Thursday, December 17, 2015

Laney-Westside headlines my AugBball Weekend Preview (Dec 18-19)

AugBball Weekend Preview (Dec 18-19)

On my radar:

Laney at Westside

Two of the town's unbeaten teams meet in a highly anticipate region matchup. Laney has a region win in hand after beating Glenn Hills Tuesday. Westside is flying high after wins at Richmond and Lakeside. I'll be there for at least three of the games (JV boys, varsity girls, varsity boys). And starting at 7 A.M. Saturday I'll post game reports from the biggest night (so far!) of region action of the young season.


Josey at Greenbrier

Both teams are coming off encouraging wins, Josey's being over Butler in the region opener Tuesday. The Eagles will seek to avenge its season opening loss to the Wolfpack. And starting at 7 A.M. Sunday I'll post game reports (tape delayed) from at least three of the games (JV boys, varsity girls, varsity boys).

Augusta University at Georgia Southwestern and Montevallo

The Jags begin Peach Belt conference play with two road games: Thursday at Georgia Southwestern and Saturday at Montevallo. ALL Peach Belt games are difficult. All road games are difficult. I'm eager to see if the young Jaguars can build on Tuesday's success and steal a game or two before the new year.

Lincoln County hosts a Christmas Tournament

The Red Devils enter the weekend on a roll following wins over Josey and Lakeside. Will they return to our area to play Evans Monday undefeated?

The list of undefeated area teams will shrink this weekend

Laney, Westside, Lincoln County, and Westminster are the area's only undefeated teams (other than Thomson, who I have not yet seen). The first three have wins against at least one city power. Laney and Westside both won at Richmond. And Westminster, which plays in an entirely different league, has tallied an impressive win over Daniel of South Carolina's class 3A and another over rival Augusta Prep.

I can't wait for Friday's region showdown between undefeated Laney and Westside

Laney hasn't lost in more than 24 months. So until they take a blow, the Wildcats remain atop the area hill in my book. Westside hopes to be the first to top Laney this Friday in its home opening region game. No team has more momentum right now than the Patriots, who just handed Richmond an eleven point loss on the road, capping a four win run through the first 8 calendar days of their season, which started quite late.

Trez Hawes, Justin Phillips, and Christian Robinson have shot the ball remarkably consistently in the three games I've watched. And Westside has shown the ability to perform under pressure with impressive road wins at Lakeside and Richmond.

But winning difficult games has become so common at Laney, we almost take it for granted. Christian Keeling and Zep's Jasper lead the town's most explosive offense, consistently posting a combined 50 plus points as a tandem in the first five games.

As impressive as the offensive production has been, the Wildcats have made their biggest impact this season by showing they are never out of a game and that they won't easily give up. The last time I saw them play, they turned a 20 point deficit into a 1 point win over the last team to beat Laney, Morgan County. And three days prior, the group Kyle Sandy (GHSA hoops writer extraordinaire) calls the "cardiac cats" overcame an 18 point second half deficit win in overtime at Richmond.

Jasper made a big three down the stretch in each game, one to tie the Richmond game for the first time with two minutes left in regulation, and the other to put Laney ahead of Morgan County for good, 65-64. He and Keeling scored a combined 99 points in that pair of comebacks.

Which of these region 3A powers will be undefeated leading into the break? I'll be there to find out and to bring you as much of it as I can, in as much detail as possible.

The Red Hot Red Devils host a tournament before returning to town

Like Westside, Lincoln County started late. And like the Patriots, the Red Devils are red hot! We simply don't see the type of statistics 6'7" junior center Ahmad Rand has posted in the two Lincoln County games I've seen. The athletic shot blocker with a soft touch tallied 39 points, 30 rebounds and 26 blocks in wins over Josey Saturday and Lakeside Tuesday.

Senior Zach Crite has led the team in scoring at a 21 points per game clip. But coach Wes Wuchte gives equal praise to his point guard, Maciah Gunby, who has a knack for scoring timely baskets, and to defensive whizzes Xavier Gartrell and Tydarius Elam, both highly regarded defensive backs in the Fall who Wuchte says have made as big an impact on the team's early success as any player.

The Red Devils host a four team tournament this weekend and will return to our area for three games at Evans High School (against Evans December 21, versus Grovetown December 28, and an opponent to be determined) before the new year begins.


Westminster currently sits atop the private school hill

Westminster has the current claim to bragging rights among the area's private schools after earning wins over rivals Augusta Prep (in a non-region game) and Augusta Christian. Junior transfer Jelani Watson-Gayle has been as good as advertised. And Nygel Eaddy, Michael Dukes, and Steven Lambert make three veteran starters who can score and apply defensive pressure.

The Wildcats and their region rival, Augusta Prep, take turns playing Pinewood and Brentwood this Friday and Saturday. I can't help but look forward to the new year when Westminster, Prep, and Gatewood face each other in region play 6 times in 6 weeks. Watson-Gayle and Ryan Jolly (Augusta Prep) have been a blast to watch. I expect the same from Gatewood's Marcus Ford, who led his team to the state championship game last season and played AAU ball with Team Power, Augusta's top program last Spring and Summer.

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