Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Laney edges Thomson; improves to 12-0

Above is my game report from Tuesday's much anticipated between two of our area's best teams.

Laney improved to 12-0 with a 62-58 home win over Thomson in a non-region game. Christian Keeling led all scorers with 23 points in the win. Teammate Zep Jasper added 20.

Darius Turman scored 13 points to lead the Bulldogs in defeat.

The Wildcats never led or trailed by more than 5 points in the game. I think two of the area's best teams played their best games Tuesday night. It was a treat to watch and the teams' play should be a great signal for how each will perform during their upcoming region schedules. 

See the action in the above.

Evans faces Cross Creek (boys), Grovetown plays Richmond (girls) in Monterrey Christmas Tournament Championship at Evans

Above is my video preview of "Championship Wednesday" at the Monterrey Christmas tournament at Evans.

The host Evans will face region rival Cross Creek in the boys title game at 8:30, which follows the girls 7:00 PM championship matchup between unbeaten Grovetown and region foe Richmond.

It's been a great week at Evans. I still have junior varsity action to share. That will come soon!

Cross Creek, Grovetown, Lakeside, Evans advance to Final Four of Monterrey Christmas Tournament at Evans

Above is my report from the quarterfinals of the Monterrey Christmas Tournament at Evans Monday. Cross Creek, Grovetown, Lakeside, and Evans advanced to the tournament's semifinal round. All four teams are from region 5A.

Cross Creek's Moses Jones continued a recent hot streak in a win over Aquinas.

Shamar Barrett dropped 25 points on Lincoln County, and Ahmad Rand's 27 was not enough for the Red Devils to escape their second consecutive loss.

Lakeside's Kalen Williams, Kre'sean Hall, and Jalen Nealious led the Panthers to a win.

And Evans finished off Warren County in the night cap.

See and hear about Tuesday's semifinal matchups in the video and stay tuned for my reports about the girls bracket and the junior varsity tournament at Evans Middle School. All of that is coming soon!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Metress and Marshall lead Grovetown to tournament championship

Elizabeth Metress and Destiny Marshall combined to score 18 first quarter points in Grovetown's 52-49 semifinal round win over North Augusta in last week's Christmas tournament. The win earned the Lady Warriors a spot in the championship game in which Grovetown, after trailing 15-6 at the end of one quarter, finished the game with a 51-18 run and a 57-33 win.

Marshall scored 22 points in the semifinal and 21 in the championship game. Metress tallied 13 against North Augusta, including 3 fourth quarter threes. Ayana Collins added 20 points and Kwajelin Farrar chipped in 12 in the win over Aiken.

The Lady Warriors improved to 13-0 last week. This week brings another holiday tournament (at Evans) and another chance for Grovetown to prepare for upcoming region play. Both Grovetown and North Augusta will be represented in my upcoming "power poll," which will rank the area's girls (and boys) teams regardless of state, classification, or association.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Laney tops Cross Creek in Richmond County Christmas tournament championship game

Desha Benjamin scored 20 points and grabbed 12 boards to lead Laney to a 66-52 win over Cross Creek in the much anticipated Richmond County Christmas tournament matchup between two of the area's very best teams.

Playing without starting guard Nya Daniels, center Alana Davis did everything in her power to keep the Lady Razorbacks close after Laney finished the first quarter on a 12-1 run that gave the Lady Wildcats a 23-11 first quarter advantage. Davis scored 19 of her game high 32 points during the second and third quarters, and the deficit narrowed to 7 during the third quarter.

But Laney's depth was too much. Four Lady Wildcats scored in double figures. Aubriana Bonner scored 16, Gemyia Bowman added 12, and Jhessyka Willams chipped in 10.

Benjamin and Davis are two of the area's very best players. Both showed a broad range of skills in Wednesday's game. Benjamin grabbed 12 rebounds to go with her team high 20 points. And Davis did it all, not only tallying 32 points and 20 rebounds, but at times breaking Laney's press and leading the fast break after grabbing a defensive rebound.

As these teams and others like Grovetown, Washington County, and North Augusta enter region play, I look forward to following the area's best girls basketball action.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Why I believe Westside is playing Augusta's best basketball

Westside improved to 6-2 with a 72-58 runaway win over Josey in the Richmond County Christmas tournament's consolation game. Four Patriots scored in double figures. Christian Robinson followed his 21 point game against Laney Tuesday with 23 against Josey. Trez Hawes added 16 after logging 18 the night before. Dekwan Lewis added 15 and Javon Rayton chipped in 10.

Donald Jordan led all scorers with 34 points in the loss.

No team is playing better than Westside...

Wins and losses are the ultimate measure. So most people would say Laney is playing the best basketball in town. They haven't lost.

But I can't help but feel that Westside is making the most progress of any local team and that the Patriots are the poised to do significant damage when the calendar turns and region competition heats up.

In the past 19 days, coach Marvin Fields's squad has beaten what I believed to be the three best teams in Augusta not named Laney - Richmond, Butler, and Josey - by margins of 11, 19, and 14, respectively. Also during that time, the Patriots twice had me convinced mid game that they would be the first team in over two years to take down Laney (see here and here).

Guards Trez Hawes and Christian Robinson are doing as much (or more) to contribute to their team's success as any players I've seen this season. That includes Laney's much acclaimed guards Christian Keeling and Zep Jasper.

The duo scored a combined 39 points in back-to-back games against Laney Tuesday and Josey Wednesday when the Patriots man handled the Eagles to claim third place in the Richmond County Christmas tournament.

Hawes (top) and Robinson (below) combined to score
78 points in Tuesday and Wednesday's games
against Josey and Laney.
Also playing effectively are Dekwan Lewis and Justin Phillips. During every close game this season, one or both of these guards have made a major impact by making threes and attacking the basket. Lewis scored 15 points against Josey and 18 versus Butler in the Patriots' pair of runaway wins in this week's tournament. And Phillips opened the season on fire, scoring 16 points in a win at Lakeside and another 16 three days later in another win at Richmond.

With 3 or 4 perimeter players consistently scoring and making a high percentage of their attempts, a high school team can do major damage. When they are doing it after swinging the basketball from side to side, running off screens, and often waiting 40-60 seconds before pulling the trigger, they can demoralize an opponent.

Because of the Patriots' slow pace of play, and because of the team's balance and unselfishness, no player had scored over 20 points in a game until Robinson did it twice this week. But because of their style of play, 14 points from these guards has seemed like 20, and 20 has seemed more like 30.

But the numbers that matters most when assessing this team are the win total, the competition against whom that win total has come against, and the margin of victory the Patriots have tallied. I expect more of the same when the new year comes.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Laney does it again as Jasper's three caps wild comeback win against Richmond

For the third time in December, the undefeated Laney Wildcats stormed back from a double digit second half deficit and got a key three pointer from Zep Jasper in the game's final minute to secure an improbable win, this time a 55-51 result in the Richmond County Christmas tournament championship game against Richmond Academy.

Jasper's three pointer with 56 seconds remaining gave Laney a 52-51 lead, its first of the game. The Wildcats scored 25 fourth quarter points and overcame a 13 point fourth quarter deficit. Richmond led 31-22 at halftime, and Madison Williams sank a floater with 6:35 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Musketeers their biggest lead at 43-30.

