Friday, December 22, 2017

Holiday Tournament Updates

Go to the @AugBball Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter timelines for loads of video footage and information about the past week’s Christmas tournaments at North Augusta High and Paine College (featuring Richmond County high schools) as well as Aquinas’s rivalry game against Lincoln County Friday.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Augusta wins fourth straight in front of 2,000+ adoring young fans to stay undefeated in conference play

Augusta topped North Georgia 86-72 Tuesday in front of a special home crowd consisting of more than 2,000 screaming fifth graders that were transported in for "Education Day," the fourth such event in as many years, marking what has become an annual tradition at Christenberry Fieldhouse.

Augusta's young fans came ready to cheer on the Jags

"This (Education Day) will be one of the things I'm most proud of," Augusta head coach Dip Metress told me before the game as the Richmond County elementary school students filed in and Metress's players warmed up while wearing shirts over their uniforms with "Readers are Leaders" printed in big letters on the front.

Metress can also be proud of his team, which made 53% of its field goals and 58% of its three pointers and led by double digits almost the entire second half of what was Augusta's fourth straight win and third Peach Belt Conference win in three league games. Juniors Deane Williams (24 points on 10-11 shooting, 10 rebounds, 4 blocked shots) and Aaron Byrd (career high 19 points on 7 of 9 shooting) led the way for the Jaguars (6-3, 3-0), who are off until their January 30 road game at Clayton State.

And the youngsters met their heroes the big win

Monday, December 18, 2017

Augusta sweeps Young Harris in dramatic fashion before Tuesday's "Education Day" matinee

Cynara Pitt (above) and Tamyrik Fields (below) helped lead Augusta to Sunday's sweep.

Augusta swept Peach Belt Conference foe Young Harris Sunday in a pair of dramatic games that gave an enthusiastic crowd at Christenberry Fieldhouse plenty to cheer about, from Cynara Pitt’s game winning basket in the final seconds of the women’s team’s 70-68 victory, to the back-to-back-to-back dunks by Deane Williams and Tamyrik Fields that punctuated a 78-69 comeback win from 16 points behind by the men.

Two in a row for Pitt and the Lady Jags

Pitt’s heroics have become familiar after two consecutive home wins in which she has made the go-ahead basket. Fresh off her late game heroics in Augusta’s win over Paine last Saturday, she tallied 16 points and 8 rebounds in Sunday’s win. Pitt was one of 5 players who scored 10 or more points. That kind of scoring balance was made possible by Augusta’s unselfish play. The Lady Jaguars assisted on 19 of their 26 made field goals.

Pitt talked to me after the game about her game winning shot, as did coach Millette Green about her team’s unselfish play:

Fields and Williams lead the way in third straight win

Augusta’s men overcame a 16 point deficit to win their third straight game, and their second straight conference game, behind 26 points from Tamyrik Fields and 17 from Deane Williams. Fields carried the scoring load for most of the first half, scoring 12 points before drawing his third foul and going to the bench. And Williams picked up the slack while Fields sat, sinking several mid range jumpers and touch shots before the pair of forwards joined forces down the stretch to provide the trifecta of slam dunks that sent the crowd, the players, and even coach Dip Metress into a frenzy.

Augusta's win looked unlikely in the game's first 17 minutes when the Jags trailed by as many as 16 points before cutting the Mountain Lions' halftime lead to 38-30. Coach Metress made special mention of Andrew Parker, who played 6 minutes at the beginning of the second half and anchored the defense while bringing sorely needed energy and enthusiasm while Fields continued to sit with foul trouble.

Guards Mikkel Kolstad and Tyvez Monroe contributed 12 and 11 points, respectively. Monroe's one-man 7 point run early in the second half, which included the back-to-back jumpers shown in the beginning of the video above, helped even the score for the first time after Augusta's slow start.

Sunday's double header will be followed by Tuesday's special "Education Day" games in which more than 2,000 fifth graders from the Richmond County school system will take a special field trip to watch the Jaguars try to win another conference game when the men take on North Georgia at 11:00 A.M., with the women to follow.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Jaylen Taylor and Aubrey McRae help lead Clayton State to road win over USC Aiken

Jaylen Taylor in the 2015 state playoffs.

You don't have to see Clayton State's Jaylen Taylor (Laney '15) and Aubrey McRae (Glenn Hills '14) in person to be able to tell from the picture above of Taylor and the highlights below that the Augusta raised pair have done a lot of growing up since leaving for college. Taylor scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and McRae scored 10 in the Lakers 67-64 road win over USC Aiken Saturday.

Clayton State (4-2, 2-0) will play its next game close to Augusta as well when the Lakers visit Lander Tuesday before taking a Christmas break and then heading for Augusta to face the Jaguars on December 30.

North Augusta tops Lakeside on the road to complete grueling stretch

North Augusta topped Lakeside 54-51 Saturday to win its third game out of four during a grueling five day stretch in which the Yellow Jackets played on the road three consecutive days against solid non region foes: AC Flora Thursday, Burke County Friday, and Lakeside Saturday.

"I told the guys in the locker room that we came in on fumes, but we found a way to pull it out in the end," head coach Tony Harrell said in our post game interview. "So I'm proud of them."

Three Yellow Jackets scored in double figures (Bryson Mozone 12, Tez Collins 11, and RJ Felton 10) while Lakeside, which played Saturday’s game right after an emotional win at home Friday over region rival Greenbrier, was led by juniors Kalen Williams (19 points) and Tucker Gilbert (12).

Lakeside took a 31-30 halftime lead after battling all the way back from a 21-10 second quarter deficit. After the teams traded leads throughout the fourth quarter, North Augusta led for most of the fourth, but never by more than 5 points. Trailing by 3 in the final minute, Lakeside had multiple chances to send the game into overtime but missed on each three point attempt.

