Friday, January 22, 2016

Laney tops Westside; South Aiken edges North Augusta and more updates from Friday's games!

The time for previews is over. So here are the updates I have to quickly share...

11:18 update:

Melvin Mckie led all scorers with 16 points in South Aiken's 50-46 road win over region foe North Augusta. Mckie attacked the basket throughout the second half, either finishing or drawing help and opening rebounding opportunities for Zalair Knowles (6'8") and Frank Pressley (6'4") to clean up misses. South Aiken improved to 3-2 in region play.

North Augusta was led by Moses Cheek, who scored 15 points in the loss, including 5 straight in the last two minutes of the game to cut the deficit to one at 45-44. The first basket in the sequence was a "Dirk-like" one foot fade away. The second was a three from the left corner.

9:55 update:
Laney topped Westside 80-60 at home, taking sole possession of first place in the 3A region's standings. The Wildcats improved to 18-2 overall and 7-1 in league play. Westside lost its third game of the season. All three losses have been to Laney.

I don't have full statistics yet. But I do know Christian Keeling scored 27 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and dished 10 assists.

10:53 update:
Evans defeated Cross Creek 72-55, improving its 5A sub region record to 2-5, only one game behind both Cross Creek and Lakeside for the third spot in the standings. The third spot is much better than spots 4-6 because those teams have to play themselves into the coming region tournament.

Chris Stone led all scorers with 22 points. Michael Steflik added 14. And Jo'el Grant stuffed the stat sheet with this line: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals.

10:30 update:
Westfield topped Augusta Prep 59-43 in class 3A GISA action. Ryan Jolly led Prep with 21 points, including 15 in the first half. Augusta Prep led 29-26 at halftime.

Westminster also fell Friday. League leader Gatewood was the culprit. The Gators, runners up in last season's GISA class 3A state playoffs, topped the Wildcats 59-43.

Westminster hosts rival Augusta Prep Tuesday. The Wildcats (1-2) need a win to get back to .500 in league play. The Cavaliers (0-3) are searching for their first region win.

10:17 update:
Glenn Hills topped Hephzibah 77-64 to improve to 3-5 in region play. 6'7" sophomore Timmy Sellers scored 17 points and snagged 12 rebounds. Koriyan Byrd added 12 points for the Spartans.

9:30 update:
Aquinas edged Lincoln County at home in a 1A region game when Junior TJ Mitchell made a basket with 1:18 remaining to give the Irish a 44-42 lead and sank a free throw with 11 seconds left to put Aquinas ahead for good 45-44.

Tre Gomillion scored 14 points to lead Aquinas. Mitchell added 12, and Gerald Merriweather chipped in 10.

Zach Crite (14), Ahmad Rand (12), and Javon Reid (12) led Lincoln County.

Special shout out to David Beard for providing live footage on Facebook of Mitchell's go ahead bucket with 1:18 remaining!

The following are previews written and posted before Friday's games...

South Aiken (12-3, 2-2) at North Augusta (12-5, 2-2)

4A (South Carolina) region standings

Irmo (4-0)
River Bluff (3-1)
#5 South Aiken (2-2)
North Augusta (2-2)
Lexington (1-3)
White Knoll (0-4)

*denotes AugBball Power Poll ranking (Jan 13 update)

Both teams feature a talented guard who is easily among the top 5-10 players in the area. South Aiken’s 6’6” playmaker Chance Prandy scores, handles, distributes, blocks shots, and rebounds, as his stat line shows: 17 ppg, 8 rpg, 3 spg, 3 apg, 2 bpg.

And Jock Smith, North Augusta’s 5’11” point guard with lightning quickness and a sweet stroke, can turn the Yellow Jackets’ lack of height into an advantage because of his ability to score and speed up the game.

The teams met two days before Christmas in a non league matchup to decide the champion of North Augusta's holiday tournament held at North Augusta. The Thoroughbreds routed the Yellow Jackets 69-51.

In that first meeting, South Aiken slowed the Yellow Jackets with a 2-3 zone and scored on high percentage opportunities against North Augusta’s man-to-man defense. Prandy is but one of three front liners with size who plays above the rim. Prandy, Zalair Knowles (6'8"), and Frank Pressley (6'4") grab a combined 25 rebounds per game.

Junior guard Gemini Bell (8 ppg) and sophomore guard Melvin Mckie (7 ppg) bring another dimension of quickness and scoring to South Aiken’s attack. These two will be tested Friday by North Augusta’s Smith, who will attack from all angles.

Prandy and Bell led South Aiken in scoring that night with 23 and 22 points, respectively. Darius Copeland scored 14 points, and Smith added 13 in defeat.

Friday’s game will mean much more than December's as the winner stands a great chance of tying River Bluff in the second spot of the region’s standings. River Bluff hosts league leader Irmo Friday.

Laney hosts Westside to decide 3A region's leader

3A region standings

#2 Laney 6-1
#3 Westside 6-1
Josey 5-2
Butler 3-4
Washington County 3-4
Glenn Hills 2-5
Hephzibah 0-7

Evidently, Laney (17-2) does not take losing lightly. After dropping its second game in 18 outings last Saturday at Josey, Laney coach Sean Parks apparently benched his, and the area's, top two scorers, senior division one bound guards Christian Keeling and Zep Jasper.

Despite the reduced minutes, Keeling led the Wildcats with 17 points in Tuesday's road win at Glenn Hills. And Jasper made the defensive stop that sealed the Wildcats' sixth win in seven tries against region opponents.

Laney's visitor this Friday, Westside, isn't fond of losing either. The Patriots have not fallen in exactly one month, when Laney knocked them out of championship contention in the Richmond County Christmas tournament in the semi final round:

Westside's only other blemish this season was another loss to Laney in the opening game of the Patriots' region schedule for days earlier.

No team is as hot as Westside. The Patriots have logged two wins each over Josey and Butler and another over Richmond in the past thirty days. And no players have been more crucial to their team's success than guards Trez Hawes and Christian Robinson.

Hawes scored 59 total points last weekend in a pair of wins over Glenn Hills and Hephzibah. And Robinson made important shots in the recent region win over Josey.

For the sake of area hoops fans, I hope the apparent benching of Keeling and Jasper has run its course. The court is the right place for these great players who are now 93 wins into their high school playing days.

Eight quarters of Keeling, Jasper, Hawes, and Robinson was exciting the first two times the city's most accomplished teams met. I expect the third time to be a charm, especially with the first spot in the 3A region's standings on the line.

Westminster to visit league favorite Gatewood

Westminster recently became the last area team to lose its first game after dropping one at home to GISA region foe Westfield. Friday the Wildcats will try to avoid dipping below .500 in league standings at the home gym of GISA power Gatewood.

Gatewood, last season's runner up in the class 3A state playoffs, hasn't lost a league game. The Gators recently routed Augusta Prep (0-2).

Westminster (14-1, 1-1) needs a win to make an early surge at the five team region's top spot. The Wildcats host Prep Tuesday in another key game for the region's two representatives from the Augusta area.

The Wildcats are led by junior Jelani Watson-Gayle, who averages 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists while shooting 53% from the field and 44% from long distance.

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