Thursday, January 11, 2018

Area “Fab 5” of Glenn Hills, Aquinas, Aiken, Baldwin and Lakeside headline this region round up before a jam packed weekend of hoops!

***Early Saturday morning update: Visit the @AugBball Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram timelines for highlights and information from Lakeside's game against Heritage and Aiken's showdown with Midland Valley, two games featured below.***

Early in the region schedules for the various leagues our local high school boys teams are clustered into, last season's defending champions have all started fast. In four of the five regions I closely track, last year's winner is undefeated in league play so far this season:

The only "new" leader is the only undefeated (for the season) leader, Glenn Hills

Glenn Hills' 6'8" center Timmy Sellers

Glenn Hills has completely dominated the first half of this season, making winning look easy in what remains a strong region. The Spartans sport an average margin of victory of 21 points per game, and only three times have opponents come within single digits of the team all the media outlets consider the top class 2A unit in Georgia.

"In most games we've been able to get some separation in the 3rd and 4th quarters," head coach Travis McRae said about the team's success in the first two months of the season. 

But with region games ahead against the likes of Laney (11-3, 4-0) - the Wildcats have provided the Spartans with 2 of their 3 single digit deficit games - McRae stressed the need for his squad to stay focused:

"The key to staying focused is not looking ahead and just taking them as they come, coach McRae said in a message Wednesday after his team's 87-53 win at Screven County.

Coach McRae and the Spartans can't look ahead, but I can.

Glenn Hills hosts Westside Friday, and I expect the Spartans to keep their streak alive before a jam packed slate next week that will include a special MLK Day matchup at Evans High against the host team. But the main events of the week will be games against Glenn Hills' two most capable class 2A, region 3 teams when Butler (8-9, 4-2) visits Tuesday, and the Spartans go to Laney Friday.

Class 2A, Region 4 Standings (Source: Maxpreps)

Like Glenn Hills, the leaders of the other 4 regions I closely track are undefeated in region play, if not for the entire season. Those 4 teams - Aqunas, Aiken, Baldwin, and Lakeside - are defending a championship won last season. All five teams except for Lakeside have been ranked as a top 10 team in the state all season. And all look forward to exciting challenges this weekend, which are described below.

Aquinas has proven itself to be among the state's best, regardless of class

Aquinas' Dajuan Hill

Despite losing 3 games - only one coming to a Georgia team and that being a 70-62 loss to then #1 ranked (5A) Warner Robins - the Irish's margin of victory (19+ ppg) is almost equal to that of Glenn Hills. Aquinas (14-3, 11-0) has considerable size and talent at all positions, but coach Darren Douglas identified the real reason Aquinas is probably my best answer for which team is the area's best:

"Our last game we had 27 assists on 37 baskets. We are getting back to play our brand of ball," Douglas said after last weekend's 69-50 win over Greene County.

The Irish brand has been good for a #2 ranking in class A since the season's first week. The teamwork Douglas described showed in the individual statistics from the team's impressive wins over Eagles Landing Christian Academy (#3 class 1A) and Dacula (#2 class 6A):

Individual Stats in wins over ELCA and Dacula:

Tre Gomillion: 24 pts, 11 rebs
Daniel Parrish: 15 pts, 8 rebs, 5 as
Trent Bowdre: 15 pts, 4 as
Dajuan Hill: 12 pts, 8 rebs

Even though Aquinas has had to search to find challenges this season, this weekend brings the Irish's most difficult pair of back-to-back games between now and when the post season begins:

Friday at Hancock (7-6, 6-2)
Saturday vs GMC (11-1, 6-1)

Baldwin is adjusting to being "hunted"

Buck Harris's Baldwin Braves (11-5, 3-0), ranked in the top 10 in Class 4A since the beginning of the season, were not allowed to sneak up on its Augusta area based region opponents this season.

The Braves visit Hephzibah Friday. The Rebels (3-10, 2-1) upset Richmond Tuesday and will shoot for another surprise win Friday. If the Braves hang on to their lead in region play, their reward will be the chance to host the region tournament.

Senior Brenden Robertson, shown in the highlight video below, along with juniors Donte Justice and Justin Webb among others, has been a consistent stat sheet stuffer during the first two months of the season, averaging 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals per game.

"Brenden can change the game on both ends. When he is locked in, he can be really really good." coach Harris said in a message Wednesday after the Braves topped Burke County to improve to 11-5 overall and 3-0 in league action. "He has improved his mid range game and attacks the basket relentlessly. He understands what a good and bad shot is now."

#2 Aiken and Midland Valley meet for a main event matchup 

Indented below Aiken coach Darris Jackson described accurately what was needed for his Hornets to pull out a come-from-behind region win in overtime over cross town rival South Aiken Tuesday:

We definitely struggled to score at times, but our guys found other ways to contribute, which was huge.

Calvin (Mathis) and Na'zae (Baltimore) both had double doubles. Antonio Bussey made some hustle plays along with a big blocked shot at the end of regulation. Maison Hall had some big rebounds. George Williams made big shots down the stretch.
Jordan Lytes had a huge night. He played without fear, and gave it everything he had on both ends of the floor. I was proud of him.

Jordan Lytes scored a game high 20 points in Tuesday's win at South Aiken.

Coach Jackson knows his region schedule brings no off days, and the next obstacle is Midland Valley, which earned a region opening win over Airport Tuesday.

Midland Valley is a really talented team. They match up with our size & length. It's another rivalry game, and another huge test for our team.

I believe SC's class 4A, region 4 five team region is the toughest league in our extended area. #6 North Augusta will open its schedule Friday at home against Airport before South Aiken visits NA Tuesday.

SC Class 4A, region 4 standings - Source/ Maxpreps

Lakeside is familiar with Friday's spot!

Kalen Williams (Lakeside): 24 ppg, 7 rpg, 4 apg

"Our student section will be in full effect Friday" Lakeside coach Jeff Williams assured me in our text interview Wednesday. The Panthers have won all 15 of their region games since Williams became the head coach. And none of the wins were as difficult as the three they've earned over Heritage, who, like Lakeside, enters Friday's game a perfect 3-0 in league play.

Even though Lakeside has had the upper hand so far, coach Williams still aims to emulate what Heritage coach Vernon Denmark is accomplishing:

"They have an established tradition of consistently great teams and we are trying to mirror that at Lakeside," Williams said of Friday's coaching opponent.

Oh and about that student section...

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