After the game, coach Harrell talked about what his team did, specifically Collins and Felton, to attack Lakeside's zone defense in the second half.

Evans tops Grovetown on the road in thrilling region opener

These game highlights begin with the game's final moments and work back towards the beginning...

Cameron Cabarrus made a deep three pointer off the dribble with 15 seconds remaining, and his 6’9” teammate Dylan Cardwell swatted away Grovetown’s final attempt to give Evans a 58-57 win in both teams’ region opener Saturday. The last minute heroics were badly needed after Evans had surrendered a fourth quarter lead following Christian Chambers’ exit from the game because of a nasty fall suffered on what may have been the most impressive play of this high school season.

With 4:30 remaining in the game, Chambers slammed home a swooping one-handed dunk in transition to give the Knights a 52-48 lead before crashing to the ground after being knocked out of the air high above the rim. Chambers reportedly suffered a concussion. Grovetown took control with a 9-3 run that lasted from the time Chambers left the game until the final 15 seconds when Cabarrus and Cardwell saved the day.

Cabarrus led all scorers with 23 points. Chambers, a sophomore, added 13. And Cardwell, also a sophomore, showed why he leads the area in rebounding and blocked shots, patrolling the paint and rejecting shots throughout the heated rivalry game.

Eric Graham’s 16 points led Grovetown. Nick Tolbert added 13. Evans (5-4, 1-0) hosts Hephzibah Tuesday, and Grovetown (4-5, 0-1) will take a break until their December 28 game against Lake Nona in Evans’ holiday tournament.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Kalen Williams, Tyshun Briscoe, and Rickey McGhee lead Lakeside to region win over rival Greenbrier

Lakeside's Kalen Williams scored a game high 22 points in Friday's win.

Kalen Williams scored 22 points, Tyshun Briscoe added 16, and Rickey McGhee chipped in 13 as Lakeside topped Greenbrier 70-61 at home in both teams' region opener. The Panthers improved to 7-3 overall, and the Wolfpack fell to 8-2. Austin Canaday (20 points) and Richard Crawford III (19) paced Greenbrier.

Williams and senior Brad Hilley made a pair of three pointers on the first two possessions of the third quarter to give the Panthers a 36-31 lead with 7:14 remaining in the third, which was up until that time the largest lead either team had held. After the lead ballooned to 10 just before the end of the third quarter, Greenbrier's Crawford and Justin Stevens combined to score 8 straight points and cut the deficit to 2 when Stevens' three point play made it 46-44 with 7:00 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Richard Crawford scored 19 points Friday.

But 10 points in the final period by Williams and 8 from McGhee, a freshman, was too much for the Wolfpack to overcome. Briscoe found Tucker Gilbert for a layup to give the Panthers a 63-52 lead with 3:12 remaining, and Greenbrier failed to make another run.

Tyshun Briscoe scored 16 points Friday.

The play of Briscoe, a sophomore, was especially important during the first half when Lakeside struggled to score. The sharp shooting guard made a pair of threes and scored 8 total second quarter points to help ignite the Panthers' offense, which scored 23 second quarter points after managing only 7 in the first 8 minutes. After the game I interviewed Briscoe and McGhee, who played like veterans in their first region contest.

See the entire weekend schedule for AugBball hoops coverage here:

#1 Glenn Hills and the top ranked Laney Lady Wildcats win again

De'sha Benjamin (#1 Laney) and Isaiah Bauman (#1 Glenn Hills)

Glenn Hills outscored Jefferson County 30-11 in the final quarter to run away with the sixth win of the season for the undefeated Spartans. Tim Williamson and Isaiah Bauman each scored 20 points to lead the way. Glenn Hills has logged three region wins in the last 8 days.

Coach Travis McRae's team, which is ranked #1 in class AA by the AJC and other sites, will now turn its attention to the holiday tournament next week at Paine College. Jefferson County fell to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in region play with the loss.

Full Highlights: Jefferson County at Glenn Hills

Lady Wildcats use big third quarter to pounce on Butler

Laney, the defending state champion and the top ranked girls team in class AA, scored 27 third quarter points and turned a 26-20 nail biter at halftime into a 53-31 commanding lead heading into the fourth before hanging on for a 68-54 win.

The Wildcats will take an overall record of 6-0 on its trip to Mays tomorrow for a highly anticipated matchup with last season's class AAAAAA state champion.

The battle between defending state champions will be streamed live at 5:30 on YouTube. The broadcast is powered by SUVtv and brought to you by AugBball.

The boys game will precede that at 4:00:

Bonus Coverage: Augusta Christian 70, Augusta Prep 51

Augusta Christian's Nate Dunlop

The area's leading scorer Nate Dunlop scored 26 points to lead Augusta Christian to a 70-51 home win over Augusta Prep in non region action. Derek Payne added 12 points on 4 three pointers and Will Moffatt chipped in 10 points. Prep was lead by Bailey Adams, who scored 10 points.

Before the game I talked to Prep’s Ryan Jolly, the star point guard who has committed to the Naval Academy, and who tore his achilles tendon when these teams played each other two weeks ago in the championship game of the Garden City Classic. Ryan told me he had surgery two Thursdays ago and that the prognosis is that he may be 100% in 6 months. Get well Ryan.

Friday, December 15, 2017

6A's Lakeside-Greenbrier region opener, #1 Glenn Hills, the #1 Laney girls, and the battle of defending state champs headline this weekend's AugBball schedule

Lakeside and Greenbrier tip off class 6A region play as well as a red hot weekend of area hoops!