Jasper has made a habit of delivering late game heroics. The College of Charleston signee made a three to tie the game with one minute remaining in regulation in Laney's road win at Richmond on December 1st. The shot punctuated a Wildcat comeback which started when Richmond led by 18 in that game's third quarter. Three days later Jasper made the go ahead three against Morgan County with less than one minute left to cap another Laney comeback, that time after trailing by 20 in the second quarter.

Christian Keeling added 17 points to Jasper's 19. Keeling provided some heroics of his own Monday, scoring 43 points in a quarterfinal round win over Cross Creek while Jasper sat due to illness.

Rashad Calloway and Chris Jones led Richmond with 14 and 13 points, respectively.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Laney drops Westside to advance to tournament finals

Laney got 20 points from Zep Jasper and 18 from Christian Keeling as the Wildcats improved to 9-0 with a 62-60 win over Westside in the Richmond County Christmas tournament semifinals.

Laney's second win over the Patriots in the past five days sets up Wednesday's championship game rematch of one of December's most exciting games, a 77-72 overtime win for Laney at Richmond. The game will feature all three of our area's division one signees in Jasper, Keeling, and Richmond's Madison Williams.

Get to Glenn Hills long before Wednesday's 8:30 start to see the last meeting between what many believe are our area's two best teams.

Williams leads Richmond past Josey; sets up rematch with Laney Wednesday

Madison Williams scored 12 of his team high 17 points during a Richmond run that stretched two quarters, and eventually turned a 14 point first half deficit into a 62-58 Musketeer win over Josey in the semifinals of the Richmond County Christmas tournament. Chris Jones added 16 points. Dominique Hurst led Josey with 18.

Josey appeared to be in control early as Jonathan Butler scored 11 second quarter points, nailing 3 threes during a 14-0 run that put the Eagles ahead 29-15. But Richmond responded with a 16 minute long, 41-17 spurt punctuated with a three by Jones late in the fourth quarter that gave Richmond its biggest lead at 56-48.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

South Aiken snaps Thomson's streak; introducing Chance Prandy

South Aiken sports a frontline with an average height many college coaches would envy at 6'8, 6'5, and 6'4. But it was the Thoroughbreds' perimeter play that was most responsible for Thomson's first loss Monday, 68-59 result in Monday's quarterfinal round game at North Augusta's Christmas tournament.
South Aiken's Chance Prandy quickly went onto my short
list of the area's very best players.

6'6" playmaker Chance Prandy was fantastic, doing everything from dunking in lobs and putbacks, distributing the ball, and attacking the basket off the dribble. The senior scored 14 points. And South Aiken's guards Gemini Bell and Melvin Mckie scored 18 and 12 point, respectively.

I expected to be impressed by Prandy in my first good look at South Aiken. I was. But I was as impressed by their team. The Thoroughbreds face Strom Thurmond in Tuesday's quarterfinal round.

Grovetown's Graham makes game winner; Warriors advance to play host North Augusta

I thought Grovetown would be the one sub-region 5A team to go backwards this season after coach Daniel Jordan lost his three leading scorers from last season's first place team. Nonsense! Sophomore Eric Graham said as much with his game winning floater right before the overtime buzzer sounded in the Warriors' 71-70 win over Aiken in the quarterfinal round of the North Augusta Christmas tournament.

Graham's heroic shot came after a 5.7 second sprint to the hoop that started on the opposite baseline. The sophomore split two defenders near half court and dropped the shot over a third. He also made the basket that tied the game at 67 with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and forced overtime.

Grovetown advanced to face tournament host North Augusta in Tuesday's semifinal round at 8:30 P.M. The Yellow Jackets dismantled Barnwell in Monday's night cap behind 18 points by Moses Cheeks.

Grovetown's Lady Warriors top South Aiken; Lady Warriors improve to 10-0

After watching the Lady Warriors dismantle South Aiken Monday with a 30-4 second quarter run that turned into a 77-32 victory in the quarterfinals of North Augusta's Christmas tournament, I fully understand how no team has come closer than 10 points of Grovetown in its first 10 games.

Junior Destiny Marshall's defense, her physical toughness, and her ability to make plays are overwhelming. Sophomore Ayana Collins brings a similar effect on defense and in the open court. And senior Kwajelin Farrar dominates the paint with length, activity, and athleticism.

Marshall led all scorers with 25 points. She also surpassed the 1000 point barrier. Collins added 16 and Farrar 15 as the Lady Warriors advanced to Tuesday's 7:00 P.M. semifinal round game against North Augusta.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Buck Harris and Will Avery join me for an AugBball Holiday Preview

The area's five undefeated teams have the chance during the next ten days to separate from the pack by earning difficult wins in holiday tournament play and select match ups. Watching Westside lose its first game Friday reminded me how exceptional it is to go long stretches without losing. If the area's unbeaten squads want to exit 2015 without a blemish, they will have to earn it!

Laney's obstacle course

Laney's players will be smart to forget the idea of entering 2016 undefeated and concentrate on what is in front of them Monday at 5:30 at Glenn Hills: Cross Creek. After two weekend wins, one on the road in an emotional game versus region foe Westside, and the other in Atlanta against Mays Saturday, the Wildcats will have played five games in six days when the Richmond County Christmas tournament ends.

With the winner of Butler and Westside (Monday, 11:30 A.M.) waiting in the semifinal round, Laney's quarterfinal matchup against the Razorbacks, who should be looking for a chance to prove themselves after dropping their second game to Burke County Friday, could make for the classic "trap game" and derail the Wildcats and their holiday hopes right out of the gate.

If Laney does get past Cross Creek, coach Shawn Parks's team will face either Westside or Butler, both dangerous region rivals. And if the Wildcats advance to Wednesday's final, they will face another of the county's best teams. It seems highly unlikely any team could complete the five-wins-in-six-days romp through such a difficult group of teams. But Laney has been conquering difficult obstacles all season. Here is the latest example...

Will an undefeated Thomson team be waiting for Laney?

Whether or not Laney is fortunate enough to escape its Christmas tournament unscathed, Thomson will come knocking December 29th for the teams' highly anticipated showdown at Laney. Thomson also aims to preserve its unbeaten streak this week against a deep field in North Augusta's Christmas tournament. The Bulldogs face South Aiken in Monday's quarterfinal round. Also participating are North Augusta, Jones County, Strom Thurmond, Aiken, Grovetown, and Barnwell.

Thomson earned a double digit victory Friday over class A power Hancock. The Bulldogs feature one of our area's very best players, 6'8" senior transfer San Antonio Brinson. I have not seen the Bulldogs play yet, but the video clips coming out of Thomson paint an imposing picture of a team that is capable of making its date with Laney as an undefeated team, having sprinted through three wins at North Augusta this week.

Lincoln County visits Evans with streak on the line

The red hot Red Devils enter their non-region contest at Evans Monday short a player, point guard Maciah Gunby. But coach Wes Wuchte's unbeaten team has plenty of momentum after hard fought wins over Josey and Lakeside last week, and a pair of wins in its four team Christmas tournament this weekend.

Evans is coming off a dramatic win at Aquinas Friday. Senior Joel Grant made two free throws late to clinch the road win. Wuchte played for Evans's coach Kevin Kenny, who I know wants no part in extending his former player's winning streak.

The Red Devils will be back at Evans one week later to face Grovetown in the quarterfinal round of a post-Christmas tournament. 6'7" center Ahmad Rand is unlike any player I've seen in the area this season. He blocks shots like college and pro centers do: in the air when the ball has long left the shooter's hands. This helps Rand avoid foul trouble. He only fouled once while blocking 11 shots in this win at Lakeside:

Grovetown's Lady Warriors have dominated Georgia's teams. Are South Carolina's the next to fall?

