Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Power Poll: Morgan County tops Laney; three new teams in top 10

Morgan County's home win over Laney Saturday in the fifth meeting of the last two seasons between the state powerhouses proved to be the most exciting and impressive game of the week. Check out the game report (below) between the top two teams in the AugBball Power Poll and proceed to find the full list of teams in the bi-weekly poll's first revision since its New Year's Day debut.



AugBball Power Poll (Mid-January update)

1) Morgan County
2) Laney
3) Westside
4) Richmond
5) South Aiken
6) Westminster
7) Lakeside
8) Greenbrier
9) Lincoln County
10) Thomson

#1 Morgan County (13-3, 6-0)

Class 3A (region 8)

Morgan County handed Laney its first loss in nearly a year Saturday. And the Bulldogs now add to their list AugBball's #1 Power Poll ranking to go with their #1 ranking in Georgia's class 3A by GHSA expert Kyle Sandy.

Morgan County's senior Florida Atlantic University bound duo, Devorius Brown and Jailyn Ingram, scored 27 and 14 points, respectively, in the fifth matchup in 14 months between two of Georgia's most decorated teams. Senior Alec Woodard added 13 points.



Morgan County now turns its attention to Friday's home game against East Jackson, which features highly touted sophomore guards Drue Drinnon and Travis Anderson, who make appearances in this AugBball post about Miller Grove's Alterique Gilbert and former Laney guard Colin Young.

#2 Laney (14-1, 4-0)

Class 3A (region 3)

Region standings

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

Laney's Christian Keeling and Zep Jasper have piled up the points this season, averaging 25 and 22 points per game, respectively. And they have piled up the wins, tallying 89 and counting during their four years of varsity action.



The Wildcats follow last weekend's pair of rivalry games versus Butler and Morgan County with this weekend's set against region foe Washington County at home Friday, and long time city rival Josey on the road Saturday. It's a good thing for the Wildcats that they have had a few days off because this weekend's games are the first two of five in an eight day stretch that ends the following Friday in a much anticipated home game against region opponent Westside, the Power Poll's #3 team.

#3 Westside (8-2, 3-1)

Class 3A (region 3)

Region standings

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

Coaches, players, and fans talk about balance, unselfishness, and patience. It is much easier to preach about such things than to construct a basketball team that is as successful as Westside has been at practicing them. The statistics are starting to flow out of Westside, and it looks like five Patriots average 10 or more points per game: Trez Hawes (15 ppg), Justin Phillips (12), Christian Robinson (11), Dekwan Lewis (10), and Elijah Brown (10).

All five have been instrumental in the Patriots' run through almost every team in Augusta, including a pair of region wins last week over Butler and Josey:



Westside faces Glenn Hills Friday. The Spartans are flying high after a recent win at Butler. If Westside continues its roll and picks up wins Friday and Tuesday (versus Hephzibah), the Patriots' January 22nd showdown will be a chance for this impressive team to claim a share of first place in the region's standings. And the game will also give Westside a chance to avenge two close December losses to the Wildcats.

#4 Richmond (13-4, 4-0)

Class 5A (sub region 2A)

Sub region standings

#4 Richmond (4-0)
#7 Lakeside (3-1)
#8 Greenbrier (2-2)
Cross Creek (2-2)
Evans (1-3)
Grovetown (0-4)

"Richmond has so many good players" is a recent title for a YouTube video I made after the Musketeers' 81-56 rout of Lakeside, the sub region's second place team. It's not a particularly catchy title. But it seems accurate. With Madison Williams out for Tuesday's league game against Greenbrier, coach Steve Nobles had no shortage of capable players to pick up the scoring slack. 

Moses Williams, a 6'5" junior, scored 23 points as the Musketeers logged a 69-64 win. The game marked the first time a team has come closer than 22 points of Richmond in the team's last 7 games!



#5 South Aiken (10-3, 0-2)

Class 4A South Carolina (region 5)

Region standings

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

After a scorching start to the season that included an 18 point non region victory over North Augusta and a 9 point win over Thomson (game report below), the Thoroughbreds have dropped two road games to its region's two leaders, River Bluff and Irmo. One of the few guidelines we voters use is that a team has to look like it is on track to be in contention for its league's championship to be in the Power Poll. Upcoming games against White Knoll (Friday), Lexington (Tuesday) and North Augusta (next Friday) give South Aiken a chance to get on the right track.



