Sunday, February 15, 2015

Championship Week (Episode 4): Laney's Boys and Girls Sweep Region Championships

Every morning, starting Wednesday and ending today, I have tried to release an episode of "Championship Week," which chronicled all the region tournament action I could see!

Here is my account of the final day of region 3A tournament basketball.  I'll tell it in the order I saw it... 
Laney's Aliyah Collier seemed to be everywhere
in the Lady Wildcats' region championship game win.

anticipated the region 3A tournament's third place game being a classic.  I was wrong.  Butler and Josey's players showed little interest in winning a basketball game Saturday.  Josey's Darius Williams and Donald Jordan eventually mustered enough energy to claim the consolation prize.  But these two teams will need to make adjustments to make the type of noise we all expect in the state playoffs.

Luckily the championship games were nothing like the consolation game.  The Lady Wildcats of Laney looked as sharp as I've seen them.  I have been writing about Aliyah Collier's ball hawking and playmaking.  Saturday she blocked shots, rebounded, stole passes, picked up loose balls and converted those opportunities into easy baskets for her teammates and herself.  Freshman De'sha Benjamin played extremely well, making jump shots and finishing with both hands.  But Laney's region championship was a team effort of the best kind.  The girls appear to sincerely enjoy playing together and making each other successful.  They are very fun to watch. 

Zep Jasper did another masterful job of running the team
on one end and defending the opponent's best on the other
in Saturday's region championship win.
After Thursday's semifinal round, I said both Laney and Washington County's boys were playing their best basketball of the season.  I hoped they could extend that rhythm to Saturday's championship game, but I was prepared for a let down.  No such thing occurred.  It is a testament to Laney's greatness that even with Washington County's dynamo AJ Gray making shots from everywhere (like he did Thursday), and with forward Ti Lewis converting around the rim, the Wildcats were still able to build a 40-30 halftime lead.

I explain in the Championship Week episode above
my reasons for giving Jashawn Brooks a "first ballot"
slot on the coming "All AugBball Team"
Senior Jashawn Brooks had a special evening in his last region outing.  He buried threes, sank jumpers off the dribble, and even broke free for a fast break dunk.  Zep Jasper and Collin Young provided more offense, and forwards Jaylen Taylor, Tommy Smith, and Jervon Walker were their usual active selves.

While Laney extended its lights out play for 32 minutes, WACO was unable to finish in the second half what it started in the first.  Laney's Zep Jasper did a great job of denying Gray the ball after halftime, and the Golden Hawks only scored 16 points after the break. 

Three months after losing its home opener in Saint Francis's gym, Laney has won 26 consecutive games and earned a region championship along with the accompanying #1 seed heading into the state playoffs.  Both Laney teams and the Washington County boys look poised for state tournament success.  I sincerely hope Butler and Josey join the party.  If so, it will be a great "march to Macon!"

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