I only occasionally update this blog. The @AugBball Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram timelines feature an exhaustive, running account - including highlights, updates, and stories - about almost everything related to this area's hoops scene. So after catching up with the current state of affairs as described in this post, make sure you are following @AugBball on those social media pages so you won't miss the best stuff!
This week's most exciting matchup has to be Wednesday's rivalry game in South Carolina when USC Aiken hosts long time rival Augusta University in a double header with all kinds of implications for the post season.
Augusta's men lead Aiken's by a single game at the top of the Peach Belt Conference standings. Ever since the first day of 2017, the two rivals have been either tied or separated by one game in the standings. Depending on the results of this game and others throughout the conference Wednesday, both teams can finish as high as first or as low as third in the final standings. Only the top two teams get a chance to play their first round PBC tournament game Saturday at home.
Augusta is fresh off an 82-66 win Saturday in the final home game of the regular season. Senior two time All American Keshun Sherrill scored 29 points to lead all scorers right after he was honored prior to the game. 2,300 fans packed Christenberry Fieldhouse to send off Augusta's second all time leading scorer.
The women's game is even more urgent as the winner will claim the fourth spot in the Peach Belt Conference East division. The loser's season will end.
Moving on to the topic of the high school state playoffs while staying with the South Carolina side of the area, Aiken High suffered a heart breaking loss Tuesday on the road at Eastside in the third round of the playoffs. Facing a 12 point deficit with 90 seconds remaining, Kevin Williamson (12 points) and Jordan Lytes (10) led a furious comeback. And Nazae Baltimore had a chance to send the game into overtime with a layup with one second remaining but his shot was blocked as the buzzer sounded and the Hornets' story book season ended with a 55-53 loss. Before Tuesday Aiken hadn't lost since December 13. The Hornets posted a 23-5 record one season after winning only 6 games.
Speaking of story book seasons, North Augusta's Lady Yellow Jackets extended their season long undefeated streak to 27 Monday with a 63-33 third round state playoff win over Richland Northeast. Mya Burns scored 25 points and Amari Young scored 18 to lead the way. The Jackets play Greenville Friday in the semifinal round of the state playoffs.
Now let's move on to Georgia, where the sweet sixteen round of the state playoffs is set to begin. A handful of girls teams continue to shine as #1 seeds Cross Creek and Grovetown host games Wednesday and Laney does Thursday.
Cross Creek sports a 24-5 record after topping Americus-Sumter 59-51 in Friday's first round. Grovetown advanced with a 59-48 win over Coffee County and the Lady Warriors host Chattahoochee. Laney, whose dominance has been matched in the area only by North Augusta's, plays host to Douglass. The Lady Wildcats are 27-1, and they have won all 25 games by 10 or more points since returning Augusta Chronicle Player of the Year De'Sha Benjamin rejoined the team. Laney's most recent victim was Swainsboro, who the Wildcats topped 70-44 in the first round.
The 1 seeds aren't the only teams in action. Richmond, Greenbrier and Aquinas all hit the road Wednesday for round two as well.
The boys teams in action Thursday include 3 class AA teams: Laney, which hosts Hapeville Charter, and Butler and Josey, which travel to South Atlanta and Banks County, respectively.
Laney shot past Bacon County in the first round behind 15 points from senior Tahj Tanksley. Butler blitzed Jefferson Davis 87-66. Junior Keith Littles scored 25 points in that contest. And Josey went on the road to topple Metter and advance with a 57-36 win.
Aquinas hosts Stratford Thursday. The Fighting Irish received a bye into the class A private school playoffs sweet sixteen round by way of their region championship, which capped a stunning 25-1 run through the regular season in which coach Darren Douglas's team won their games by an average of 30 points!
Lincoln County will host Truetlen in the second round of the class A public school playoffs Thursday. The Red Devils sport an 18-6 record.
The boys teams traveling for second round games include Richmond Academy, which will face LaGrange, and Thomson. The Bulldogs are headed to Blessed Trinity.
Independent schools Westminster, Augusta Prep and Alleluia are all in the early stages of their state tournament action as well.
I'll finish with a few notes about some individual accomplishments:
Augusta Christian's super sophomore Nate Dunlop, who averaged over 26 points per game this season, passed the 1,000 point barrier in his team's final game last week. Westminster senior Jelani Watson-Gayle also recently passed that mark after only two seasons of play.
Alleluia's Ben Dresser, the area's leading scorer at over 30 points per game, recently passed 2,000 career points.
And in the college ranks...
Christian Keeling, a freshman at Charleston Southern who starred at Laney in high school, made the game winning free throw in his team's win over High Point Saturday. Keeling was then awarded the Big South Freshman of the Week award for the SIXTH TIME!
Ahmed Hill, who stars at Virginia Tech now and before that excelled at Aquinas, scored 12 points in the Hokies' 71-70 win over Clemson Tuesday.
And Matt Miller, a former GAIS Eagle homeschool high school standout from our area, recently played his final game at the United States Merchant Marine Academy. Miller averaged 20 points this season, finishing a remarkable career in which he scored more than 1400 points and became the school's 8th all time leading scorer.