#6 Westminster (13-0, 1-0)

GISA Class 3A (region 4)

The guideline I described in the paragraph above about South Aiken weighed heavily in moving Westminster from just outside the top ten all the way to the sixth position. The Wildcats are the area's only remaining undefeated team and appear to be on a collision course with not just local rival Augusta Prep, but also league favorite Gatewood, both in region and post season play.

Westminster's team has a great blend of experience and young talent. Sophomore Michael Dukes and freshman TJ Wright played impressively in this non region win over Augusta Prep:




And junior Jelani Watson-Gayle, a transfer from England, has instantly become one of the town's best players. He scored 24 points in the team's most notable win, a 50-49 decision over Daniel High School, a South Carolina class 3A team that currently leads its league with a 5-0 record:



#7 Lakeside (8-8, 3-1)

Class 5A (sub region 2A)



Sub region standings

#4 Richmond (4-0)
#7 Lakeside (3-1)
#8 Greenbrier (2-2)
Cross Creek (2-2)
Evans (1-3)
Grovetown (0-4)

Coach Jody Hilley's team has benefitted from the addition of Deon Berrien, a 6'5" junior who became eligible just in time for region play. During Berrien's first four games, the forward has averaged 14 points and 12 rebounds per game, and the Panthers have won three of four league contests.

Several players have made key contributions. Freshman Kalen Williams scores 16 points, grabs 4 rebounds and dishes 3 assists on average. Junior Kre'sean Hall averages 10 points and 7 rebounds. And senior Nick Smith scores 9 points per contest. So while Berrien has changed the outlook, Lakeside has gotten timely contributions from various sources during its recent run, as you can see in the game report from Tuesday's win at Cross Creek:



#8 Greenbrier (10-8, 2-2)

Class 5A (sub region 2A)

Sub region standings

#4 Richmond (4-0)
#7 Lakeside (3-1)
#8 Greenbrier (2-2)
Cross Creek (2-2)
Evans (1-3)
Grovetown (0-4)

Greenbrier is the first team to challenge Richmond since before Christmas. But Tuesday's 69-64 road loss to the Musketeers has backed the Wolfpack into a bit of a corner. Bitter rivals Evans and Lakeside await Friday and Tuesday, respectively. Records are thrown out the window when these teams line up to compete. A pair of wins is needed if the Wolfpack plan to make its second meeting with Richmond one that factors heavily into the math at the top of the standings heading into region tournament play.

Much like Westside, Greenbrier has depended on a patient and balanced attack. But there are times when it helps to have a proven scorer with the ball in his hands. I wasn't at Tuesday's game at Richmond. But my guess is senior Justen Hartfield's 19 point, five three pointer outing was the kind of performance that is needed from the team's best player against a difficult opponent. I saw Hartfield post such a game in Greenbrier's season opener against Laney. Here is the game report:



#9 Lincoln County (10-3, 3-1)

Class 1A (region 7)

Region standings

Hancock Central 5-0
#9 Lincoln County 3-1
Georgia Military 2-2
Taliaferro County 1-3
Warren County 0-2
Glascock County 0-3

Had the Red Devils not dropped games to Evans and Grovetown over the holidays, I would have placed Lincoln County in the top ten in the January 1 debut of the Power Poll . Suspensions to Zach Crite (16 ppg, 7 rpg) and Maciah Gunby (10 ppg, 4 rpg) factored in to those losses. And the Red Devils seem to be on a track to challenge Hancock for leadership in the 1A region race.

Lincoln County's glaring advantage is in the paint where 6'7" junior Ahmad Rand (17 ppg, 16 rpg, 10 bpg) operates. And if his production weren't enough, Devon Holloway chips in 11 points and 10 boards per contest.

Rand changes games with his ability to block shots, rebound, and finish:




#10 Thomson (12-3, 1-1)

Class 4A (region 3)

Region standings

Liberty County 2-0
Burke County 1-1
Thomson 1-1
New Hampstead 1-1
Windsor Forest 1-1
Wayne County 0-2

Thomson's 100-53 loss to league favorite Liberty County has caused heads to be scratched. Liberty County's name rings far and wide, but 47 points is a lot! Cases could be made for including Burke County or North Augusta as the Power Poll's tenth team. But my case rests on the reappearance of the team I saw lead Laney by 5 points in the final quarter on the road two weeks ago:





Upcoming games against New Hampstead (Tuesday) and Burke County (January 22 in Thomson) will be chances to find out if I'm correct!





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