Thursday, February 26, 2015

Laney defeats East Hall 92-67; advances to Final Four

Senior Jashawn Brooks scored 25 points to lead Laney
I try to put meaningful information and insight into my posts about area basketball.  I have commented about Laney countless times this season.  Not once have I asked for a particular player's point total after a Laney game.  The number of points scored by one player is never the story behind Laney's success, in my opinion.  But tonight I had to double back and find coach Buck Harris to ask how many points senior Jashawn Brooks scored.  His 25 points led the Wildcats to a 92-67 third round win in fellow number one seed East Hall's gym.  Brooks's barrage of threes was the story tonight.  Kind of.  Let me explain.

That a player with Jashawn's size, athleticism, and basketball smarts has a shooting stroke as sweet as his is noteworthy.  But there are so many noteworthy things about Laney's team that it is easy to lose track of the gifts of any one player.  Brooks's three pointer that swished right as the second quarter buzzer sounded put Laney ahead 39-27.  And this was just the beginning of an array of bombs from the senior leader as Laney would score 49 points during the game's next 12 minutes before nursing its 20+ point lead in the game's final minutes.

Coach Buck Harris had high praise
for junior point guard Zep Jasper 
But as well as Jashawn played, there were long stretches of time when other Wildcats carried the offensive load.  Junior Collin Young gave his team an early ten point lead with a string of key baskets during the first half.  And the Wildcats exploited a matchup advantage inside by isolating senior Jaylen Taylor, who finished at the rim consistently.

A key to all of this scoring coming from all of these sources was the control of the offense exhibited by junior point guard Zep Jasper.  Coach Harris shared an interesting tidbit after the game when he commended Jasper's play against East Hall's full court pressure.  Zep handled it so well that I told Buck I didn't even notice he was facing a full court trap!

No player on Laney's team averages more than 13 points per outing.  So many different guys have made winning contributions during the team's 27 game winning streak.  I would predict anyone who saw Thursday's game would tell you Brooks was on fire.  But they may not immediately guess that he scored a ton of points.  That's because when it comes to Laney, a team in the truest sense of the word, a single player scoring a lot of points is never the story.  Even when it kind of is.

GRU wins 11th straight; preparing for Saturday's conference quarterfinals

Keshun Sherrill is a leader in almost
every imaginable Peach Belt statistic.
GRU finished its regular season in style, winning its 11th straight game and doing it by beating arch rival USC Aiken in overwhelming fashion.  The Jags shot better than 60% from the field and just under that mark from deep, while out rebounding the Pacers 38-22 in an 88-69 victory with implications larger than just bragging rights.

The win secures GRU's position as the Peach Belt East Division's #1 seed.  This is important for two reasons.  The higher seed positions the Jags opposite the West Division's #4 seed (Young Harris), rather than the #3 seed, in Saturday's Peach Belt conference tournament.  But more important is that if GRU wins its quarterfinal game (Saturday at Christenberry Fieldhouse), coach Metress's squad will host the conference semifinals and championship game the following Friday and Saturday.

The Jags' final regular season game
was a party for GRU fans!
I have thought a lot lately about the game I think was the area's most exciting of the season, the Jags' 97-88 overtime win at Lander Jauary 10th.  The Jags entered that contest 2-3 in Peach Belt play and looked vulnerable.  Fourteen games later, GRU has stumbled only once.  And the team seems to be playing better than ever at the moment.  Here's to (hopefully) three more Jags games at Christenberry.  I can say that because I'm a fan.  I'll trust the best coach I know, Dip Metress, to keep the guys' minds focused on the only basketball thing that truly matters right now:  Saturday's game. I hope I'll see you there.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Laney defeats Dawson County to advance to the Final Four

There was a lot of joy Tuesday when
the Lady Wildcats' victory was in hand.
I won't write a big post tonight.  I figure the Lady Wildcats did enough talking for me with their inspired play in defeating the state's #1 team, undefeated Dawson County.

I said in the video above this was one of the best games I've seen all season.  I meant it. That this team can send this fan base home with that experience on the night of the Wildcats' last home game is story book stuff. 

Enjoy the video report from the game.  And check out the AugBball Instagram and Facebook pages for photos and short stories from the game starting Wednesday morning.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Laney Rule

Jaylen Taylor has been teaching me
"the Laney rule" all season.
I have discovered a law of nature I'll call "the Laney rule."  This rule applies only to camera operators.  Luckily players, coaches, and fans need not learn the Laney rule.  But people like me who aim to capture and share all the goodness found at Laney games (boys and girls) ignore it at our own peril.

Laney Seniors (from left:  Jervon Walker,
Jashawn Brooks. Jaylen Taylor, Tommy
Smith, Tyqwan Wilson, Rico Merriweather
(not pictured), Nick Myers (not pictured)

The Laney rule simply dictates that while the ball is in play, cameras must roll.  I relearned the Laney rule Saturday in the teams' sweet sixteen round blowout wins.  If the camera isn't rolling, I am likely to miss Jaylen Taylor gliding through the air for a rim shaking dunk.  Or Aliyah Collier will steal the ball in the back court and hit a cutting De'sha Benjamin, who will finish in stride with her left hand.  Or coach Buck Harris will holler "four," prompting the floor to be spread, and Zep Jasper will dart to the hoop or bury a three off the bounce.

In the video above, I try to show you what I mean by the Laney rule.  The Wildcats teams are those rare teams that even make blowouts like Saturday's must see events!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The GRU Jaguars are fantastic! (In my 1980's NBA commercial voice); Jags take 10th consecutive game

Sophomore Keshun Sherrill gives his senior teammates well
deserved applause as they head to the bench, victory in hand.
Saturday's nationally televised homecoming showdown between the red hot GRU Jaguars and Lander had the best basketball atmosphere I've seen for a Jags game since current athletic director and then head coach Clint Bryant led some of my long time friends and mentors (Keenan Mann, Buck Harris, Derek Stewart and other GRU greats) into battle with the University of South Carolina in the first ever game at Christenberry Fieldhouse in 1991.  I'll qualify that statement by admitting I have been absent for too many of the magical games during Dip Metress's head coaching era, be they the annual showdowns with USC Aiken or the Peach Belt tournament or NCAA tournament matchups that loyal Jags fans have been privileged to see this past decade.

Wright-Nelson (left), McCarthy (middle) and Thomas
(right) had great senior day performances Saturday.