I won't post here again before the weekend ends so follow all the stories below at the @AugBball social media pages:

Friday's AugBball Schedule

Greenbrier at Lakeside
Friday, 8:00 P.M.
Class 6A, Region 3 Opener
AugBball Game of the Night

More of Friday's high school games that are on the radar:

#1 Laney girls at Butler
Friday, 7:00 P.M.
AugBball Bonus Coverage

Greenwood at #2 Aiken - Friday, 7:30 P.M.

Jefferson County at #1 Glenn Hills
Friday, 7:00 P.M.
AugBball Bonus Coverage

#1 North Augusta girls at Burke County - Friday, 7:00 P.M.

#6 North Augusta at Burke County - Friday, 8:30 P.M.

#2 Aquinas at Lincoln County - Friday, 7:30 P.M.

Friday's Notable College Game

Eastern Kentucky at Charleston
Friday, 7:00 P.M.

Area player: Christian Keeling (Laney '16)

Saturday's AugBball Schedule

Virginia Tech at Kentucky
Saturday, 2:00 P.M. on ESPN2

Virginia Tech, which features former Aquinas star Ahmed Hill, will take on mighty Kentucky. And the Augusta Chronicle's Scott Michaux wrote this feature article about Hill in Friday's paper:

Clayton State at USC Aiken
Saturday, 3:30 PM
Link to watch

Area players: Clayton State's Jaylen Taylor (Laney '15), Aubrey McRae (Glenn Hills '14), and Moses Williams (Richmond '17)

Cal State Fullerton at California
Saturday, 4:00 P.M. on the PAC12 Network

In Cal's last outing, Butler's all time leading scorer Don Coleman scored 19 points and dished out 5 assists to lead the Bears to an upset win at San Diego State.

Laney at Mays Double Header
Presented Live by AugBball at SuvTV

Start time 4:00 PM (Boys precede Girls)

How to watch and previews can be found at the link in this tweet:

Evans at Grovetown, Saturday, 6:30 P.M.
Class 6A, Region 3 Opener
AugBball Bonus Coverage

North Augusta at Lakeside - Saturday, 6:30 P.M.

Sunday's AugBball Schedule

Young Harris at Augusta University
Game of the Day Double Header
Link to watch

The women tip off at 1:30 and the men 3:30. Both teams won home games last Saturday against Paine. Here is my report from that double header:

The men will try to improve to 2-0 in Peach Belt Conference action, while the women will aim for their first conference win.

Here's how (and why) to watch Laney's double header at Mays live on YouTube Saturday!

Watch Laney's double header at Mays live on YouTube Saturday!

These are the links and YouTube screens for the live broadcasts of Laney’s double header at Mays (4:00 start) Saturday.

Laney Lady Wildcats (5-0) vs Mays (2-2)
2A State Champs vs 6A State Champs

Presented Live by AugBball
Powered by SUVtv

Laney (5-2) vs Mays (3-3)

Girls Game Preview - A Battle between Defending State Champs

The defending 2A state champion and #1 ranked Laney Lady Wildcats (6-0) will invade the home gym of Mays (2-2), the 6A state champ of last season. This season’s game is a tie breaker after the powerhouse teams split the first two in the now three year series. Laney paid back Mays for a 2015 defeat last season with an 85-66 home Lady Wildcat win.

Mass Production

From left: De'sha Benjamin (26p, 9r, 4a); Jhessyka Williams (18p, 7r, 4a); Jaiden Hamilton (17p, 6r, 4a)

Alabama signee De'Sha Benjamin, Jaiden Hamilton, and Jhessyka Williams have formed an updated version of late 1980’s Georgia Tech basketball’s “Lethal Weapon 3,” combining to score more than 60 points per game while the Wildcats tally more than 88 as a team.

Boys Game Preview - Laney's Terrific Trio of Guards Lead the Way

Laney's D'Juan Griffin scored 15 points in last week's win over Richmond: Link

Laney’s boys (5-2, 1-1) might be smarting after Tuesday’s heartbreaking road loss against #1 Glenn Hills. But after a road game against region rival Butler tonight, and after a trip to Atlanta Saturday, the Wildcats will have shifted their focus to their third stiff test in five days. The terrific senior guard trio of Donald Henley, D'Juan Griffin, and PJ Walker will lead the Wildcats in this exciting non-region duel.

The double header is powered by my good friends at The Sports Utility Vehicle - SUV and SUVtv.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

North Augusta's double header headlines the first of many previews to come of the must see high school Bball matchups from this weekend's schedule

Amari Young and the Lady Jackets play "must see" basketball.


Update from NA's Thursday double header


#1 North Augusta girls (6-1) at (AC Flora 6-2)
Thursday, 5:30 P.M.

The Lady Yellow Jackets are "must see" every time they take the court. One week ago they put on an offensive clinic against the same Falcons in a 75-29 drubbing. And the kicker is that Flora is a solid team! Senior guard Jordan Strange will play at Georgia Southern next season. And in addition to scoring more than 1400 points in her time as a four year starter, she leads a 6-2 squad.

But none of that mattered last Thursday when the Lady Yellow Jackets turned up the defensive pressure and started turning over the Falcons on one end while on the other playing an essentially flawless offensive game in the open court. I reported last week that in the approximately 20 game minutes of film I shot, I counted 16 assists on NA's 21 baskets made by the middle of the third quarter, when I stopped filming. Like I said last Friday, that was a remarkable performance by a remarkable team.

I expect more such showings during the next 50 hours or so as the defending 4A state champs play three times, all on the road, to finish a 7 game in 10 day stretch. Here is the slate for NA's "road warriors:"

  • at AC Flora - Thursday, 5:30 P.M.
  • at Burke County - Friday, 8:30 P.M.
  • at Lakeside - Saturday, 6:30 P.M.

#6 North Augusta boys at #10 AC Flora
Thursday, 7:30 P.M.