I have yet to see the Lady Warriors live, but that will change when the region 5A power takes on South Aiken Monday in the quarterfinal round of North Augusta's Christmas tournament. Grovetown has won its first nine games, all by a margin of 10 or more points. The team's path to a possible 12-0 start may include North Augusta and Aiken this week. I'm excited to see junior transfer Destiny Marshall, sharpshooter Elizabeth Mettress (also a junior), and the rest of this talented group for the first time.

Westminster's resume speaks volumes

The only unbeaten team that will not be in action over the holidays is Westminster. I'll share a couple tidbits in case anybody doubts the private school power's resume. 

Playing without a key starter, Michael Dukes, the Wildcats lost a close preseason scrimmage game to Blythewood, a 4A public school from South Carolina. Blythewood just whipped South Carolina powerhouse Keenan High in the famous Chick Fila Classic in Columbia. And the Wildcats' regular season wins include one over Daniel High, a 3A South Carolina public school on a neutral floor, and a road win at rival Augusta Prep.

Westminster is the real deal. International transfer Jelani Watson-Gayle has ignited a fire in a group of battle tested veterans like senior Nygel Eaddy, whom I call Reggie Bush because of his exploits on the football field. 

Coach Mark Tebbs's team certainly has its share of tests ahead. But first he and his players will get a chance to enjoy the holidays. And to enjoy some holiday tournament action involving their undefeated peers.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Laney wins at Westside to stay undefeated

Hawes and Keeling chased each other on both ends Friday.
Keonze Perkins made a pair of baskets and Tahj Tanksley followed with a three pointer to complete a 7-0 run, giving unbeaten Laney a 56-55 lead over Westside with 4:35 remaining in the fourth quarter Friday. Laney never trailed again and the Wildcats earned a 69-64 road win, their second against a region opponent this week.

Laney's fourth quarter run was preceded by Trez Hawes's burst to open the period, which included 2 three pointers on Westside's first two offensive possessions to give the Patriots a 51-45 lead and tons of momentum. Hawes would sink a jump hook in the paint to give the Patriots a 55-49 lead before Perkins and Tanksley led Laney's go-ahead spurt.
Jasper drives by Christian Robinson Friday.

The game between two teams that entered the weekend undefeated was tied after the second and third quarters. Westside had a chance to go ahead late, trailing by 1 with possession of the ball with less than a minute remaining after Elijah Brown took a charge on a Zep Jasper drive to the basket. But Brown was called for a technical foul for standing over Jasper and shouting at him after the play. Jasper nailed both technical free throws and Christian Keeling made another after being fouled on Laney's next possession to make it 68-64.

Jasper and Keeling led Laney with 17 and 16 points respectively. Three Westside players scored in double figures: Hawes (14), Dekwan Lewis (13), and Justin Phillips (11).

Both teams will join the other 8 Richmond County teams in next week's holiday tournament at Glenn Hills. I'll preview the much anticipated three day tournament Sunday.

Laney's JV explodes for 83 points in win at Westside

What appeared during the first seven minutes to be an evenly matched junior varsity game quickly became a Laney runaway over Westside as the Wildcats defended, ran the court, and found each other for countless easy baskets on their way to an 83-57 road win Friday.
Griffin scores 2 of his 20 fourth quarter points against Westside.

Sebastian Marmelejo scored 9 of his 15 points, and Cory Myles 8 of his 18, during a 14 minute stretch in which Laney turned a 1 point first quarter advantage into a 17 point lead entering the final quarter.

Djuan Griffin would take things from there, scoring 20 fourth quarter points as the Wildcats finished with 32 points in the final 7 minutes, leading to the uncommonly high total. Griffin led all scorers with 25 points. Josh Kelly led Westside with 15.

Lady Wildcats coast; face Hephzibah Monday

Laney's Lady Wildcats sailed through its road game Friday with a 69-19 win over Westside that was never in question. Aubriana Bonner led the way with 19 points, and Desha Benjamin added 12.

Aubriana Bonner eyes a layup Friday at Westside.
Laney faces region foe Hephzibah Monday in the quarterfinal round of the Richmond County Christmas tournament at Glenn Hills. Since learning all 8 Richmond County boys and girls teams would participate, I've been hoping for a Laney-Cross Creek meeting on the girls side.

The way the brackets are structured, Both teams will need to win two games if they are to meet in Wednesday's championship game. Like Laney, Cross Creek's first task is to get past a region opponent (Richmond) in Monday's round.

I'll post a preview to the tournament before the finish of the weekend, so stay tuned!

Ashley Brown brings us up to speed with two of Augusta's most explosive scorers

The following is a guest post by the area's most recognizable sports media figure, the man I first met when he was swishing threes for Lakeside in that school's first year of existence, Ashley Brown. Find Ashley's work at WGAC 580 AM and 95.1 FM, at WGAC.com, and on Twitter.

Dontae Coleman and Darius Williams finished their prep careers as two of the most prolific scorers to ever lace up a pair of basketball shoes in the CSRA. Both topped 2,000 points and both were capable of tossing in 40 points anytime they stepped on the court. Trying to guard the two was almost impossible for area coaches. Well, those coaches should not feel so bad because college coaches do not seem to have the recipe for stopping this high scoring duo either. 
Don Coleman, Butler's all-time scoring leader, is scorching
the nets as a freshman at Lawson State.

Coleman began as a reserve guard at Butler 4 years ago. He came off the bench but it was clear he was one of the top players and had a bright future. That season, Coleman averaged 7.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per contest. Solid numbers for a freshman, but I still think people were stunned by what Coleman would do in 2012-13 as a sophomore. The slender 6'0" shooting guard emerged as one of the top scorers in the state, pouring in 24 points per contest. He also improved other areas of his game averaging 5.1 rebounds and 2.7 steals. Perhaps most impressive was Coleman’s play in big games. He seemed to raise his level of play when the Bulldogs faced their toughest opponents. During a three game stretch late that season Coleman torched Laney for 37, piled up 40 points against Glenn Hills, and became a hot topic around the state when he lit up Statesboro for 49 points in the Region Title Game. Butler lost a close game to Statesboro, but Mr. Coleman had arrived.

He finished out his final two seasons averaging 24.5 and 23.3 respectively and closed out his career as Butler’s All-Time leading scorer with 2,071 career points, and appeared to be headed to play Division I Ball at Florida Atlantic University for former area great Michael Curry. However, shortly after the season ended it was clear that things were not going to work out at FAU and Coleman was going to need a year at the JUCO level to prepare for a shot at a larger program. He landed at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, Alabama. Now, listed at a VERY generous 6'4", Coleman has wasted little time showing the 4-year programs that he can flat out play. Lawson State is a very good program. They produced five players that signed with 4-year programs a year ago and brought in four Division I transfers this season. Seven of their newcomers stood 6’6” or taller, including 6’11” Artis Cleveland. All that height and pedigree, but it is the wiry prep guard from Butler that has become the team’s leader.