These games aren't the only things I've regretted missing.  I hate that in the video above I am unable to share Keshun Sherrill's rim rattling breakaway dunk off a perfect Devon Wright-Nelson outlet pass* that sent the sold out crowd into a frenzy.  But I didn't miss Sherrill's baskets soon after that pivotal second half moment, the baskets that helped seal the game as the Jags benefitted from fabulous outings by seniors Wright-Nelson, D'Angelo Boyce, Devonte Thomas, and Henry McCarthy.  And I didn't miss freshman Vlad Cobzaru's continuing progress as a low post threat.

This young man is a D'Angelo Boyce fan.  Me too!
Nor will I miss Wednesday's "black out" game versus arch rival Aiken.  The season's last regular season game has at stake more than just bragging rights.  GRU, should they continue their winning (11 straight!) ways, has a chance to host every game they play in the coming Peach Belt tournament.

Know that I'll be at Christenberry for each Jags outing.  I don't want to miss any more than I already have!

*The sequence referenced above, where Wright-Nelson feeds Sherrill for a striding one hand dunk and Wright-Nelson immediately follows by drawing a charge, had to be the most electric sequence of the season.  That I didn't capture it is no problem because CBS and (and the GRU Jaguars Facebook and Instagram accounts) did!  Go check it out.  Peach Belt and GRU Jags action is fantastic... as the old NBA commercials used to say.

Friday, February 20, 2015

My Weekend Schedule; and a game report from Greenbrier-Gainesville

Last week was "Championship Week."  Today started my weekend to focus on what I'll call "the best games in town."  I once used that description only for GRU games.  The Jags, currently riding a 9 game winning streak, still deserve the distinction.   And as I look at my near term schedule, I see four other local teams (Laney, Paine College, Laney's girls, and Greenbrier's girls) who have earned that special status as well.  First, I'll share my schedule, then I'll share with you the results of my weekend's first game.

My AugBball weekend schedule:

GRU's homecoming game Saturday (noon) is one of five
games I'll try to see, and report on this weekend.
Friday:  Greenbrier lost a heart breaker to Gainesville on a buzzer beater in the sweet sixteen round of the playoffs.  See the full report of this game directly below this schedule.

Saturday (noon):  GRU, winners of nine straight and Peach Belt East Division co-leaders, host Lander in a nationally televised homecoming game.  Here is a link to highlights of the Jags' 101-75 rout of Francis Marion Wednesday.

Saturday (3 PM):  Paine College, who recently improved to 20-5 and clinched the regular season SIAC title, faces rival Benedict College.

Saturday (5 PM and 6:30 PM):  Laney's girls and boys will host sweet sixteen playoff action to wrap up a great weekend of Augusta Basketball!

Game Report:  Gainesville 47, Greenbrier 45 (sweet sixteen round of the state playoffs)

Highly competitive basketball teaches lessons to all involved.  The learning opportunity Friday was to see, in a game, how sometimes life doesn't always seem fair.  After Greenbrier sprinted out to an early 11-2 lead, senior Morgan Taylor and three other starters were hampered by foul trouble throughout the game.  Playing for the final ten minutes of the first half with one starter (senior Jennifer McMahan) on the floor, Greenbrier struggled to stay even.  And after an early second half Gainesville run, the Lady Wolfpack trailed 34-26 and had lost its first player (Destiny Marshall) to a fifth foul.  Ever the leader and competitor, Taylor kept her poise and led a furious Lady Wolfpack comeback to erase the deficit.  And after McMahan put in two late jump shots, Greenbrier led 45-41.

After Gainesville battled back to even with fewer than 30 seconds remaining, Taylor made a nifty crossover dribble, slashed into the paint and floated in a sweet bank shot for what appeared to be the game winner.  But the official call was a charge on Taylor, the fifth foul for the Naval Academy bound senior.  A review of the play in the accompanying video will probably leave the impression that the correct call would have been a block or no call at all.

But a time like this is when the game teaches us we are not measured by our results, but by the effort we give, and by the way we respond to the breaks we get.  Lucky or unlucky.  My prediction is Taylor and her teammates will respond like true champs.

If any Gainesville fans read this, I hope I am forgiven for dwelling on an unfortunate end to a highly respected area team's season.  I hope not to leave the impression that the victory was not earned.  The winners played very impressively, and I tried to tell an unbiased story in the video report above.  It is much easier for me to talk about our home team here.  Good luck to the Gainesville girls in the elite eight round of the playoffs.

GRU wins 9th straight (11th of last 12) in a rout of Francis Marion

GRU punctuated its nine game winning streak Wednesday with a 101-75 rout of Francis Marion, handing head coach Dip Mettress his 250th win with the Jaguars.  The team is playing fantastically. Five players scored in double figures Saturday (Devonte Thomas 21, Keshun Sherrill 19, Devon Wright-Nelson 14, Vlad Cobzaru 13, Henry McCarthy 13) and another (Keith Crump) added 9 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds en route to GRU's highest scoring total of the season.

The Jags face Lander Saturday.  Click here to see my reporting
of the first meeting between the teams (the game that made
me knick name Keshun Sherrill "Superman.")
The Jags will close the regular season in style with a nationally televised homecoming game versus Lander Saturday at noon and a "blackout" game Wednesday against arch rival USC Aiken at home.  The Jags (21-5, 13-4) are tied for first place with UNC Pembroke in the East Division of the Peach Belt Athletic Conference and ranked 5th in the first Southeast Region poll. Saturday's game with Lander is a must see, especially given the significance, and more importantly the entertainment value, of the teams' first meeting six weeks ago.

The Jags entered that contest with a 2-3 conference record.  GRU would not only earn a thrilling 97-88 overtime win (this is the game I gave Sherrill the "Superman" nickname!),  but they would ignite the eleven-wins-in-twelve-games run coach Metress's team is currently enjoying.

Check out the video above in which I report on the Jaguars' hottest scoring game of the season.  And go Jags!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Playoffs: Laney cruises past North Clayton in opening round

Laney has played brilliant basketball all season.  But what should be particularly worrisome to class AAA playoff participants is that for three consecutive games the Wildcats have been scorching hot from the field.  The Wildcats scored 92 points in a region tournament semifinal victory over Josey, 40 in the first half of the championship game versus Washington County, and 85 Tuesday in the opening game of the state playoffs.
Laney's Zep Jasper is featured in the video above.  Tonight
was the first game in weeks he didn't face AJ Gray (WACO),
Darius Williams (Josey), or Don Coleman (Butler).