The Jackets will want revenge after suffering their only loss of the season last Thursday, a 57-49 decision at home to the Falcons of AC Flora. North Augusta (4-1) was without the services of senior point guard Dejuan Bell, who will play tonight. Maybe Bell's absence is the reason those voting in the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association gave the Jackets the nod over the Falcons in their latest rankings release.

After tonight's special Thursday double header, which I will not attend, is over, we can look forward to at least 10 more compelling high school games Friday and Saturday, which I listed below and which I plan to preview as the weekend goes along. I put in bold face type the games for which some sort of AugBball coverage is planned:

Greenbrier at Lakeside - Friday, 8:00 P.M.
Class 6A, Region 3 Opener
AugBball Game of the Night

Greenwood at Aiken - Friday, 7:30 P.M.

Jefferson County at Glenn Hills - Friday, 7:00 P.M.

North Augusta girls at Burke County - Friday, 7:00 P.M.

North Augusta at Burke County - Friday, 8:30 P.M.

Aquinas at Lincoln County - Friday, 7:30 P.M.

Laney at Butler - Friday, 8:00 P.M.

Laney at Mays - Saturday, 3:00 P.M.
Presented Live by AugBball at SuvTV

This special matchup features the defending class 2A state champion Laney and the defending 6A champ Mays. The teams have split a pair of games over the past two seasons. This will be the second time AugBball and SuvTV will have hooked up to bring live to Augusta, and via YouTube the world, a primetime double header with featuring power house programs. Here is how the last time went:

Boys game flashback

Girls game flashback

Evans at Grovetown, Saturday, 6:30 P.M.
Class 6A, Region 3 Opener
AugBball Bonus Coverage

North Augusta at Lakeside - Saturday, 6:30 P.M.

Auburn's Malik Dunbar headlines this update about former North Augusta players playing college basketball

The first two games on my soon to come post titled “12 must see matchups on this weekend’s high school schedule” will be played tonight, before a wave of Friday and Saturday games washes over us. North Augusta’s boys and girls will take on a pair of solid AC Flora teams in Columbia. While writing the previews for those games (again, soon to come) I stumbled upon a tweet (see below) that reminded me about a recent breakout performance of sorts by former North Augusta star Malik Dunbar, who recently excelled in his first start at Auburn.

But there are more Yellow Jacket college hoops success stories to share from the last week or so. Last week at North Augusta High School, head coach Tony Harrell and I tried to name all of the former Yellow Jackets currently playing college basketball. Neither he nor I got a 100% score on our pop quiz, as you can see, unless you give us credit for the names we initially forgot.

Here are updates on some of those former Jackets who have had strong showings of late:

Malik Dunbar (‘15), who flew for the finish off the lob pass in the highlight above, scored 9 points in his first start Saturday as Auburn  (8-1) beat UAB 85-80. Next for the Tigers is Middle Tennessee Saturday at 6 (ET).  Middle Tennessee during the past two seasons has established itself as a division 1 power with NCAA tournament wins over Michigan State and Minnesota.

TJ Sheppard (‘13) scored 26 points and dished 9 assists in Limestone’s 94-90 win Saturday. Most recently Sheppard, who is scoring at a 14 ppg clip for the Saints (6-5, 2-1) scored 7 points Wednesday in a loss to Claflin at home. The Saints take on Mount Olive Saturday at 4:00.

Jaquez Smith ('16) scored 9 points Saturday when Francis Marion won at North Georgia to start 1-0 in Peach Belt Conference play. And he scored 8 last night in a 91-75 road win over Mount Olive that improved FM's record to 6-0 for the season. Next for Smith's team is a pair of PBC home games against Georgia Southwestern (Sunday at 4:00) and Columbus State (Tuuesday at 7:30).

Christian Davis (‘14) scored 10 points in Truett McConnell’s recent 75-73 win over Point. Davis is averaging 13 points and 3 steals per game for Truett (11-2, 5-2).

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hometown heroes duel and Karon Wright's SC State Bulldogs top Christian Keeling's CSU Bucs

CSU's Christian Keeling (Laney '16) and SC State's Karon Wright (Silver Bluff '13)

***Update - As those who followed yesterday know, I didn't catch Karon Wright's game winner on film. But ABC Columbia did, and you can see it at this link - ***

Karon Wright scored 15 points on 5 three pointers Tuesday in South Carolina State's 91-88 overtime win over Charleston Southern. No shot was bigger than the last one, which he made with 1.8 seconds remaining in overtime to break an 88 tie and give the Bulldogs a come-from-behind victory. The clutch basket, which the Silver Bluff graduate talks about below in our post game interview, immediately answered a drive and score by CSU's Christian Keeling, the highly touted Laney graduate who was the only freshman in the country last season to lead his team in scoring and rebounding.

Keeling scored 20 points, but the Bucs dropped their second straight game and fell to 4-4. SC State improved to 3-9 with the win at home.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Midland Valley evens the score against Lakeside with Tuesday's home win

Anthoney Ray - Midland Valley

The long and athletic outside-inside combination of Anthoney Ray and Zach Foster, and the scrappy play of the Midland Valley overall, proved to be too much for Lakeside Tuesday as the Mustangs topped the Panthers 68-64 at home. Ray, a 6'4" guard, scored 21 points, and twice found the 6'7" Foster (10 points) rolling to the basket for dunks. The game followed by three days Saturday's matchup between the teams, which Lakeside won 69-65.

Lakeside (6-3) will now focus its attention on Friday's region opener at home against rival Greenbrier (8-1). Midland Valley will play again Monday at home against Butler (2-4).

Glenn Hills stays on top of class AA hill with win over Laney and Laney and Josey's girls stay undefeated too

Glenn Hills, class AA's #1 ranked team, kept alive its unbeaten streak Tuesday with a 62-61 region win at home over rival and defending region champion Laney. The Spartans used a 9-0 fourth quarter run to erase a deficit, and John Whitehead's layup with 51.9 seconds remaining provided the go ahead basket. The Spartans were led by Tim Williamson, who scored 14 points, and Timmy Sellers and Jeff Cabarrus, who each scored 9. Laney's D'Juan Griffin led all scorers with 21 points.