After scoring just 5 points on 2 of 6 shooting in his first college game (a loss to Itawamba CC), something clicked with Coleman. He would score 17, 24, and 31 in his next three contests and post 11 consecutive games in double figures. More importantly he is leading his squad to wins. Lawson State has won 6 straight, 9 of their last 10, and stands at 10-3 on the season, and a lot of the credit goes to Coleman. He is currently 5th in the state in scoring at 17.3 points per game. But, we all knew he could score. What has been extremely impressive is Coleman’s all around play. He is 2nd in the Conference in assists at 6.4 per game and has posted 11 or more assists three times in just 12 games. He is also averaging 4.7 rebounds per game, and he matured as a shooter. In high school he had a reputation as a bit of a gunner and his shooting percentage reflected that. This season he is taking better shots and it is paying off. Coleman is shooting a respectable 45.7% from the floor and is among the conference leaders from three point land at 41.7%.

Coleman only plans to stay at Lawson State for one season and if he keeps this pace up he will have plenty of Division I programs to choose from. 
Darius Williams has always been
a problem for opposing coaches.

While Coleman was busy torching the nets at Butler, on the other side of the county Darius Williams had opposing coaches pulling their hair out. I have to credit former Westside and Duke Star Will Avery for telling me about Williams when he was a freshman at Josey. I went to see him play that season and came away thinking one thing… Darius Williams was fearless. He was only a 9th grader on a team with established leaders, but he was not afraid to take big shots with the game on the line. Williams was very good as a freshman and sophomore, but it was during his Junior year for the Eagles where he really started turning heads. He led the State in scoring at 31.3 points per contest. Williams, a 6'0" guard, topped 40 points four times in 23 games, and scored under 22 points only three times all season. In January that season he was a National Player of the Week finalist after he followed up a 44 point game against Evans with 39 more versus Dublin to earn the Player of the Week for the Southeast Region. While his numbers were down slightly as a senior he still posted 24.4 points per game and also managed 4.9 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game. Over his final two seasons the ultra quick guard scored in double figures in 50 of 50 games and scored 1,378 points…IN TWO SEASONS. Like Coleman, he topped 2,000 points for his career with the Eagles and was ready to take his game to the next level. And, like Coleman, he would be taking the Junior College route.

Williams wound up taking his talents to South Beach. No, not with the Heat, He would suit up for Miami Dade Junior College. Miami Dade was an established JUCO Power and was coming off a 21 win season in 2014-15. However, they were bringing in 12 new players from 8 different countries this season. They did return shooting guard Marvin Jean Pierre who averaged 14 points and 6.8 rebounds last season and was the projected team leader coming into the season. As a matter of fact in two separate Pre-Season Previews of the team Darius Williams name was not even mentioned. Five other freshmen drew praise from Head Coach Stephen Cowherd, but Williams came into the season as an unknown to the folks in South Florida. I kind of laugh, thinking about their fans, looking at this 6-0 170 lb. guard out there warming up amongst the trees. They were probably thinking “Who is this guy?”, "Is he a walk-on”?

Well, trust me they know who Darius Williams is now. After a bit of a slow start, as he began the season coming off the bench, Williams is not only Miami Dade’s top scorer, he is 2nd in all of the Florida JUCO Ranks at 20.2 points per game. He is also averaging 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per night as well. He exploded for 39 points on 14 of 25 shooting from the floor, grabbed 10 boards, and had 3 steals on November 27th in a 103-93 win over Tallahassee C.C. Then, the very next night, Williams went for 33 points including 12 for 15 from the free throw line as Miami Dade topped Pensacola JC 77-73. Miami Dade is 8-5 on the season, and trust me if Coach Cowherd talks about the team anytime soon Darius Williams is a name that will figure prominently in that conversation.

While it may seem Coleman and Williams are laboring in obscurity at the Junior College level, rest assured they are both working on their game and could make a splash at a bigger program in the very near future.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Laney-Westside headlines my AugBball Weekend Preview (Dec 18-19)

AugBball Weekend Preview (Dec 18-19)

On my radar:

Laney at Westside

Two of the town's unbeaten teams meet in a highly anticipate region matchup. Laney has a region win in hand after beating Glenn Hills Tuesday. Westside is flying high after wins at Richmond and Lakeside. I'll be there for at least three of the games (JV boys, varsity girls, varsity boys). And starting at 7 A.M. Saturday I'll post game reports from the biggest night (so far!) of region action of the young season.


Josey at Greenbrier

Both teams are coming off encouraging wins, Josey's being over Butler in the region opener Tuesday. The Eagles will seek to avenge its season opening loss to the Wolfpack. And starting at 7 A.M. Sunday I'll post game reports (tape delayed) from at least three of the games (JV boys, varsity girls, varsity boys).

Augusta University at Georgia Southwestern and Montevallo

The Jags begin Peach Belt conference play with two road games: Thursday at Georgia Southwestern and Saturday at Montevallo. ALL Peach Belt games are difficult. All road games are difficult. I'm eager to see if the young Jaguars can build on Tuesday's success and steal a game or two before the new year.

Lincoln County hosts a Christmas Tournament

The Red Devils enter the weekend on a roll following wins over Josey and Lakeside. Will they return to our area to play Evans Monday undefeated?

The list of undefeated area teams will shrink this weekend

Laney, Westside, Lincoln County, and Westminster are the area's only undefeated teams (other than Thomson, who I have not yet seen). The first three have wins against at least one city power. Laney and Westside both won at Richmond. And Westminster, which plays in an entirely different league, has tallied an impressive win over Daniel of South Carolina's class 3A and another over rival Augusta Prep.

I can't wait for Friday's region showdown between undefeated Laney and Westside

Laney hasn't lost in more than 24 months. So until they take a blow, the Wildcats remain atop the area hill in my book. Westside hopes to be the first to top Laney this Friday in its home opening region game. No team has more momentum right now than the Patriots, who just handed Richmond an eleven point loss on the road, capping a four win run through the first 8 calendar days of their season, which started quite late.

Trez Hawes, Justin Phillips, and Christian Robinson have shot the ball remarkably consistently in the three games I've watched. And Westside has shown the ability to perform under pressure with impressive road wins at Lakeside and Richmond.

But winning difficult games has become so common at Laney, we almost take it for granted. Christian Keeling and Zep's Jasper lead the town's most explosive offense, consistently posting a combined 50 plus points as a tandem in the first five games.

As impressive as the offensive production has been, the Wildcats have made their biggest impact this season by showing they are never out of a game and that they won't easily give up. The last time I saw them play, they turned a 20 point deficit into a 1 point win over the last team to beat Laney, Morgan County. And three days prior, the group Kyle Sandy (GHSA hoops writer extraordinaire) calls the "cardiac cats" overcame an 18 point second half deficit win in overtime at Richmond.

Jasper made a big three down the stretch in each game, one to tie the Richmond game for the first time with two minutes left in regulation, and the other to put Laney ahead of Morgan County for good, 65-64. He and Keeling scored a combined 99 points in that pair of comebacks.

Which of these region 3A powers will be undefeated leading into the break? I'll be there to find out and to bring you as much of it as I can, in as much detail as possible.

The Red Hot Red Devils host a tournament before returning to town

Like Westside, Lincoln County started late. And like the Patriots, the Red Devils are red hot! We simply don't see the type of statistics 6'7" junior center Ahmad Rand has posted in the two Lincoln County games I've seen. The athletic shot blocker with a soft touch tallied 39 points, 30 rebounds and 26 blocks in wins over Josey Saturday and Lakeside Tuesday.