Watch the second episode of "The Playoffs" above to see Zep Jasper, Jashawn Brooks, Christian Keeling and company lead Laney to a 44-18 halftime lead in front of a roaring, filled to capacity home crowd.

I've learned Butler, Josey, and Washington County lost Wednesday.  Expect something special from me soon about the seniors on those teams.

Harlem won Wednesday.  And I should know Aquinas and Augusta Christian's next move soon.

My weekend schedule will probably include the sweet sixteen round games for Greenbrier's girls, Laney's girls, Laney's boys, and Harlem's boys, as well as GRU's homecoming game.

And expect an update soon on the college hoops scene.  At halftime of the Laney game, I left to see GRU hammer Francis Marion.  I'll report on that here tomorrow.  Until then, you know where to find me.

Josey and Westside's bright future... and some breaking news!

***This post (originally written beginning last Friday) was finished before I got the news about Westside beating Washington County at home Tuesday.  Sophomore point guard Christian Robinson made a free throw with 0:00.4 remaining to seal the win.  Robinson is featured in this post.  It looks like the Patriots are not going to settle only for making noise in the future.  As we approach the end of the regular season and the coming region tournament, Westside has officially joined the region race.  Welcome, Patriots!***

Demontrez Hawes scored a combined 27 points
last Friday and Saturday for a surging Westside
Region 3A is the place where only the strongest survive.  Glenn Hills has been stung by injury and therefore unable to have consistent success.  The five game suspension of a key contributor stunted Westside's progress before it could begin.  And Josey's current position in the middle of the standings is misleading considering the Eagles have held fourth quarter leads in all but one region contest.

If the coaches of these teams believe their seasons have not met their standards for success, they may find comfort from two thoughts swirling in my head as I decided which Friday game to attend (the top candidates were Butler at Westside and Josey at Glenn Hills):

1)  Finishing outside the top 3 of the region 3A race does not constitute a failure.  I believe Josey, which currently occupies the fourth position, is our area's fourth best team.  That is how strong the region is.

2)  The teams occupying the fourth, fifth, and sixth spots in region 3A are loaded with key contributors who have eligibility remaining after this season ends.  Glenn Hills' young guns nearly led the Spartans to victory in a recent game (see here) at Aquinas.  And the subjects of the rest of this (possibly premature considering the current season is not yet over) post are the 10th and 11th graders who will lead Josey and Westside into the future.

Josey's Underclassmen

Four of the first six players in Josey's rotation will return next season.  Playing major minutes before full crowds against some of the state's best teams, and being a fortunate bounce or two away from success, has undoubtedly made this foursome feel like veterans.  The player who has looked most comfortable this season has been junior Donald Jordan.  In games versus Butler, Richmond, and Laney, I watched the 6'2" wing confidently knock down three pointers and successfully attack the basket.  Jordan has been the most impressive player on the court during some of the season's most pressure packed moments.

Another Josey guard with no fear of the bright lights is sophomore Jonathan Butler, who often enters games and immediately lets it fly from all angles.  He is equally effective shooting from deep and making floaters after blowing by defenders.  And he finishes with both his left and right hands.

Westside's Future

I mentioned Westside's slow start in region play.  Junior Demontrez Hawes's suspension was undoubtedly a factor.  I don't know whether he hit the ground running immediately after rejoining the Patriots weeks ago, for Friday and Saturday's home losses to Butler and Josey, respectively, were my first viewings of the Patriots this season.  But one thing is certain:  Hawes has found a good rhythm approaching the season's final stretch.  His shooting stroke is solid.  He makes threes and mid range jump shots, and he looks like he'll never miss a free throw.  His size and athleticism allow him to score through contact in the paint after crashing the offensive glass.  I'm glad I got to see him play. For some time I have considered him to be among the area's best perimeter players.  My mind has not changed.

I first met sophomore Elijah Brown when I coached him in a middle school all star game.  He immediately distinguished himself by being polite, listening carefully, and not only playing very fundamentally sound basketball, but playing extremely hard.  The next time I saw him was months ago in a random fall league game where he laid out for a loose ball, putting his body in harm's way. Anybody who knows me knows that immediately registers.  Friday and Saturday, Brown showed he has continued to develop his winning habits.  In addition to impacting the game through sheer effort, he showed the ability to shoot from long range, use good footwork around the basket, pass effectively, and defend.

All teams have point guards.  The ball has to be advanced up the court in some way.  So all teams have players who dribble a lot.  This doesn't mean they all dribble well.  But Westside's sophomore floor general Christian Robinson is a very good ball handler who gets his teammates the ball in the proper positions on the court.  He also has the ability to get to the basket and score or get fouled. And his shot is solid.  As he continues to get comfortable and his team continues to improve he should be a great asset for coach Marvin Fields's Patriots.

The future is bright for Josey and Westside.  But any region 3A team looking past them in next week's highly anticipated region tournament will be sorry in the present.

Area's champions have shown greatest mastery of the fundamentals

Taylor then crosses right back
over, again using her left hand.
Morgan Taylor splits a double team
with a left handed dribble...

Destiny Marshall drives hard right
against Carver's full court pressure...
Marshall then spins hard from right
(her weak hand) to left to beat the defender.

I strive for sincerity in describing the players and teams I watch.  So when I called Greenbrier's attack in Tuesday's playoff win "fast paced and fundamentally sound", I meant something specific.  The thought that spurred the comment was about how few high school players have mastered the game's most basic fundamentals.  I don't mean to say that other local teams on both the girls and boys sides are lacking in fundamental skills.  But there are reasons the best teams are the best teams.  Mastery of the fundamentals makes the game look simple.  And it enables teams to play fast and at times score a lot of points.  Our area's best girls and boys teams are also the most fundamentally sound teams. Take for examples the Greenbrier girls, the Laney boys and the Laney girls teams.  All three won their respective region tournaments this past weekend.  All three have had recent stretches where they've lit up the scoreboard.  And all three have shown great mastery of the game's fundamental skills.

Lady Wolfpack guards Morgan Taylor and Destiny Marshall display their abilities to beat defenders with either hand in the "frame by frame" picture sequence above.  Laney's Aliyah Collier's highly effective habit of "throwing ahead" to teammates in transition, and her overall gift for making teammates better, is shown in the video below.  Laney's senior Jashawn Brooks's ability to pull up and knock down perimeter jump shots off the bounce and the accurate outlet passes from Greenbrier's Jennifer McMahan during Tuesday's game are also shown in the video.