Glenn Hills has sprinted to a 2-0 start in region play. Laney (5-2, 1-1) will visit Butler (2-4, 1-1) Friday while Glenn Hills hosts Jefferson County (4-1, 1-0*).

*The results from Jefferson County's game against Westside Tuesday have not been posted.

The Lady Wildcats steamroll Glenn Hills

Laney (5-0, 2-0) turned in another dominant performance and again approached the 100 point mark Tuesday. The @AugBball Facebook post below has the game's first half highlights and the leading scorer details.

Laney will need to continue to win to stay ahead of its arch rival Josey, which improved to 10-0 Tuesday with a win over Butler:

Monday, December 11, 2017

North Augusta, Laney, and Josey headline Tuesday's girls high school hoops previews

Tyliah Burns and North Augusta return from D.C. for a 4-game-in-5-day stretch that starts Tuesday.

Strom Thurmond (4-2) at North Augusta (5-1)

The Lady Yellow Jackets return home after a 3-game-in-3 day stretch, the last 2 against teams from Florida and New York with a combined record last season of 48-10. North Augusta, which has looked invincible in this area this season, split a pair of high profile matchups at the "She Got Game" tournament last weekend.

North Augusta will follow last week's busy schedule with this week's 4-game-in-5-nights sprint through the area. After Tuesday's home game against the Rebels, the Jackets travel to AC Flora Thursday, to Burke County Friday, and to Lakeside Saturday.

Laney (4-0, 1-0) at Glenn Hills (1-3, 0-1)

Laney's De'sha Benjamin

The Lady Wildcats are averaging 88 points per game. And the offensive statistics are staggering for Laney's "Lethal Weapon 3" like combination of guards:

De'sha Benjamin: 28 ppg, 9 rpg, 5 apg
Jhessyka Williams: 19 ppg, 8 rpg, 5 apg
Jaiden Hamilton: 18 ppg, 7 rgp, 5 apg

Rob Drew will provide live bonus coverage at the @AugBball Facebook page from Laney's game at Glenn Hills.

Josey (9-0) at Butler (1-3, 1-0)

I found it interesting and impressive that the Lady Eagles join the Glenn Hills boys and the Lady Wildcats of Laney, both ranked #1 in class AA by various media sites, as our area's only undefeated teams. So I asked coach Jawan Bailey how high are the spirits in Josey's locker room after such a sizzling start to the season.

"(They are) Surprisingly calm. I think the kids expected to start off well after a really good summer and pre-season," coach Bailey wrote in a message Monday. "They understand it’s more at stake than the undefeated start."

The Lady Eagles have been paced by junior twin sisters Tykedra Rolland (18 ppg) and Rhykeria Rolland (12 ppg), who led Josey in scoring when Rob Drew reported from the Eagles' win at Burke County.

Also, two state title hopefuls and long time rivals will meet again.

Cross Creek (4-2) at Grovetown (6-4)

It has been almost exactly one year since I made a big deal about these teams playing for the sixth time in 12 months. Even though multiple players from those rivalry games the past few years are playing college ball now, both programs are rebuilding nicely and look headed for interesting region, and maybe state playoff, runs.

Tuesday's Boys high school preview features region showdown between Glenn Hills and Laney and a border bashing rematch between Lakeside and Midland Valley

Tune in to the @AugBball Facebook page for bonus coverage of this region showdown!

Laney (5-1, 1-0) at Glenn Hills (4-0, 1-0)

An early season region showdown is sure to take place Tuesday at Glenn Hills when the #1 team in class AA takes on rival and defending region champion Laney. The Spartans have been flawless against stiff competition:

64-57 over Greenbrier  - November 24
66-53 over Midland Valley - November 28
68-54 over Richmond - December 1
66-53 over Butler - December 8

Laney's only blemish came when the wildcats gave up a 21 point second quarter lead to Greenbrier (8-1), falling in overtime at Paine on November 25.

Tuesday's rematch should provide plenty of fireworks!

Lakeside (5-2) at Midland Valley (1-4)

Beating the same team twice in four nights and winning the second one on that opponent's home court will be the challenge for the Panthers, who earned a 69-65 win over the Mustangs Saturday at home. That was Lakeside's first game in a week. But the next five days holds almost no rest for coach Jeff Williams's crew because after Tuesday's game the Panthers will prepare for a two game weekend home stand against Greenbrier (8-1) Friday in both teams' region opener, and against North Augusta Saturday.

Midland Valley has played a difficult schedule that has included Glenn Hills (#1 GA class AA), Irmo (#10 SC class AAAAA), and Lakeside already.

Strom Thurmond (3-4) at North Augusta (3-1)

If Lakeside will have "almost no rest" this week, then North Augusta takes the idea a step further by hosting the Rebels Tuesday, playing at AC Flora Thursday in a return game from last Thursday's Falcons win at North Augusta, before finishing the week on the road at Burke County Friday and Lakeside Saturday.

More of Tuesday's class AA, region 4 games:

  • Harlem (5-6, 1-0) at Screven County (1-2, 0-0)
  • Jefferson County (4-1, 0-0) at Westside (0-6, 0-1)
  • Josey (2-7, 0-1) at Butler (1-4, 0-1)

More non region games:

Daniel Parrish and Aquinas are rolling through conference play.