Senior Zach Crite has led the team in scoring at a 21 points per game clip. But coach Wes Wuchte gives equal praise to his point guard, Maciah Gunby, who has a knack for scoring timely baskets, and to defensive whizzes Xavier Gartrell and Tydarius Elam, both highly regarded defensive backs in the Fall who Wuchte says have made as big an impact on the team's early success as any player.

The Red Devils host a four team tournament this weekend and will return to our area for three games at Evans High School (against Evans December 21, versus Grovetown December 28, and an opponent to be determined) before the new year begins.


Westminster currently sits atop the private school hill

Westminster has the current claim to bragging rights among the area's private schools after earning wins over rivals Augusta Prep (in a non-region game) and Augusta Christian. Junior transfer Jelani Watson-Gayle has been as good as advertised. And Nygel Eaddy, Michael Dukes, and Steven Lambert make three veteran starters who can score and apply defensive pressure.

The Wildcats and their region rival, Augusta Prep, take turns playing Pinewood and Brentwood this Friday and Saturday. I can't help but look forward to the new year when Westminster, Prep, and Gatewood face each other in region play 6 times in 6 weeks. Watson-Gayle and Ryan Jolly (Augusta Prep) have been a blast to watch. I expect the same from Gatewood's Marcus Ford, who led his team to the state championship game last season and played AAU ball with Team Power, Augusta's top program last Spring and Summer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sherrill and Foreman log career highs, please adoring fans in win over Coastal Georgia

With thousands of fifth graders chanting "Defense!" in unison, senior Trevor Foreman stole the ball and assisted on a three point play by Keshun Sherrill, one of three straight fast break conversions by Augusta University that resulted in a 64-58 Jaguar lead, which turned into an 89-85 win over Coastal Georgia on Education Day.
Sherrill scored a career high 43 Tuesday.

The 7-0 run in which Foreman and Sherrill accounted for the all baskets and assists was a microcosm of the game. Both guards scored career highs and both were deciding factors in Augusta's win, which snaps a two game slide.

Foreman tallied 9 points, grabbed 6 steals, and dished 5 assists in his first start of the season. The Evans graduate changed the game by applying pressure to Coastal Georgia's ball handlers and did a fantastic job defensively after being switched to Dominic Early, who led Coastal Georgia with 34 points.

I joked with Trevor in the interview in the game report above about my giving him the "AugBball game ball" for his inspiring effort on a day when the guy I call Superman (Sherrill) posted a career high 43 points. As he often does, the retuning junior all American Sherrill made the spectacular look routine.

Playing much of the game beside two capable ball handlers (Foreman and freshman Aaron Byrd), the dynamic scorer whose 25 points per contest clip entering Tuesday's game just got a lot closer to 30 was free to hunt for scoring opportunities. As I said in the broadcast, it is never a bad thing for Augusta when Keshun is attacking offensively.

The 52 combined points from the backcourt went nicely with the collective 27 points and 14 rebounds from the Augusta raised inside duo of Tommy Williams (Richmond Academy) and Tamyrik Fields (Aquinas). The Jags (3-3, 0-0) now go on the road for their first two conference games, Thursday at Georgia Southwestern and Saturday at Montevallo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Lincoln County improves to 3-0 with win at Lakeside; introducing Ahmad Rand!

Rand recorded his second consecutive triple-double Tuesday.
For the second time in four days, Lincoln County's Ahmad Rand posted video game statistics, this time in a 66-62 win at Lakeside. The 6'7" junior center scored 16 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and swatted away 11 shots in an encore of his 23 point, 15 rebound, 15 block outing in Saturday's win over Josey.

Lakeside could not crack Lincoln County's defensive code in the first half. The Panthers were not able to include freshman Kalen Williams in the offense and their leading scorer (16 ppg) through 5 games was only able to make a single field goal against the Red Devils' denying and double teaming scheme.

But Williams found some daylight in the second half, nailing 3 threes, including one off the dribble in transition, and another from near half court! The phenomenal 14 year old scored 15 second half
Kaylen Williams led a second half comeback with 15 of his
17 points coming after intermission.
points and set up teammates Kresean Hall and Brad Hilley for open looks. The trio made a combined 8 second half threes during a furious comeback that culminated in a 54 all tie after Williams beat a double team and made a high arching jumper over Rand's outstretched arms.

But Crite's relentless attack, Rand's presence on both ends and sophomore Maciah Gunby's timely shot making were too much to overcome.

Crite led all scorers with 21. Rand added 16 and Gunby 15. Hall led Lakeside with 18 and Williams scored 17.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Will Avery and I talk Westside, Kaylen Williams (Lakeside), girls hoops, Richmond-Westside, Lakeside-Lincoln County and more!

Still excited Sunday morning after having watched Westside's thriller of a 63-62 win at Lakeside Saturday, I texted Will Avery (of Duke and NBA fame) with my opinion about Kaylen Williams, Lakeside's freshman phenom. He responded and we agreed it would be fun to record and share with you our phone conversation.

We started with Williams and wandered into Will's thoughts on his former high school team, Westside, which has started its season 3-0 and has upcoming games against Richmond (Tuesday), Laney (Friday), and Butler (Monday).

I got his thoughts on the high school girls scene. Will is uniquely positioned to break down things like Morgan County's recent win at Laney, the defending state champs. He coaches several of those teams' players on his Georgia Sting AAU team.

I tricked him into talking about his daughter Yasmine, who scored 19 points in Greenbrier's win Friday at Westside, the school Will helped to earn a state title and recognition by USA Today as the nation's 9th best high school team in 1995.

Will made a prediction about the coming region 5A race and the two most likely candidates to finish on top, Grovetown and Cross Creek.

All that and more is in the video above. Where possible, I added footage of the players and teams being discussed. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Westside wins a WILD one at Lakeside to improve to 3-0

People who follow my AugBball stuff know I watch a lot of games. I see my share of good ones. I try not to overreact after an exciting contest and over exaggerate when I describe it. But I am confident in saying Westside's 63-62 road win at Lakeside Saturday was the most exciting high school basketball game of this young season.

The action in the third quarter sent a current through Lakeside's gym as Westside erased a 31-22 Panther lead in less than 90 seconds. The span included 7 consecutive Christian Robinson points on Westside's first three third quarter possessions. The Patriots would go on to score 27 in the quarter and claim a 49-46 lead going into the final 8 minutes.

Robinson scored 17 second half points in Saturday's win.

Despite Westside's third quarter offensive explosion, I couldn't stop shaking my head at the performance of Lakeside's freshman sensation Kalen Williams. With his late second quarter spurt fresh in my mind, I marveled at his eagerness to get the ball, take, and make huge shots, and to create easy shots for others to keep his team from being steamrolled by Westside's offensive machine.

Freshman Kalen Williams has burst onto the high school scene.

The freshman made 3 second half threes, the third tying the game at 49 on the first possession of the final quarter. But the fireworks were only beginning.

Robinson's finish in transition with 3:20 remaining gave the Patriots a 55-54 lead. But after an Elijah Brown putback gave Westside a three point advantage, Kre'sean Hall put Lakeside ahead 58-57 with the flick of the wrist as he buried a three off the dribble from the top of the key while being fouled, and converted the free throw with 2:24 left.

The lead would change hands three more times in the next 100 seconds as Robinson made two free throws (59-58 Westside, 2:10 remaining); Jalen Nealious banked in a runner (60-59 Lakeside, 1:20 left); Trez Hawes netted a jump hook (61-60 Westside, 1:00 to go); and Williams made two technical free throws (62-61 Lakeside, :27 remaining).