One night of "the playoffs" is behind us.  The girls teams of Greenbrier, Laney, Grovetown, Cross Creek, Washington County and Hephzibah are still alive.  Tonight the boys teams of Laney, Washington County, Josey, Butler and Harlem take the court for round one.  And Aquinas, Augusta Christian, and Alleluia will start their state tournaments soon. Stay tuned for daily episodes of "The Playoffs."  Right here.  I'll see you in the gym.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Playoffs: Greenbrier advances in convincing fashion

Greenbrier, fresh off a region tournament championship, defeated Carver 86-54
in the first round of the state playoffs Tuesday.  Above is my (video) game report.

Taylor scored 21 in Tuesday's win

Watching Greenbrier dismantle Carver Tuesday in the first round of the AAAAA state playoffs, I discovered I've been right in thinking I have been missing out on seeing great basketball by not following the Lady Wolfpack.  Senior Morgan Taylor led a fast paced attack fueled by an active defense and a relentless assault on the basket by sophomore Destiny Marshall and her. The home team scored in transition after steals and stops often faster than I could record the action.

When Taylor wasn't attacking,
Marshall applied the pressure.
The contributions came from everywhere.  Sophomore center Sydney Grayden put back teammates' misses.  Senior Jennifer McMahan ignited fast breaks with defensive rebounds and outlet passes, and Taylor usually either finished or found teammate Marshall for an uncontested layup.

The Lady Wolfpack are one of three local AAAAA teams (Cross Creek and Grovetown are the other two) who moved into the "sweet sixteen" round of the state playoffs.  Friday's opponent is yet to be determined.  Stay tuned as I attempt to follow the Lady Wolfpack and the other local boys and girls teams through the playoffs.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Laney's Zep Jasper Defends: Frame by Frame

Jasper appears to be beaten here.  But
his coach's instructions not to let Gray
"get to his left" are surely in his mind.
I got the opportunity to coach again Saturday. Just for a moment.  After shaking hands with Laney's Junior point guard Zep Jasper hours before he was to draw the unenviable task of checking the hottest player coming into Saturday's region championship game (Washington County's AJ Gray) I reflexively gave him my only advice.  "You better take advantage of almost every foot of the 94 feet long court because the few feet around the basket are going to belong to him," I instructed.  Gray made "Dirk-like" fall aways and 18 foot pull up jumpers with hands in his face all week.  When a player with his size and skill is able to make those kinds of shots, there is not much a defender can do.

Zep has almost recovered.  I see coach
Buck has taught him what he taught his old 
"Metros:" How to use the inside forearm!
After AJ continued his lights out shot making throughout the first half of Saturday's region championship game, Jasper began to wear him down by denying him the ball all over the court in the second.  I am tempted to believe I helped him focus his thoughts on this task.  But the truth is Jasper has employed this strategy successfully all season against the state's best guards. Tookie Brown (Morgan County), Jared Harper (Pebblebrook), Don Coleman (Butler), Darius Williams (Josey), Tre Hansbrough (Buford), and Gray are a few.  And the further truth is that, as is usually the case, Zep's coach Buck Harris has everything to do with the point guard's preparation.

The state's best two way guard finished
the job.  He has had a great season!
I recall Buck recently saying "when AJ gets to his left hand, it's over."  The photo sequence (right) shows Jasper making certain he keeps Gray from getting to his left hand on a second half drive to the basket Saturday.  Zep obviously listens well.  Certainly to Buck.  And possibly to me.  After all, Zep made Gray stop short of the paint, the area I predicted AJ would own.  Kudos to the guy who has to be the best two way point guard we will see playing high school basketball this season, Laney's Zep Jasper.

***This post was inspired by the (what I think are) cool action pictures I caught during Saturday's region championship game.  Here are links to four posts from last week, which include my thoughts and four "Championship Week" episodes.  Laney and Washington County's paths to the region championship game, and much more, are featured in these episodes.***

Championship Week (Episode 4):  Laney's Boys and Girls Sweep Region Championships

Championship Week (Episode 3):  Laney vs Josey; WACO vs Butler and more

Championship Week (Episode 2):  Josey vs Glenn Hills; WACO vs Westside; GRU vs Flagler

Championship Week (Episode 1):  Augusta Christian vs Hammond; Lakeside vs Greenbrier

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Championship Week (Episode 4): Laney's Boys and Girls Sweep Region Championships

Every morning, starting Wednesday and ending today, I have tried to release an episode of "Championship Week," which chronicled all the region tournament action I could see!

Here is my account of the final day of region 3A tournament basketball.  I'll tell it in the order I saw it... 
Laney's Aliyah Collier seemed to be everywhere
in the Lady Wildcats' region championship game win.

anticipated the region 3A tournament's third place game being a classic.  I was wrong.  Butler and Josey's players showed little interest in winning a basketball game Saturday.  Josey's Darius Williams and Donald Jordan eventually mustered enough energy to claim the consolation prize.  But these two teams will need to make adjustments to make the type of noise we all expect in the state playoffs.

Luckily the championship games were nothing like the consolation game.  The Lady Wildcats of Laney looked as sharp as I've seen them.  I have been writing about Aliyah Collier's ball hawking and playmaking.  Saturday she blocked shots, rebounded, stole passes, picked up loose balls and converted those opportunities into easy baskets for her teammates and herself.  Freshman De'sha Benjamin played extremely well, making jump shots and finishing with both hands.  But Laney's region championship was a team effort of the best kind.  The girls appear to sincerely enjoy playing together and making each other successful.  They are very fun to watch. 

Zep Jasper did another masterful job of running the team
on one end and defending the opponent's best on the other
in Saturday's region championship win.
After Thursday's semifinal round, I said both Laney and Washington County's boys were playing their best basketball of the season.  I hoped they could extend that rhythm to Saturday's championship game, but I was prepared for a let down.  No such thing occurred.  It is a testament to Laney's greatness that even with Washington County's dynamo AJ Gray making shots from everywhere (like he did Thursday), and with forward Ti Lewis converting around the rim, the Wildcats were still able to build a 40-30 halftime lead.

I explain in the Championship Week episode above
my reasons for giving Jashawn Brooks a "first ballot"
slot on the coming "All AugBball Team"
Senior Jashawn Brooks had a special evening in his last region outing.  He buried threes, sank jumpers off the dribble, and even broke free for a fast break dunk.  Zep Jasper and Collin Young provided more offense, and forwards Jaylen Taylor, Tommy Smith, and Jervon Walker were their usual active selves.