  • Washington Wilkes (3-3, 0-0) at Aquinas (3-1, 2-0)
  • Augusta Christian (6-3) at Fox Creek (6-2)
  • Evans (3-4) at Hephzibah (1-4)
  • Cross Creek (3-3) at Grovetown (3-4)
  • Eau Claire at Silver Bluff (3-2)
  • Taliaferro County at Warren County (1-2)
  • Thomson (5-2) at Monticello

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Lakeside takes first of back-to-back matchups with Midland Valley before Friday's region opening showdown

Lakeside and Midland Valley will meet again Tuesday at MV.

Brad Hilley scored 21 points and Kalen Williams added 20 as Lakeside earned a 69-65 win over Midland Valley at home Saturday.

The Panthers improved to 5-2 with the win, which snapped a two game losing streak after Lakeside dropped a pair of road games the prior weekend at the home gyms of state title contenders North Augusta and Collins Hill.

The Mustangs (1-4) were unable to complete a weekend sweep of Columbia County after scoring 47 second half points Friday in a come-from-behind road win over Evans. 6’4” senior guard Anthoney Ray continued his exciting play Saturday with 18 points, including a high flying dunk and a couple difficult three pointers off the dribble. Ray, who entered the weekend averaging 22 points per game, scored 17 in Friday’s win.

Lakeside and Midland Valley meet again Tuesday at MV before Lakeside hosts Greenbrier (8-1) Friday in a prime time matchup to open class AAAAAA play.

Augusta routes Paine ahead of a pair of PBC home games

Augusta University got 22 points from junior Tyvez Monroe, 16 from Tamyrik Fields, and career highs from freshmen Troy Cracknell (10 points) and Shawn Moss (8) in Saturday's 85-56 home win over Paine.

The win was the second straight for the Jaguars (4-3), who won last weekend at Georgia College to open Peach Belt Conference play. Paine fell to 1-8 on the season.

Saturday’s win was a breakout game of sorts for the Jaguars, who made 8 of 12 three pointers and converted 53% of their field goals after making only 37% of their shots and managing only one three pointer in last Saturday's 52-51 win over Georgia College.

But no matter the offensive numbers, Monroe, a three year starter, stressed that the team’s success will depend on what happens on the defensive end of the court.

"Scoring is not going to be a problem," Monroe said in a post game interview. "It's more about defense than anything right now. That's what we're trying to get better at."

The defense will surely be key. Augusta has held its past two opponents to fewer than 60 points. An effort like that in the last two (conference) games before Christmas (Sunday at home against Young Harris and December 19th at home against North Georgia) will be a present that the Jaguars will gladly accept from Santa.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The most important 8 days of the regular season begins today for Glenn Hills, Butler, Laney, and Josey

Region play begins tonight for the area's class AA region, which includes the #1 ranked AA team in the state on both the boys (Glenn Hills) and the girls (Laney) sides. Here are the things I'll follow closely during the first week of league action:

See @AugBball on Facebook for bonus coverage from #1 Glenn Hills's matchup with Butler tonight.

The most important 8 days of the regular season begins today for Glenn Hills, Butler, Laney, and Josey

The four boys teams listed above are the favorites to grab the 4 state playoff spots at stake in this 7 team region. If it seems premature to say that the first 8 days are the most important for these teams, consider all of the prime time matchups that will impact the teams' 12 game record come February when the region tournament begins:

Friday, December 8
Glenn Hills at Butler

Tuesday, Dec 12
Laney at Glenn Hills
Josey at Butler

Friday, Dec 15
Laney at Butler

The same teams played the same schedule in the same sequence last season, and both the regular season region champ, Butler, and the tournament winner, Laney, finished the 8 day gauntlet with 2-1 records over the span. On the other side of the spectrum, Glenn Hills dropped 2 of the 3 games before going on to finish fourth in the regular season standings and fifth in the region tournament, surprising many by missing the state playoffs.

The lesson here is that it is difficult to have a great region record if you don't have a great start to region play. That is especially true when close to half of your most important games come in the first 8 days of league play.

Much is at stake because the regular season champion gets a bye in the first round of region tournament play and therefore an automatic spot in the state playoffs.

If this season's version of the Glenn Hills vs Butler rivalry game is anything like last season's (see below), you'll want to tune in to the @AugBball Facebook page to follow along:

On the girls side, Laney looks likely to blitz the competition, but Josey is riding high

De'sha Benjamin has scored 34 points in back-to-back games

I believe nobody will stop Laney's Lady Wildcats (3-0) this season. Tuesday's 90-55 win over Richmond, which included a 57-14 run over a span of 16 minutes to blow open the game, is the latest evidence for that theory.

The Lady Wildcats visit Westside (2-1) tonight.

But Josey (7-0) is off to its best start in a long time, recently earning wins over AAAA state tournament hopefuls Burke County (highlights below) and Cross Creek.

The Lady Eagles probably will not have trouble tonight against Harlem, and shouldn't Tuesday against Glenn Hills. But next Friday's visit to Butler will require Josey's full attention, because the Lady Bulldogs proved in a recent near win at Cross Creek (highlights below) that they can compete against the better teams.

Lady Yellow Jackets make it 32 straight with dominating win over Flora; boys drop first game of season

Mya Burns scored 12 points in North Augusta's win Thursday.

Amari Young scored 29 points and dished out 6 assists as North Augusta topped AC Flora 75-29 at home Thursday to improve to 4-0 ahead of a much anticipated weekend trip to Washington, D.C.

The defending state champion Yellow Jackets leave for D.C. at 6:00 AM to arrive in time for Friday’s 7:30 P.M. showdown with Winter Haven, Florida’s class 8A champion last season, in the 9th annual “She Got Game” tournament, which last season featured 117 teams from 13 states.

The Lady Yellow Jackets made the difficult look easy Thursday, leaping out to a 28-5 lead over a strong Flora squad, which entered the game with a 5-1 record. North Augusta further broke open a 23 point halftime lead with another 28 point quarter in the third, taking a 42 point lead, at 68-26, into the final period before the bench was cleared for the night.

