Monday, January 12, 2015

Region Roundup - Jan 13 edition

We have a jump ball at the top of the local region 5A standings as four teams (Evans, Grovetown, Cross Creek and Richmond) all enter Tuesday's round of league games with records of 2-1.  One of the two hottest teams is Evans.  Senior guard Kameron Mason is back on the roster and coach Kevin Kenny's team has won two straight, at Lakeside last Tuesday and at home against then unbeaten (in region play) Cross Creek Saturday.  Coach Kenny credits his team's ability to win close games (the Knights beat Lakeside by 7 and Cross Creek by 5) to the difficult lessons his players learned while losing 8 non conference games by 4 points or less before the new year.

The Knights visit the region's other surging team, Grovetown, which after dropping a home game to Cross Creek has since defeated Richmond and Greenbrier on the road.  The Warriors had great crowd support when Cross Creek visited.  I sure hope the Grovetown and Evans student sections suit up and make themselves heard in Tuesday's duel for a share of the lead in the 5A standings.

The Grovetown student section at a home game in 2013

Richmond Academy and Cross Creek will attempt to retain their shares of the lead in league's standings as each visits a team reeling in many ways.  Greenbrier, losers of a heart breaker to Lakeside and a second half lead at Cross Creek, is closer to winning than its record indicates.  Coach Casey Heckathorn's team will look to knock Richmond off its stride and begin a climb up the standings.  But Richmond's size will pose a challenge to Greenbrier's guard oriented attack.

Speaking of contrasting styles, I credited Cross Creek's initial two region wins to its perimeter scoring.  But coach Carlos Carter tells me his Razorbacks made only 3 of 24 three point attempts in its loss at Evans Friday.  His guys will need to get into the paint to play well enough to win at Lakeside.  After all, perimeter players can score near and at the rim.  And the good ones do!

6'9" Panther center Jake Gilbert will be waiting.  But to use that as an excuse not to attack would be playing to Lakeside's strength.  Coach Jody Hilley received a blow last week as senior point guard BJ Raymond apparently decided not to play any longer.  But I won't underestimate the Panthers.  Guards Kre'sean Hall, Luke Harmon and Za Banks can all make plays, and they deliberately feed Gilbert near the rim.  A good combination for sure.

Region 3A

My Minecraft-loving sons may call last Friday's Laney-Butler duel for the first place slot in the region 3A standings an "epic battle."  I tested the phrase "battle on the Boulevard."  But no matter the name, I submit it as the first in hopefully a long list of "instant classics" from local 3A region teams.  I spent a good bit of time and virtual ink on what I termed "Class 3A Week."  Laney's convincing victories over #2 (statewide) Jenkins at home and #5 (statewide) Morgan County on the road were impressive to say the least.  But its defense of its homecourt and its undefeated region record against crosstown rival and likewise undefeated (in region play) Butler was the story of all Augusta basketball stories last week.  What coach Harris' team was able to accomplish in an eight day span is truly remarkable.  So I give you the opportunity to take it all in again here:

- AugBball and SUVtv's live broadcast of Laney's convincing win over class 3A's defending state champ and class 3A's #5 ranked team, Morgan County...

But the rest of the region's heavyweights hardly stood in place during the past week.  Josey won its second straight region contest Friday against Westside, and the Eagles will attempt to continue its march up the standings this Friday at Hephzibah.  Glenn Hills, winner of a crucial home game Friday over Washington County, will aim to reach the .500 mark as the Spartans host Westside Friday.  The Eagles and Spartans (and Butler as well) are in a sense being "repaid" after facing such difficult stretches in the early parts of their region schedules.  Westside and Hephzibah, the only opponents on these teams' schedules this week, have combined region records of 1-7.

That said, there are hardly such things as "easy" 3A games in our area.  Ask Washington County, who after beginning its schedule with the likes of Butler, Josey, and Glenn Hills, draws Laney Friday (along with Westside Tuesday).  Coach Carlos Hope's team impressed me with a home win over Josey two Fridays ago.  The Golden Eagles will aim to rebound from its road loss to Glenn Hills with two home dates this week.

"Single team regions"

It is more difficult for me to follow (in person) the teams who compete in regions in which I don't follow all the teams.  For this reason I regret missing key games.  For example, after Harlem recently dropped a game to region leader Swainsboro, the Bulldogs looked vulnerable approaching Saturday's road game at high scoring Dublin.  And I hate that I missed the 83-80 Dublin victory.  The Bulldogs (2-2) will attempt to get back on the winning track this week against Metter (Tuesday) and Jefferson County (Friday).  The brighter side of missing the Swainsboro (3-0) and Dublin (3-0) games is that there are surely more such games on the horizon.  In addition to Dublin's January 27th regular season visit to Harlem, the Bulldogs will likely face these teams in the semifinal and/or the championship round of region tournament play in February.  Finishing first or second in this region is a tall order.  But the prize will be one or more home games in state tournament play.  I'll somehow arrange my calendar to catch some of this action!

Speaking of marking my calendar to catch some must see hoops, the 3-1 Aquinas Fighting Irish faces Hancock Central, by far the class of its 1A region, one week from Tuesday.  As long as Aquinas takes care of Taliaferro County Friday, the trip to Sparta will give me the opportunity to see how far the young Irish have come since Hancock recently routed them.

Augusta Christian and Alleluia both opened region play Friday with road wins at Ben Lippen and Nathaniel Greene, respectively.  The Lions host Cardinal Newman Tuesday and travel to Heathwood Hall Friday.  The Angels play area rival Victory Baptist Tuesday in a non conference game and host region foe Hancock Friday.  I sure hope to see these teams in person soon.

***See last Friday's edition, the first ever, of "Region Roundup" at this link***

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