While Laney extended its lights out play for 32 minutes, WACO was unable to finish in the second half what it started in the first.  Laney's Zep Jasper did a great job of denying Gray the ball after halftime, and the Golden Hawks only scored 16 points after the break. 

Three months after losing its home opener in Saint Francis's gym, Laney has won 26 consecutive games and earned a region championship along with the accompanying #1 seed heading into the state playoffs.  Both Laney teams and the Washington County boys look poised for state tournament success.  I sincerely hope Butler and Josey join the party.  If so, it will be a great "march to Macon!"

Friday, February 13, 2015

Championship Week (Episode 3): Laney vs Josey; WACO vs Butler and more

Every morning, starting Wednesday and ending Sunday, I will release an episode of "Championship Week," which will chronicle all the region tournament action I can see!

Laney's Zep Jasper will likely draw his customary
"double duty" Saturday: run the offense and guard
Washington County's AJ Gray!
A general rule of thumb is that close basketball games are the best kind.  But mistaking Laney and Washington County's region 3A tournament semifinal blowout wins over Josey and Butler, respectively, for a disappointment would miss the point.  The point is that at the end of a thrilling season, and at the beginning of what we all hope will be a great post season, Thursday's winners played, in my opinion, their best games of the season.  What more could coaches Buck Harris and Carlos Hope hope for?  And what more can we fans want? Two great teams, each playing great basketball, will collide Saturday in the championship game of the region tournament of the best region we have seen in a long time. This season's "championship week" is a special one!

WACO's AJ Gray had the best individual performance
I've seen this season Thursday in a win over Butler
Coach Harris and I must see the game with similar eyes.  During a Friday morning phone conversation, he took the words out of my mouth (and off this screen), saying that Thursday's 92 point offensive explosion is noteworthy because it has been a while since the Wildcats "made a bunch of shots" in a game.  "Making shots" is coaching short hand. It is understood that almost all teams are good when their shots are falling.  But great teams win when they aren't.  That Laney has won 25 consecutive games against the most difficult schedule any of us has seen, and that those wins have come even during stretches of time when shots aren't falling is the reason I call the Wildcats the greatest high school team our area has seen... at this point in the season.

Even Coleman's 34 points were not enough
against WACO in Thursday's seminfinals
And Harris didn't object to my saying Washington County's AJ Gray put in the best individual performance of any area player this season in his team's semifinal win over Butler. Gray played like a "point-power forward" and absolutely picked apart the Bulldog defense, finding teammates for easy baskets and seemingly scoring at will with an array of drives and finishes.  The area's (and state's) best football player has been one of our five best hoopers all season.  At times I have thought he has been our BEST hooper.  Last night I know he was.

With two great teams peaking at the most important moment so far this season, we should be in for a real treat Saturday.  That would be a fitting end to Championship Week, and to the past two months of thrilling region 3A basketball.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Championship Week (Episode 2): Josey vs Glenn Hills; WACO vs Westside; GRU vs Flagler

Every morning, starting Wednesday and ending Sunday, I will release an episode of "Championship Week," which will chronicle all the region tournament action I can see!

While driving to the region 3A tournament, and recording the introduction to the "Championship Week" episode above, I thought of the unfortunate fact that either Josey or Glenn Hills would play its last game today.  Glenn Hills has had a difficult path to the post season, playing virtually the entire region schedule without its best all around player, Zi Cook.  Seniors Aaron Williamson, Maurice O'Bannon, and Cook have been part of the core group that has made Glenn Hills one of our area's best team the past several years.  But if any team deserves to get past today's quarterfinal round, advance to the state playoffs, and play at least three more games, it's Josey.  The team's only shortfalls this season have come to region and area powers Laney, Butler, and Washington County. The Eagles were a possession or two away from winning four of the six games against those teams. And what basketball fan would like to know Josey's Darius Williams has played his last high school game?  Not me.

Donald Jordan and Darius Williams (Josey) prepare
to trap Glenn Hills' Zi Cook in region tournament action
So before the game even started, I was practicing what I might say here to show appreciation for the seniors (whichever group it turned out to be) whom I would have watched for the last time come Thursday morning.  Ideas for saying goodbye did not instantly flood my head.  The way I choose to give the Glenn Hills (who lost a very well played game) seniors a nod came from a Spartan himself. When Aaron "Toot" Williamson attacked the rim in the first half Wednesday, elevated high above a Josey defender, and slammed the ball through the hoop with ferocity, he had the balance, composure, and "coolness" to land, stop, stand tall, and give me a salute.  Check it out in the "Championship Week" episode above.  If you think it was a "hot dog" move by Williamson, I'll disagree.  I choose to believe he was letting me know he knew I was there, letting me know I was watching a true competitor, and letting me know how basketball is played in one of the state's best regions.  I'll say this:  I see you, Toot.  And I'll miss seeing you in the Spartan blue!  But you know where to find me...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Championship Week (Episode 1): Augusta Christian vs Hammond; Lakeside vs Greenbrier

Every morning, starting Wednesday and ending Sunday, I will release an episode of "Championship Week," which will chronicle all the region tournament action I can see!

Monday:  Lakeside 62, Greenbrier 55

Kre'sean Hall made 5 of 5 free throw attempts
during the final 4 minutes of Monday's win
"Championship Week," my term for the week our local teams play in region tournaments with state tournament slots and seeding on the line, tipped off Monday at Richmond Academy.  Lakeside defeated Greenbrier in a 5A "play-in" game after erasing a 7 point fourth quarter deficit.  6'9" senior center Jake Gilbert scored 16 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in a consistently dominant performance on both ends.  And sophomore Kre'sean Hall added 15 points, including 7 during a 73 second long, 12-3 Lakeside run that gave the Panthers a 53-51 with 2:34 remaining. Lakeside would not trail again.

Riding the hot shooting of junior guards Jakob Nelson and Justen Hartfield, the Wolfpack controlled the first 12 minutes of the second half, eventually building the 7 point cushion Lakeside would eventually overcome.  Lakeside's final push was fueled not just by Hall, but also by fellow sophomores Cordell Hudson and Jalen Nealous.  A Nealous bomb from the right wing reduced Greenbrier's lead to 51-50, setting up a three point play in transition by Hall that put the Panthers ahead by two, 53-51.  And after an Austin Canady free throw cut Lakeside's lead to one, Hudson would give the Panthers a 55-52 advantage after rebounding his own missed free throw and converting a put back.

This is the third time I have featured Lakeside's inside-outside combination of Gilbert and Hall. Gilbert is so consistent.  And Hall is a scorer.  I have enjoyed watching his progress.