 Young’s game high 29 led the way. Mya Burns (12 points), Sarah Crews (11), and Aaliyah Bell (11) also scored in double figures. But the most impressive statistic I can report is that for the 21 made field goals by North Augusta that I recorded, I count 16 assists.

That’s remarkable. And so are the Lady Jackets, who extended their winning steak to 32 last night.

I’ll share updates from D.C. as I get them so we can find out if that winning streak, which is over 12 months old now, will live through the weekend!

Boys drop first game of the season

North Augusta’s boys suffered their first loss of the season, a 57-49 decision to AC Flora, which recently swept a pair of games at Evans High against Baldwin and Evans.

The Yellow Jackets dug out of holes twice, first at the end of the first quarter when RJ Felton’s basket completed a 14-5 run that gave North Augusta a brief lead at 17-15. Then after trailing 29-22 late in the second quarter, the Yellow Jackets went on another spurt, outscoring the Falcons 17-5 and taking a 39-34 lead into the final minute of the third quarter.

North Augusta's Tez Collins scored 16 points against AC Flora Thursday.

Flora seized back the momentum by making 4 three pointers in the next 4 minutes and racing to a road win after outscoring North Augusta 20-10 in the final period.

Senior Tez Collins (16 points) and freshman RJ Felton (14 points) led the way for the Jackets.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

North Augusta’s girls and boys host AC Flora tonight before girls leave for big tournament in DC

North Augusta's double header vs AC Flora is Thursday's Game of the Day.

Especially because there are no other varsity games being played in the area tonight, I encourage hoops fans to check out North Augusta's double header against AC Flora. The Lady Yellow Jackets (3-0) will try to continue their 31 game winning streak, which began the first game of last season and included a state championship game victory in March. And the boys (3-0) will face maybe their toughest test yet in the Falcons, who enter the game with a 4-1 record, including wins over Baldwin and Evans.

The Lady Jackets and fellow state champ Laney play at a level above all of the other girls teams in our area. Senior Amari Young signed her national letter of intent to play college ball at Old Dominion and Sarah Crews has signed with Lander, the team to beat in the Peach Belt Conference. And underclassmen like Mya Burns will likely soon follow her older teammates' lead.

And I placed the boys team #3 in the December edition of my "Top 10 Area Teams List," a pick that I gained even more confidence in after the Yellow Jackets handled Lakeside (#6) Friday at home.

Lady Jackets are off to Washington, D.C., immediately after Thursday's game

Soon after tonight's game ends, the girls will travel to one of the nation's top high school girls tournaments, the "She Got Game" classic in Washington, D.C., which included 117 teams from 13 states last season. In this interview, Crews and head coach Crystal Cummings talk about the high profile tournament, what it means to them, and how they were able to get such a great opportunity:

NA's schedule in DC

North Augusta vs Winter Haven
- Friday 7:25
- Winter Haven (4-0) is Florida’s defending 8A District 7 state champion.

North Augusta vs Cardinal O’Hara
- Saturday 12:50
- Cardinal O’Hara (1-0) reached New York’s state semifinals last season, winning the Monsignor Martin League and amassing a 21-6 overall record.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Laney's boys and girls sweep Richmond at Richmond

D'Juan Griffin scored 14 points in Laney's win Tuesday.

Laney's Donald Henley pulled up from the left wing and buried a three pointer in front of his own bench to give his team a 52-43 lead over Richmond with 4:21 remaining, and the Wildcats earned a 60-53 road win to improve to 4-1 for the season.

Laney 60, Richmond 53 - Full Game Highlights

Henley, a veteran playing his fourth year of varsity basketball, scored a team high 15 points, and he was very comfortable taking the shot that gave Laney a big enough cushion to coast to a victory.

"We've been doing this since the ninth grade, so we just kept our composure and played hard," the fiery point guard told me in the post game interview below.

Henley's three pointer was timely because Richmond had gained the momentum after almost completely overcoming a 13 point second half deficit with an 18-7 run that cut Laney's lead to 39-37 after three quarters. After Henley's three, the Wildcats regained possession and ran more than a minute off the clock before PJ Walker put back his own miss with 2:07 remaining to give the Wildcats a 56-46 lead and end all hope of another Richmond comeback.

Henley (15 points), D'Juan Griffin (14), and Walker (8) led the way for Laney. The quickness and skill of that dynamic trio more than made up for the Wildcats' size disadvantage against the Musketeers, which were led by senior DT Stephens, who netted a game high 19 points.

Laney (4-1) will visit Westside Friday in both teams' class AA region 3 opener. Richmond (4-3) will visit Grovetown Friday.

Laney's "Big 3" Score Big and the Lady Wildcats Run Away with the Win

Jaiden Hamilton scored 20 points in Laney's win Tuesday.

De'sha Benjamin scored 34 points, and Jaiden Hamilton and Jhessyka Williams tossed in 20 and 19 points, respectively, to lead the defending state champion Lady Wildcats to a 90-55 win at Richmond.

Laney 90, Richmond 55 - Full Game Highlights


Laney used a 57-14 spurt that spanned the entire second and third quarters to take an 80-41 lead after into the fourth. The run was punctuated by a very matter-of-fact three pointer from Benjamin that she made on the last play of third quarter before walking to the bench.

"The clock was running down, and I saw an open opportunity," the Alabama signee told me in this post game interview:

Monday, December 4, 2017

AugBball's Top 10 Boys HS Teams List (December Edition) includes Aiken, Aquinas, North Augusta, and Glenn Hills at the top

So far this season, four teams have distinguished themselves from the pack with fast starts. Those teams grabbed the first four spots on the December edition of my "AugBball Top 10 Boys Teams List:"

Aiken, Aquinas, North Augusta, and Glenn Hills top my list of top 10 teams./

#1 - Aiken (2-0)

November ranking: #1
Next game: Aiken at Greenwood - Tonight

When I put Aiken at the top of the list in the November edition of the top 10, I cited the Hornets’ size (4 starters stand 6’4” and taller) and their winning pedigree (Aiken went 24-5 last season, including an undefeated run through region play and a class AAAA state playoff quarterfinal finish.

