Monday, November 21, 2016

Westminster Downs Fox Creek ahead of a big week after Thanksgiving; plus bonus coverage of Alleluia's win at Harlem

Jelani Watson-Gayle led in scoring and assists in Monday's win.

Senior Jelani Watson-Gayle scored 15 points and dished out 7 assists to lead Westminster to a 47-37 win at Fox Creek as the Wildcats improved to 2-0 heading into the Thanksgiving break.

Junior Michael Dukes added 13 points, and Noah Kershner chipped in 10 for the Wildcats, who ended things by outscoring the Predators 18-5 in the game's final 10 minutes. That run came after Fox Creek took a 32-29 lead late in the third quarter behind a flurry of Ellis Priester threes. Priester scored 12 points on 4 three pointers, and Rod Culver added 10 to lead Fox Creek.

After Thanksgiving comes a big week for Westminster

Westminster will visit Richmond Academy next Tuesday in a matchup between my preseason choices for the best independent school team (Westminster) and the best GHSA team (Richmond) in our area. In the post game interview above, I didn't bother to ask Watson-Gayle about his Wildcats' game with the Musketeers. Of course he and his teammates are eager to prove themselves in their school's first ever opportunity to play a team from the public school league.

Instead I asked him about the Garden City Classic, which begins two days later and runs Thursday through Saturday (December 1-3) at Augusta Prep. The tournament features 8 teams. And all but one of the best independent schools will play, including Westminster, Augusta Christian, Augusta Prep, Fox Creek, and Curtis Baptist. This is always a fun tournament. And because Watson-Gayle, Dukes, Nate Dunlop (Augusta Christian), and Ryan Jolly (Augusta Prep) will all play under one roof three times in less than 60 hours, I will be spending a good bit of time there and bringing you the action via AugBball's properties.

Bonus Coverage: Alleluia Shoots Down Harlem

Elliot Balducci led the way with 23 points in Alleluia's win at Harlem.

Missing from the Garden City Classic will be Alleluia, which is easily one of the most exciting independent school teams. Its leading scorer, senior Ben Dresser, entered Monday's 61-54 win at Harlem averaging 30 points per game. But he was happier after last night's win than after any game this season, even though he "only" scored 15 points.

In a message he sent me after the game, Dresser said the following: "If you do a report, I want you to know it was a good team win. We haven't really had a good team win in a while. Everyone contributed in a way I haven't really seen before."

Ben was obviously happy for fellow senior Elliot Balducci, who led all scorers with 23 points. Elliot turned in a fine performance last week at Augusta Christian too, scoring 17 points in a 70-64 loss to the Lions. Dresser also made special mention of sophomore Ben Freed, as well as JP Masak, whom Ben called "hands down the MVP because he got a steal every time we needed it. Like literally."

It's unfortunate for me that I won't see Alleluia next weekend when all the other independent schools gather. But I WILL watch the Angels play Augusta Prep the following Friday, December 9. I usually don't plan that far ahead. But when Dresser and Prep's Ryan Jolly square off in a matchup of two of Augusta's best players, I know there will be no place I'll rather be.

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