The Panthers will head to Jones County Wednesday to join the quarterfinal round of the region tournament.
Seventh Woods (23) and Xavier McDaniel (34)
have given Augusta Christian trouble this season

Tue:  Augusta Christian 55, Hammond 43

During these team's first matchup (see here), it was Xavier McDaniel who carried Hammond to victory over SCISA's defending state champion. Tuesday would be Seventh Woods' turn.  After falling behind 19-7, Woods scored at will by beating the initial defender and using his athleticism and soft touch to bring the Skyhawks all the way back even before halftime, and far ahead by the end of the game.  This game was not part of a region tournament because the South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA) has no region tournaments.  But the game will affect state tournament seeding.

My plan is to watch Josey play Glenn Hills, Washington County play Westside, and hopefully one more game Wednesday.  I'll be back with episode two of "Championship Week" Thursday morning with highlights and commentary from those region tournament games!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Laney improves to 24-1 with season ending win over Josey

The last day of regular season high school basketball did not disappoint as our city's most intense rivalry (Laney vs Josey) provided a fitting end to a captivating journey.  I've told many that I don't think Laney has played in front of an empty seat during a local game this season.  But as expected, the crowd and the electricity at Josey was unique and special.  I talked to several friends who arrived 1.5 hours before the girls tipped off to be sure to get a seat.  The walls and halls were stacked several deep and the home and visiting crowds each played a major factor in the game.

Josey's fans had the most to cheer about during the first half.  Senior dynamo Darius Williams showed it is possible to dominate a game whether or not the shots are falling.  He was relentless in attacking coach Buck Harris's traps and double teams, scoring in transition, and following his own misses.
The regular season's last game was between our
city's biggest rivals:  Laney and Josey

When Darius wasn't scoring, diving on the ground, and wrestling rebounds from the opponent, he was supporting and leading his younger teammates Donald Jordan and Jonathan Butler.  These two made me look smart for featuring them in last week's post about Josey and Westside's key underclassmen.  Jordan was as steady as ever, making threes and getting to the basket.  And Butler sent the crowd into a frenzy twice with his best Darius Williams impersonation, weaving through traffic and finishing in acrobatic fashion.

With Laney's starters ALL in foul trouble and on the bench for most of the second quarter, Laney looked as vulnerable as I've seen them as the Wildcats trailed 39-31 at halftime.  But the second half belonged to Laney.  Junior Christian Keeling started the third quarter with back to back mid range jump shots. Senior Jashawn Brooks continued his habit of impacting both ends by scoring in the paint, making jump shots, getting to the free throw line and saving a basket with a block from behind.  By the time Zep Jasper went to work, the Wildcats had turned an 8 point deficit into a 12 point lead.

Check out the video above to see Josey's gutsy attempt at handing the Wildcats their first loss since the season's first game.  Also featured in the video are highlights from the girls contest.  When you watch, keep one thing in mind:  we get to do this all again next week at Laney in the region 3A tournament!  We are lucky.  I'll see you in the gym! 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Laney sweeps Senior Night games versus WACO... and more.

Friday was certainly not my first time watching the Laney and Washington County's boys teams play. They are among the area's top handful of teams.  And the region 3A rivalry game was as fantastic as expected.  As good as that game was, I was probably as excited to take a close look at a Laney Lady Wildcats game.  And a late afternoon viewing of a 13 year old scoring machine, and a brief but emotional stop at "Willie 'Tebow' Tolbert Gymnasium" for Josey's "Flashback Friday Night" senior ceremony was icing on the Friday night hoops cake.

Laney vs WACO (Boys)

This game felt like a region 3A tournament preview, especially because it was game two of a three game series in an eight day period featuring the region's/area's four best teams.  Here is a list of those games:

Friday, February 6:  WACO at Laney
Saturday, February 7:  Laney at Josey

And to think we get to do it all again this Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday at the region 3A tournament at Laney... No wonder a college coaching friend whose Augusta basketball experience includes only this January 9th Laney-Butler game and last night's senior night showdown texted me the following message just before tip-off:  "I love it here.  This is where basketball lives."  Heck yes!

I have watched two Washington County games from the top of the bleachers and two on film. Standing along the baseline Friday made me appreciate the size of the Golden Hawks' frontline. Before Friday I had guessed the skilled junior post Ti Lewis's height to be 6'3".   After standing near him I'll say he is a solid 6'5".  He is mobile and strong.  And his greatest strengths lie in his fundamental skills.  He has a nice touch around the basket, he makes floaters, and he is a solid mid range shooter.  I'm appreciating region 3A inside play more all the time.  Underclassmen Lewis, Ricquail Smoot (Butler), Bobby Jackson (WACO), and Elijah Brown (Westside) have joined seniors Jaylen Taylor and Jervon Walker (Laney) as difference makers in the paint.

And I haven't gotten to AJ Gray, one of the area's top five players, not to mention Georgia's best footballer.  Gray does it all on the court, from long range bombing to assaulting the rim.  And after standing near him for the first time in two years I'll say he has become a mountain of a man.

Washington County played as well in Laney's gym as any opponent has this season, further convincing me this region has at least four teams capable of reaching the final four in Macon, and under the right circumstances, grabbing a state championship.

Despite a meaningful attempt by the Golden Hawks to hand Laney its first loss in three months, the Wildcat train continued to chug Friday.  Long distance makes were hard to come by for the home team on senior night.  But Laney relied on its stellar defense to get easy baskets and played its customary brand of balanced team basketball to make it a loss free regular season at home.

Christian Keeling's steals and dunks ignited a Laney run Friday
After falling behind 21-18 in the second quarter, senior Jashawn Brooks, who was honored before the game for eclipsing 1000 career points, splashed in a deep three.  And after a flurry of fast break points, including four on two Christian Keeling steals and dunks, Laney's lead stood at 33-25 at the break.

Washington County's second half start looked a lot like its first as guard Antonio Jackson buried a three from the left corner and Ti Lewis scored difficult baskets from short and medium range.  This time it was Laney nursing a three point lead midway through the half.  But as happened in the first sixteen minutes, a couple Wildcat High fliers got loose for breakaway slams.  And this time it was Zep Jasper who provided a well timed bomb to give the home team a commanding lead.

I expected the showdown between two of the area's (and state's) best to be a blast to watch.  And the game surpassed all expectations.

See highlights in the video above.