But Robinson's two made free throws with 14.7 seconds left in the game provided the final margin in this instant AugBball classic.

Robinson led Westside with 18 points, all but 1 coming after halftime. Justin Phillips scored 16, nailing 4 threes. Hawes tallied 14.

Williams led the Panthers with 18, including 4 threes. Nealious scored 16, and Hall added 11.

Westside JV wins at Lakeside, completes the weekend sweep

After dropping its first two games, Westside's junior varsity exited the weekend with a .500 record, adding Saturday's 61-49 road win at Lakeside to Friday's home victory over Greenbrier.

Five Patriots scored 10 or more points Saturday: Quay Allen (14), Josh Kelly (13), Xavier Harrison (11), Isaac Wingfield (10), and Patrick Hudson (10).
Quay Allen led all scorers with 14 points Saturday.

Wingfield made 2 threes and Quay Allen added another during a 17-3 first half run that gave the Patriots an early 11 point lead. Lakeside got as close as 5 after a trio of baskets by Bradley Hilley and Trelan Murphy.

But Westside's 25-17 halftime lead would only grow, and the outcome was never in doubt after intermission.

Hilley led the Panthers with 12 points, and Murphy added 10.

The Patriots will need the momentum created this weekend as Laney visits Friday.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Robinson and Hawes lead Westside to home win over Greenbrier

Christian Robinson and teammate Trez Hawes combined to score 18 points in the game's first 8 minutes Friday as the Patriots took a 21-10 lead and never looked back, improving to 2-0 with a 69-51 home win over Greenbrier.

Christian Robinson and Elijah Brown defend Greenbrier's screen and roll Friday.

Trez Hawes led all scorers with 19 points. Robinson scored all 16 of his in the first half, and Elijah Brown added 15. The Patriots visit Lakeside Saturday in a rematch of Westside's win at home Tuesday.

Justen Hartfield led Greenbrier with 11 points. The Wolfpack's record stands at 5-3 heading into Saturday's game at Buford.

Avery leads Greenbrier to road win at Westside

In a flashback to the 1990's, someone with the last name Avery was the best player on Westside's
Yasmine Avery led Greenbrier with 19 points Friday.
court. Only in 2015 Yasmine Avery, Will's daughter, was a visitor in her dad's old stomping grounds. And she brought his days as a Patriot to mind while she scored 19 points in the first three quarters Friday to lead the Lady Wolfpack to a 60-48 non-region road win over the Lady Patriots.

Avery scored 13 points and freshman Abbey Steele made two threes in the first half as the Lady Wolfpack overcame an early 7-2 deficit to lead 37-21 at intermission.

Greenbrier improves to 5-4, and the Patriots fall to 1-1. Austellia Kelly led Westside with 17 points.

Westside's junior varsity tops Greenbrier in 69-65 shootout

Westside's junior varsity boys spent most of Friday's game leading Greenbrier by a double digit margin before withstanding a frantic Wolfpack comeback to earn the Patriots' first victory of the season, a 69-65 decision at home.

Sophomore Josh Kelly got Westside off to a scorching start, scoring 16 of his game high 23 in the game's first half. The Patriots also got contributions from sophomore Xavier Harrison and Isaac Wingfield, who scored 15 and 10 points, respectively.

Greenbrier's deficit was not due to an inability to score. The Wolfpack's frontline combined to put up 51 points, including 19 in the final quarter as the Wofpack cut Westside's 11 point lead to 1 after Legend Barrett, who led Greenbrier with 22 points, made two free throws with 2:21 remaining.

Legend Barrett led Greenbrier with 22 points Friday.

But that was as close as the game would get as the Patriots prevailed and improved to 1-2. Greenbrier fell to 5-2.

In addition to Barrett's 22 points, Brandon Harris added 16, and Bret Black chipped in 13.

Westside faces Lakeside Saturday. I'll be there to see if the Patriots can win their second straight to complete the weekend sweep.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Josey vs Butler: A look forward to (and back at) Region 3A's high profile opening night matchup

The first night of region 3A action promises fireworks if last season's showdown between Butler and Josey was any indication of what we will see Tuesday when the Eagles host the Bulldogs in a matchup of region rivals and two of Augusta's best teams.

Butler currently stands 4-1 after a narrow loss at Richmond Friday, a rematch of the Bulldogs' win a week earlier at Paine College. Josey (2-2) has won two straight games, both at home against Evans and Cross Creek, respectively.

Both teams have a flock of perimeter players who attack the basket, shoot from long range, and defend all 94 feet of the court. Josey's Donald Jordan looked as good as any player has this season in Saturday's 68-60 win over Cross Creek. The senior, who missed Josey's first two losses due to injury, scored 24 points, making 5 three pointers and throwing down a thunderous dunk in transition, against the Razorbacks.

Butler's Jzwa Collier, Jerry Leverette, and Deandre Barton have all factored heavily in Butler's early success. Collier led all scorers with 21 points in Friday's 73-72 loss to Richmond.

Leverette scored 16 and Barton added 11 in the win over the Musketeers a week earlier.

Opposing junior post players, Will Lambert (Butler) and Javen Whitehead (Josey), make up for what they lack in height with athleticism, power, and guts. No inside players I've seen this season play the game more physically or higher above the rim than these two.

Tuesday's game will be hard pressed to live up to last year's duel between the area's top scorer's, Butler's Don Coleman and Josey's Darius Williams. The shot making during the two's back-and-forth first half exchanges was electric. I'll let the video footage do my talking.

In addition to the fireworks from the seniors, last season's big game was my first chance to see Josey's Jordan, who quickly became one of the area's best guards.

With the memories of last season's sizzling beginning of the region 3A schedule in mind, I look forward to this year's edition and the memories it may provide.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

An evening with the Kingz, Augusta's new ABA team

The ABA's Georgia Kingz improved to 3-0 with a 133-104 win Sunday over the Atlanta Aliens at Richmond Academy. Former Augusta University and Laney standout Harold Doby, who is currently finishing his studies and assisting Jaguars' coach Dip Metress, led all scorers with 42 points. PJ Meyers added 32, and Robert Turner chipped in 26.

Harold Doby led all scorers with 42 points Sunday.
The Kingz have not yet been challenged in the fourth quarter of an ABA game. The team features Augusta raised talent up and down the roster. In addition to Doby, Meyers attended Josey before earning NAIA All American honors at Life University. And Turner started at Texas Tech after graduating from Laney. Xavier Collier (Benedict College, Laney) Santoine Butler (USC Aiken, Cross Creek), and CJ Washington (UAB, Butler) also made significant contributions Sunday.

Team Power's scrimmage preceded the Kingz game 
The professional game was preceded by an inter-squad scrimmage between teams orange and white of the 4-7 year old Team Power AAU club. Sunday was the second time I'd seen these youngsters in action, and they impressed me as much then as they did the day after Thanksgiving at Paine College.

See our area's oldest and most talented players, as well as some of our youngest and most adorable, in the video above. And go support the pros when they are back in action Sunday, December 20, at Richmond Academy.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Josey defends its home court with win over Cross Creek

Donald Jordan watches one of his 5 threes fall in Saturday's win.
Josey looked as good as advertised in Saturday's 68-60 home win over Cross Creek. Senior Donald Jordan led all scorers with 24 points, including 5 three pointers, and the Eagles held off a late Cross Creek surge, securing the victory when senior Khalon Whitley deflected a pass and scored with less than two minutes remaining to give his team a 61-57 lead.

