquinas is 2-1 in region play, 1-1 versus public schools after being upended by undefeated Hancock County, and 1-0 versus private schools after beating Georgia Military? I suppose that is a good record because the Irish haven't lost to a private school team. But does that mean Saturday's game against Lincoln County (public school) doesn't matter as much as it would were they a private school? As usual, making rules to appease complainers have made things worse for everybody interested. Or at least for me, a fan.
That said, I look forward to seeing if this young Aquinas group can develop fast enough within the next 6-8 weeks to give Hancock, who beat Aquinas by 30 last week, a run before the state tournament.
Augusta Christian (0-0) at Ben Lippen
Because Augusta Christian is the defending state champion of the South Carolina Independent School Association, and because the team is every but as talented this year as last, I have assumed the Lions would be the consensus favorites to repeat. After playing a strong non region schedule, coach John Harris' team will attempt to start that process Friday on the road at Ben Lippen.
The Lions may have our area's best inside attack. They certainly have the biggest frontline with the most potential. 6'9" senior Calvin Taylor is joined by 6'6" freshman Isaiah Kelly, who is long, athletic, and quite skilled for his size and age. But my favorite thing about Isaiah is that he seems to be a certified gym rat. I think he is in more gyms than I!
Alleluia (0-0) at Nathaniel Greene
The Angels returned from a long layoff only to lose a second half lead and fall to Sports Academy South, the same team that beat Alleluia in the last game before the holidays. But coach Dennis McBride's team is still poised to have possibly its best season ever. And Friday's game at Nathaniel Greene, it's first GICAA region contest, is the first chance Alleluia has to start its journey towards post season success.