Laney Lady Wildcats vs WACO Golden Hawks

The Lady Wildcats are the first girls team
to be featured on the blog
Speaking of expectations... I expected the girls game to be a possible preview to next weekend's region 3A tournament championship game.  And I expected Laney's Aliyah Collier to be as entertaining as ever.  But I learned more about Laney's complete team, and it's impressive skill level, teamwork, and grit, than I foresaw.
Jasmine Bartlett and Jhessyka Williams immediately ran off nine points on 3 three pointers (one for Bartlett and two for Williams) after Collier went to the bench with foul trouble in the second quarter. And as she continued to sit through much of the third, freshman De'sha Benjamin worked her impressive inside-outside game to maintain Laney's double digit lead until Collier's return. Collier buried a three and weaved her way through the WACO defense for a basket midway through the second half and the Lady Wildcats would not be threatened again.

See highlights in the video above.

Bonus Feature: Alleluia Middle School's Ben Freed scorches the nets in as good of an offensive performance as I've seen this season

Josey's Willie Tolbert in
the gym named after him
If you love great offensive basketball, check out the highlights of Alleluia's sharpshooting eighth grader, Ben Freed.  And if you are tempted to think his output is somehow less impressive because it was earned against a small private school, consider that it is extremely rare to find a player regularly scoring 30 plus points in 24 minutes, no matter the level.  And when the buckets are made from all angles and spots (including the 25 feet away step back variety), that is worth noting, watching, and enjoying.

See highlights in the video above.

Extra Special Bonus:

The images coming out of Josey's Flashback Friday game versus Hephzibah in the "old gym" were moving.  The late Recardell Sheppard was honored during senior night.  Longtime Josey fixture and, as former Josey and College of Charleston star Tony Mitchell described him, "father to so many Josey Eagles throughout the decades," Willie "Tebow" Tolbert posed for a picture in front of a sign that identified the old gym by his name.  We all love Tebow.  And that is how I will end this post, with love for my Josey family.  Hopefully nobody minds me calling it that.

***Here are some posts from the past about the Laney Wildcats***

February 1, 2015
Laney vs Butler: Game Report; plus a special look at coach Buck Harris

January 18, 2015
Laney is halfway through another mini obstacle course

January 11, 2015
Laney defeats Butler to in "instant classic" to stay undefeated in region play

January 7, 2015
Region Race 2015 (episode 2)... plus a look at "Class 3A Week"

January 6, 2015
Laney starts its most difficult (and exciting) week of the season

Dec 25, 2014
The full gyms at Laney's games remind me of something

Dec 16, 2014
Laney hustles its way to another huge win

Dec 9, 2014
Laney's Secret Sauce:  Playing Harder (Easier said than done)

Dec 1, 2014
Laney Beats Morgan County at Home

Nov 24, 2014
Friday at the Will Avery Tip-Off Tournament

Nov 16, 2014
Laney falls short in season opening thriller

Nov 11, 2014
Laney Opens Season with Nationally Ranked St. Francis

July 11, 2014
Brooks, Taylor, and Walker: ABR Live Summer Send-off

Nov 25, 2013
Laney and Aquinas Open Season with a Statement

March 15, 2012
Laney Makes History

Friday, February 6, 2015

Matt Miller's scorching of the nets looks familiar to me!

Keeping a regularly updated blog about my favorite Augusta basketball stories is a little more challenging than I thought.  I have so many favorites!  Three months into my latest attempt (this was my first), I've found myself to be capable of keeping pretty pretty good tabs on the high school hoops scene, particularly the happenings of the area's premiere region.  And even if I don't provide the most complete analysis of every corner of the high school game, I am happy that through the weekly release of "Region Race" episodes, I have also hit the high points of the most interesting action involving teams of note in other regions (Harlem, Grovetown, Aquinas, Augusta Christian, and Alleluia).

The area I've fallen short of blanketing is that involving the college basketball action of greatest interest to me.  I hoped to closely follow throughout the season five main stories:

1)  GRU Augusta
2)  Rod Hall and the Clemson Tigers
3)  Matt Miller and the United States Merchant Marines Academy
4)  Frank Booker and the Oklahoma Sooners
5)  Ahmed Hill (Virginia Tech) and Marcus Stroman (South Carolina)

After a fast start, these posts, with the exception of the GRU Jaguars, have been pretty much nonexistent since December.  Why?  I suppose because I made a new year's resolution to release "Region Race" episodes every Thursday and keeping this commitment has put me in high school gyms most Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.  After recording and writing and making videos about that action, I haven't made the time for seeing, let alone writing about my favorite college stories.

So I can either give up  this part of what I set out to do or make a "new month's resolution" on this fifth day of February to work smarter and start consistently following and sharing my thoughts concerning these stories before the hoops season escapes me.

I'll start with this post (and the above video), mostly about former Augusta/GAIS Eagle Matt Miller, the player of mine who has impressed me more than any other during my 20 years of coaching.

Matt Miller is the Landmark
Conference's 6th leading scorer
Matt was recently named the Landmark Conference Player of the Week.  And the video above shows Matt in his first game after being recognized.  It was probably his best game yet as a college player.  The video speaks for itself and I'll get to his recent honor in a moment, but first I'd like to share one of the many stories I have about Matt that will hopefully provide some background and help you appreciate him at least partly as much as I do.

Matt told me soon after I became his coach in the summer before his freshman year in high school he wanted to be an engineer.  He had already earned his high school algebra and geometry credits, and it was clear he would soon know more high level math than I ever will.  So it shouldn't be a surprise that years later, as he was weighing his college options that he would easily recognize that 3 is greater than 2.  Stay with me.

After scoring more than 3,000 career high school points Matt had proven to anyone with an open mind and common basketball sense that he was a legitimate member of an exclusive club:  that consisting of guys good enough to earn a division 1 or 2 full basketball scholarship.  Matt had narrowed his options to two scholarship opportunities at nationally competitive division 2 colleges and an appointment at the United States Merchant Marines Academy (USMMA), an engineering school for serious students with lofty career goals and the discipline needed to succeed in a highly competitive academic environment.  USMMA also fields a division 3 basketball team whose coach was smitten with Matt.  (He was also very persuasive.  I remember him telling Matt the following:  "If you can go to Harvard or Duke, go!  But don't go to some nondescript school and miss this career opportunity because people think division 2 is better than 3 or division 1 is better than 2."  That coach is no longer at USMMA, but I am grateful for the role he has played in Matt's life.)