But once I finally got to see the 2017-18 version of Aiken last week, I was most struck by coach Darris Jackson’s team’s man-to-man defense. The Hornets held Silver Bluff to less than 20 points in both halves of their opener. After the game, coach Jackson talked to me on the phone about how pleased he was with his bigger players’ effort moving their feet and keeping the Bulldogs’ guards in front of them. Watch and listen here:

#2 - Aquinas (1-1)

November ranking: #2
Next game: Lake Oconee at Aquinas - Tonight

After I’ve watched North Augusta and Glenn Hills play nearly flawless basketball 3 times in the past 12 days, the fact that I am keeping the Irish at number 2 in this month’s edition of the list says a lot for how highly I think of the program coach Darren Douglas is building.

It is a sure sign that your defense is playing at a high level when you hold the likes of Bishop Loughlin (NY) and Eagles Landing Christian to 45 and 40 points, respectively, in the high profile Holiday Hoopsgiving Tournament in Atlanta. And the point about how good the Irish look already was driven home even more emphatically when critics complained so much on Twitter about how badly the referees (supposedly) cheated ELCA.

I can imagine how it must be hard to believe that a team can be as disciplined and prepared as Aquinas was on the season’s opening weekend. The Irish’s ability to stop teams from scoring is the reason I believe they would win in a matchup with any area team except for Aiken.

Here coach Douglas talks after a preseason scrimmage about the Irish's defense and the contributions assistant coach Wes Wuchte has made towards the cause:

#3 - North Augusta (2-0)

November ranking: #3
Next game: North Augusta at Dutch Fork - Tonight

The Yellow Jackets put on an offensive clinic Friday, beating Lakeside 84-70 after starting the game with 28 first quarter points. Coach Tony Harrell's sources of offense were everywhere:

  • Sophomore Omarion Byrd made 6 threes en route to a game high 24 points.
  • Tez Collins scored 21, including a highlight reel dunk that made the crowd buzz.
  • The fantastic freshman Russell Felton played way beyond his years, scoring 20 points in his first high profile game.
  • And 6'4" wing Bryson Mozone buried 3 three pointers.
But the way the Yellow Jackets used their offense to get Collins exactly where they wanted him against the smaller guards Lakeside defended him with was the most impressive thing to me about North Augusta's 84 point explosion:

#4 Glenn Hills (3-0)

November ranking: #6
Next game: Glenn Hills at Butler (region opener)

Many believe the Spartans have the area's most talented and best team. Coach Travis McRae's squad may be on their way to proving them right. That 6'8" senior Timmy Sellers and 6'5" sophomore John Whitehead have dominated the space above the rim is no surprise.

But the instant impact of transfers Tim Williamson (20 ppg through 3 games) and Isaiah Bauman (11 ppg) has surprised me.

#5 - Baldwin (3-3)

November ranking: #4
Next game: Hancock at Baldwin - Saturday, Dec 9

Donte Justice - Baldwin

#6 Lakeside (4-2)

November ranking: #6
Next game: Midland Valley at Lakeside - Saturday, Dec 9

Kalen Williams - Lakeside

#7 Greenbrier (5-1)

November ranking: not ranked
Next game: Greenbrier at Augusta Christian - Tonight

Richard Crawford III - Greenbrier

#8 - Laney (3-1)

November ranking: #5
Next game: Laney at Richmond - Tonight

Donald Henley - Laney

#9 - Burke County (2-0)

November ranking: not ranked
Next game: Evans at Burke County - Tonight

Deontae Carter - Burke County (photo via Larry Smith)

#10 - Richmond (4-2)

November Ranking: #9
Next game: Laney at Richmond - Tonight

DT Stephens - Richmond

Burke County stays unbeaten with win over Josey

Burke County 50, Josey 47 - 12/2/17

In the boys matchup, (1-0) Burke County took on the (2-3) Eagles of Josey. Burke County opened up the season Friday night with a 68-58 win over AugBball's preseason area top 10 pick Midland Valley.

Buckets came early and often in this one, as BC’s Deontae Carter scored 8 of his game high 19 points in the opening period as the Bears took a 16-15 lead. Then in the second, Jahleel Roundtree slammed one home, providing a more spark for the Bears as they stretched the lead to 5 entering the half at 27-22.

In the 3rd quarter, Josey's Ricardez Williams and Rodriquez Daggett made their way to the rim for a couple of tough scores, but Burke County responded with some tough buckets of their own by Zayveon Williams and Carter, extending the Bears lead to 8 entering the 4th at 39-31. After the Bears took a 10 points lead on a Simeon Coleman layup with 6:20 remaining, Williams scored back-to-back buckets for the Eagles and connected on a 3 with :35 second left to cut the Bears lead to 3 at 47-44. But Carter knocked down 3 of 4 free throws to make it a 50-44 game before Josey's Dajuante Williams hit a triple to make it 50-47.

After a missed BC free throw, Josey was able to get a game tying triple off that didn’t go down and the Bears prevailed 50-47. Deontae Carter led the way with 19 points and Simeon Carter added 10. The Bears improved to (2-0) while Josey fell to (2-4).

Josey’s Ricardez Williams scored a team high 16 points and Joshua Kelly added 12.

The Bears (2-0) host Evans (2-3) Tuesday at 7:30 and Josey (2-4) hosts Cross Creek (2-1) on Tuesday at 6:30.