Jordan scored 9 second quarter points to help establish a 35-27 halftime lead. And he followed with an eight point second half spurt that gave the Eagles a 56-44 fourth quarter advantage before Moses Jones and Artis Chapman led a 10-0 Cross Creek run that cut Josey's lead to two with less than three minutes remaining.

Artis Chapman led Cross Creek with 17 points Saturday.
Chapman and Jones led the Razorbacks with 17 and 16 points, respectively.

I've reported a lot recently about impressive showings by Laney, Richmond, and Butler, who have played each other in three highly entertaining games in the past 10 days. But I also wrote in the high school edition of my "November's Notes" series, that Josey will have its say in the conversation about which team is our area's best. Saturday's game, which was my first look at this season's Eagles squad, made me confident that I finally got a prediction correct!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Westminster downs rival Augusta Prep in non-region matchup

Westminster knocked off region rival Augusta Prep 46-35 Saturday in the championship game of Prep's tip-off tournament, which has become an annual tradition for the area's private schools.

Jelani Watson-Gayle (Westminster) drives past
Miles Downing (Augusta Prep) Saturday.
Senior Nygel Eaddy led the way with 11 points, and Junior Jelani Watson-Gayle added 10, including 8 consecutive third quarter points that gave the Wildcats a double digit lead that would not be threatened again.

The matchup was the first of at least three this season between the GISA region rivals. Saturday's was a non-region contest. But the emotion TJ Wright showed after his three point play in the third quarter and the extra spring in Michael Dukes's step during his second half tip-dunk in transition showed Saturday's game meant more than the average early season duel.

Miles Downing led the Cavaliers with 16.

Richmond tops Butler in rematch

In Richmond's second highly entertaining and hotly contested game in its home gym this week, the Musketeers prevailed 73-72 over Butler Friday after Chris Jones made a floater to break a 69 all tie and DT Stephens followed with a driving layup to put the home team ahead by 4. Jones led Richmond with 20 points. Moses Williams added 13.

The game was as close as any game can be. Butler held the biggest lead of the night, a 17-10 first quarter advantage. But senior Illinois State signee Madison Williams, who hasn't played since opening night, scored and Jones followed with one of his 3 three pointers to cut the Bulldogs advantage to two.

Neither team led by more than 5 after that. Jzwa Collier, who led all scorers with 21 points, made shots to end the second and third quarters, and opened the fourth with a three pointer to to give Butler a 3 point advantage before teammate Kyler Haynes forced through a one handed dunk that gave Butler a 60-55 edge.

Jones would make 2 threes down the stretch, the second on an assist from Stephens, who scored all 6 of his points during the deciding quarter, to give Richmond its lead back at 65-64.

Williams made a pair of plays using a screen to give the Musketeers breathing room down the stretch. First he buried an 18 footer when his defender went under the screen. Next he hit Rashard Green, who finished his roll to the basket to put the Musketeers ahead 69-66.

Collier tied the game at 69 before Jones and Stephens finished the job with their game deciding scores.

The game ended controversially as Butler's players and coaches left the court during a dead ball while trailing 73-72 with 20 seconds remaining.

Such a strange finish was surely the talk of the gym after Friday's showdown between two of the city's top teams. Watching on tape delay, my most vivid memories are those of the fantastic play by the teams' gritty competitors.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Laney's JV wins; Lady Wildcats fall to Morgan County

The junior varsity Laney Wildcats pleased the capacity crowd with a game closing 10-4 run during the final 3 minutes as the home team claimed a 59-55 victory over Morgan County Friday. Djuan Griffin led all scorers with 22 points.

Laney's Benjamin avoids a diving Alexis Brown Friday.
See the highlights from the Wildcats' late rush at the end of the video above.

Immediately following the JV game, Morgan County's Lady Bulldogs used relentless pressure and nifty teamwork to upend the defending state champion Laney Laney Wildcats 78-69 in front of a stunned home crowd. Alexis Brown and Tayhana Davis led the Lady Bulldogs with 22 points each.

Morgan County started fast when Brown scored 7 points in an early burst that gave her team a 13-7 first quarter lead that mushroomed into a 41-28 halftime advantage. Brown scored 13 of her 22 points in the opening half.

Laney charged back into contention with two separate third quarter spurts that cut the deficit to 43-37 after Desha Benjamin's three point play with 6:37 remaining in the period. The Lady Wildcats would again cut the lead to 6 at 53-47. But Morgan County had an answer for every Wildcat run. Davis scored 17 second half points, and Laney came up short for the first time in over 11 months.

Laney's record stands at 4-1. Desha Benjamin led the way with 23 points in the loss.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Laney's comeback kids do it again; overcome 43-23 deficit to avenge playoff loss

What could possibly be as exciting and impressive as Laney's overtime comeback win at Richmond Tuesday? A 65-64 win Friday, this time after being down 20 to the Morgan County Bulldogs, the only team to beat Laney in nearly 400 days.

After making the dramatic three to cap Tuesday's comeback and force overtime, College of Charleston signee Zep Jasper buried another bomb Friday to punctuate another furious run and give the Wildcats the deciding 65-64 edge, their first lead of the game, with just over a minute remaining.

Jasper scored 29 points and made his second huge
shot of the week, leading Laney to Friday's win.
Laney's run was sparked by Jasper's hawking of Morgan County's ball handlers throughout the fourth quarter. The best two way high school guard I've seen forced numerous five second violations and offensive fouls with his pressure. And Laney's struggling offense got a boost from the easy layups and dunks that came from more Bulldog turnovers.

Jasper finished with 29 points and fellow senior guard and Charleston Southern signee Christian Keeling added 22 as the duo, and their Laney teammates, continued to defy expectations with another dramatic performance that keeps the Wildcats' record perfect at 5-0.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

November's Notes: Our new ABA team can be a community treasure

The players on the ABA's Georgia Kingz roster are unquestionably good. Their names still ring in conversations about basketball in Augusta. But when I watch Robert Turner, CJ Washington, Marcus McDaniel, Harold Doby, Reggie Middleton, Santoine Butler, PJ Meyers, Xavier Collier, and coaches Ron Freeman and Olliver Ottley, all graduates of Augusta high schools and former college players, I see my community. And because at various times during the past 15 years I've acted, honestly, as a sort of father figure for at least half of those men (then boys), I also see family.

I want to support these men in building their careers by properly explaining the value in the product they put on the floor during the first two games of the franchise's history.

I also want to work with the men involved to help them build the community for tomorrow's men who now compete in our elementary through high schools, and even the colleges, in our area.
Team Power's elementary schoolers will play right beofore the
Georgia Kingz's 6:00 P.M. tip off Sunday at Richmond Academy.
Josey graduate and former Paine College Lion Marcus McDaniel turned to me on the baseline of Richmond Academy's court during a dead ball at Saturday's Kingz game, shook my hand, and told me he appreciates what I do. I wish I had told him I too appreciate what he is doing. He is the kind of man a professional organization needs to be viable and worthwhile.