So Matt chose to prioritize his academic and professional goals and reported to Kings Point, New York.  Two years later, he has met each challenge with class, composure, and grit.  His being named the Landmark Conference Player of the Week is the proximate cause of my getting into gear and committing to posting more about college hoops action.  With all that is so impressive about Matt, I hope to share more over time.  His example can be very instructive for young people who love and excel playing the game while also keeping it in its proper place within a larger life plan.

But now I'll detail his latest basketball exploits.  After starting half the games and scoring just under 10 points per game during his freshman season, Matt has become a team leader as a sophomore.  He and junior David Smith average 16 points each and are both among the top ten leading scorers in the conference.  Matt's shooting percentages are impressive (83% FT, 45% FG, and 38% 3 pt FG), especially after considering the perimeter nature of his game.  He has scored 20 or more points in four of the last five games.  And as you can see in the video above, Smith and he put on an offensive clinic Wednesday, combining to score 56 (27 for Matt and 29 for David) points in a 90-88 win over Drew.  The win was the Mariners' third straight.

I was thrilled to see signs early this season that Matt had found a "good fit" with his college basketball situation.  Months later it is obvious I even underestimated how well Matt would do.  His wise college choice, which was obviously far more sophisticated than the "3 is greater than 2" math I joked about above, will benefit him the rest of his life.  And it is playing a big part in his enjoyment of the present.  Part of Matt's brilliance has always been that he knows basketball is a game meant to be played for fun.  So it is no surprise he is playing like he is having a blast!

***Here are some posts from the past about Matt Miller***

Dec 10, 2014
Jan 7, 2014

Nov 21, 2013

Sept 16, 2013

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Region Race 2015 (episode 6) - An episode that's all about region 3A

Laney's Jasper is part of the "committee"
that gets the job done for Laney
Episode 6 of "Region Race 2015" is exclusively about region 3A, its key games this weekend, and the impact of those games on next week's region tournament.  Here is the outline for the show:

- Introduction

- Last Saturday's Laney vs Butler matchup was supposed to be the last big event of the regular season...

- But Westside's win over Washington County Tuesday caused a possible shakeup in the region standings.

- Key weekend games (Glenn Hills vs Westside, Laney vs WACO, and Laney vs Josey) can impact seeds 2 through 6 in next week's region tournament.

- I look at Laney's outstanding run through the season and Will Avery's great point about Laney beating teams "by committee."

- I share thoughts and footage about Butler's Don Coleman and Josey's Darius Williams.  After watching their games versus Westside last weekend (homework for this blog post), I had to share what I saw from these two exciting players.

- Outro

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Laney vs Butler: Game Report; plus a special look at coach Buck Harris

To say Laney's Buck Harris is a great coach who gets the most out of his players would be to state the obvious and fall short of properly explaining a key reason behind his team's exceptional accomplishments.  I've been guilty of using such generalities in explaining Laney's greatness.  "Laney plays hard," or even "Laney plays much harder than its opponents" may have been sufficient explanations when the Wildcats shocked us all in November and December with wins over a who's who list of traditional peach state powerhouses.   But a key reason for Laney's 22 game winning streak, not to mention the fact that since its season opening loss at St. Francis no team besides Morgan County (on November 29) has even seriously threatened a Wildcat lead in the final two minutes of a game, deserves a more complete telling.

Senior Jashawn Brooks and his Laney teammates
have learned how to compete and win 
The game's greatest minds, from Roy Williams to Jay Bilas and countless others, identify having a heightened "sense of urgency" as a prerequisite for success.  Installing such a habit in teenagers is much easier said than done.  In doing this, Harris is a world class teacher.  I know.  I am a student of his.  I was reminded of that when Buck walked past me along the baseline after his players had taken the court before Laney's showdown at Butler Saturday, one of the biggest games our area has witnessed.  With his own sense of urgency, Buck shouted his customary "What's up, Cook!?" greeting.  I'm sure he meant what he said, a simple hello.  And I realize what I will share seems unreasonable.  But in that moment I flashed back to my playing days when he taught me to compete.  And to have a sense of urgency.  I began questioning myself.  Was I right to skip Laney's recent games against Buford, Glenn Hills, Westside, and Hephzibah?  Was Buck sending me a hidden message?:  "If you are going to write a blog about basketball in Augusta, what the hell are you doing skipping the games of (maybe) the best high school team our city has ever seen?"  It is fair to say he instantly raised my sense of urgency.  Almost certainly without trying.  Buck does that.

So it is easy for me to imagine his players habitually being prepared to give maximum effort during practices; behaving in a reputable manner at school; and not only accepting but cherishing their roles as members of a truly special team.  And will they get on the floor for a loose ball?  Please!  These are not the normal habits of teenage basketball players.  Hall of fame coaches like Roy Williams struggle to get the most dedicated young adults on basketball earth to approach their craft in the manner Buck so consistently draws out of the young men he teaches.  And like Williams points out in this article, which attempts to define what having a "sense of urgency" means to him, the concept goes much deeper than the sprinting and diving on the floor that passes for playing hard.

Because most teams do not play hard, a team can be good by simply sprinting and diving.  I have seen a few good teams this season.  But the sense of urgency that Williams describes, and Harris teaches, separates great teams from good ones.  Laney is great.  And the ability to instill in young people that sense of urgency separates great coaches from good ones.  Buck Harris is a great coach.  One who compares favorably even to the Roy Williams types.  I know from experience.

***Here are some posts from the past about the Laney Wildcats***

Laney has a rich basketball tradition.  And coach Buck Harris is a longtime friend.  Here are some past posts and articles about the Laney Wildcats:

January 18, 2015
Laney is halfway through another mini obstacle course

January 11, 2015
Laney defeats Butler to in "instant classic" to stay undefeated in region play

January 7, 2015
Region Race 2015 (episode 2)... plus a look at "Class 3A Week"

January 6, 2015
Laney starts its most difficult (and exciting) week of the season

Dec 25, 2014
The full gyms at Laney's games remind me of something

Dec 16, 2014
Laney hustles its way to another huge win

Dec 9, 2014
Laney's Secret Sauce:  Playing Harder (Easier said than done)

Dec 1, 2014
Laney Beats Morgan County at Home

Nov 24, 2014
Friday at the Will Avery Tip-Off Tournament

Nov 16, 2014
Laney falls short in season opening thriller

Nov 11, 2014
Laney Opens Season with Nationally Ranked St. Francis

July 11, 2014

Brooks, Taylor, and Walker: ABR Live Summer Send-off

Nov 25, 2013
Laney and Aquinas Open Season with a Statement

March 15, 2012
Laney Makes History