Harold Doby is another such man. I'm cheering for my former Boys Club and Augusta Metro patroller of the paint as he finishes his studies at Augusta University, where he played three seasons under coach Dip Metress. I'm also cheering for him as he works on Metress's staff as an assistant coach this season. And I couldn't help cheering for him from behind my camera when he slammed home a sweet lob from childhood friend and teammate (and player of mine) PJ Meyers in Sunday's 119-106 Kingz win.

You can see the complete highlight package from Sunday's win at this link.

Harold held a basketball clinic for youngsters the day after Thanksgiving at Hornsby Middle School. That is the kind of thing I envision these professionals doing in our community. The kinds of things I'd like to help guys like Harold do in the near future.

So help me help them by attending a game and seeing for yourself why I say it's worth the $10 price of admission to see the 2-0 Kingz in action. Your next chance is Sunday at 6:00 at Richmond Academy when the guys face the Atlanta Aliens.

I'll be in the gym supporting family. Will I see you there?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Lady Wildcats looked like the defending state champs in win at Richmond

During Tuesday's 75-34 road win over Richmond, coach Otis Smart's defending state champion Laney Lady Wildcats showed why I believe they may be our area's most skilled team. Boys teams included.

Six of the top seven players in the rotation consistently make threes when left open. They all attack with the dribble using both hands and keep their heads up so they can find open teammates. And they seem to love making the passes that lead to each other's easy scores.

Benjamin led all scorers with 20 points in Tuesday's win.
These attributes were on full display during a 10 minute long, 34-6 spurt that put the Lady Wildcats ahead 57-23 and allowed Smart to clear his bench to begin the fourth quarter.

Desha Benjamin led all scorers with 20 points. Aubriana Bonner added 16 and Jasmine Bartlett tallied 11, including 3 three pointers.

Richmond was paced by Makayla Tanksley's 14 points and 13 from Jasmine Robinson.

Laney (4-0) faces Morgan County (3-3), a top ten team in class 3A, Friday at home. The Lady Wildcats are currently ranked #1 in class 3A.

The last time Laney and Morgan County played, the game was highly entertaining. I placed the AugBball sponsored broadcast directly below. Check it out!

November's Notes: Competition between middle schools like Langford and Columbia (for example) should begin as soon as possible

There has been nothing as uplifting and wholesome as the experience I've had following some of our area's best middle school teams from Richmond County and Columbia County. That Langford, Columbia, Spirit Creek, Grovetown Middle, and Hornsby are located in slightly different geographies means essentially nothing to the hordes of parents, family members, classmates and fans who have flooded to their entertaining and very well played games.

The rematch between Columbia and Grovetown Middle was a special evening, as the teams' supporters brought signs and wore special "white out" tee shirts. And the play was every bit as special, as Christian Chambers scored 33 points in 24 minutes to help the Raiders avenge their earlier loss to the Patriots.

Adding cross county games and championship tournaments to their schedules would add to the enjoyment of the players and fans. Doing so would also give the young competitors more opportunities to learn and get even more experience becoming mature and capable young men and women through the wonders of competition. Which players, coaches, or supporters of Columbia County's teams wouldn't want to be part of an atmosphere at Langford like the one shown below in the high profile matchup below between the defending Richmond County champs and visiting Spirit Creek? (And likewise for the Langford and Spirit Creek contingent regarding the Columbia Middle atmosphere above!)

When I exited Lakeside middle school in 1990, there were four schools in Columbia County. Our schedule consisted of games against the other three county schools and Norris Middle, which is now Thomson. And Richmond County had just began letting its schools compete with each other after not even allowing middle school sports competition before the late 80's.

Twenty-five years later, it is past time to do the common sense thing and allow the men and women (middle school coaches, many of whom are volunteers) who help develop our community's boys and girls to freely schedule games and tournaments that area hoops fans like me will flock to see.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Laney stages a monster comeback to win at Richmond

Competition often brings out the best in people. The area's most anticipated game of the young high school season brought out the best in the Laney and Richmond players as the Musketeers played three quarters of lights out basketball before succumbing to a relentless comeback led by Laney's Christian Keeling, who scored 32 points in the Wildcats' 75-72 overtime road win.

Keeling and Jasper once again lit up the scoreboard,
ringing up a combined 54 points in Tuesday's win.
Keeling had plenty of help, as backcourt mate Zep Jasper scored 22 points despite sitting much of the fourth quarter with four fouls. His three with just over a minute remaining in regulation tied the score at 66, marking the first time since right after the game's tip-off that Richmond didn't lead. And sophomore guard Donald Henley put the Wildcats ahead for good with a three from the left wing to give Laney a 71-68 lead with 2:25 left in the extra period.

Richmond sprinted out to a 23-7 first quarter lead and held two more leads of sixteen, at 40-24 in the second quarter, and 47-31 in the third. Rashad Calloway, DT Stephens, and Nick Roberts did much of the first half damage. Jason Weaver and Chris Jones made timely third quarter shots to keep the Wildcats at bay. But a 5 point fourth quarter was not enough to protect the Musketeer lead.

Henley scored 9 points on 3 three pointers to add to Keeling and Jasper's 54 combined points. Calloway scored 16, Weaver 12, and Roberts 10 for the Musketeers.

The support both teams got from the capacity crowd was amazing. The players impressed us all in so many ways. Richmond proved they are a complete team that will win big games. Stephens proved to me he is an impact player the likes of which most teams don't have.

The Musketeers also proved to have players with strong character. Like Calloway, who after barreling over Henley and being called for a charge with the game tied and less than a minute remaining in regulation, stopped to help Henley off the ground.

And Keeling literally played himself into such a state that he needed special attention after the game. (Don't worry, Christian is fine.) I've seen he and Jasper play and score in these first four games unlike anything I've ever seen from them. But the way they did so Tuesday under extreme adversity left me speechless.

Looking ahead

Friday Laney (4-0) hosts Morgan County, the last team to beat the Wildcats. The boys game features two of last season's top three class 3A teams in the state. The girls game features the defending state champ and currently #1 ranked Lady Wildcats* versus the team currently ranked #7.

Butler (4-0) visits Richmond (3-2) Friday in a rematch of last Friday's game at Paine College.

*Be on the lookout for my game report from the Lady Wildcats' game versus Richmond Tuesday. It will be released tonight!

Laney-Richmond, Butler-Richmond, Kelly's Pace Academy all in episode 3 of the I-20 Connection

This week's topics include last Saturday's Holiday Hoopsgiving and this Saturday's Adidas Explosion events. Both feature Augusta's Isaiah Kelly, a 6'8" sophomore who recently transferred from Augusta Christian to his current home, Pace Academy. In addition to Kelly, the events include many of Georgia's very best players and teams, including Kobi Simmons (Saint Francis), Wendell Carter (Pace), and Jared Harper (Pebblebrook).

Augusta's Greg Williams, who organizes AAU events at PQ Sports and runs Team Power, the AAU team many of Augusta's best players, joins Marques Burnett and me. Greg is well versed on these high profile events after attending Hoopsgiving and seeing many of the same teams (Pebblebrook, Green Forrest, Pace, etc) there that he and Marques will see again at the Explosion, which is also to be streamed live by Burnett's group at thesuvtv.com.

Of course I made sure we had ample time to discuss this week's jam packed slate of Augusta high school basketball action, including Laney's game at Richmond Tuesday, Butler's game against the Musketeers Friday, and Morgan County's coming visit to Laney that same day.

With all the action up and down the I-20 corridor, I called this week the best of the season, so far, for the peach state. Thanks for listening. I'll see you in the gym.