Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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For now, and possibly until the end of the basketball season, you can follow all of my area basketball reporting at the @AugBball Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

State's best teams (#1 Glenn Hills, #2 Aiken, #5 Laney, #6 North Augusta, #1 Laney girls, and #1 North Augusta girls) headline AugBball's coverage schedule the next several days

Friday's main event between top 5 teams is for the 2A region's top spot.

To see live highlights on social media from the following games, follow @AugBball on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Friday (Jan 19)

2A Takeover

Glenn Hills girls at #1 Laney - 7:00 P.M.

Laney's "big 3" - De'sha Benjamin (left), Jhessyka Williams (middle), Jaiden Hamilton (right)

After winning a pair of games last weekend over #6 Josey and #3 (class 3A) Johnson, the defending state champion Laney (18-0, 7-0) will be an overwhelming favorite to continue its undefeated streak against Glenn Hills, which has won only 2 games this season.

#1 Glenn Hills at #5 Laney - 8:30 P.M.

Seniors D'Juan Griffin (left) and Timmy Sellers (right)

Laney (14-3, 5-1) has provided the Spartans (18-0, 8-0) with their most difficult tests of the season, falling to class 2A's top team by 1 point in a region contest at Glenn Hills, and losing to the Spartans 51-46 on a neutral floor at a holiday tournament. Friday's main event showdown will be the third meeting of what may become a 4 part series if the rivals meet again come region tournament time.

#8 Silver Bluff at Barnwell

The Bulldogs' (10-5, 2-1) only region loss came to #4 ranked Calhoun County last Friday.

Ke'Andre Williams and Jadakiss Wright (pictured) each scored 16 to lead SB to a win Tuesday.

Saturday (Jan 20)

#9 Baldwin at #8 Washington County

Baldwin will seek revenge for an earlier loss at home against WACO (12-5, 5-3).

Baldwin (14-5, 5-0) and WACO (12-5, 5-3) each rely on a core group of underclassmen. But Baldwin's attack, described in this post from the first weeks of the season, is centered around the perimeter of the court. If Monday's game at Evans High was a good indicator, WACO's strength lies in its tall and deep front line, which is featured here:

Tuesday (Jan 23)

"4A Frenzy" heavyweight games in South Carolina

#1 North Augusta Lady Yellow Jackets at Aiken

Junior Mya Burns (left) and senior Sarah Crews (right)

The Lady Yellow Jackets (15-1, 2-0) played only two close games this season, and both were against out of state opponents. I don't expect Tuesday's game to be the third close contest for NA.

#6 North Augusta at #2 Aiken

Senior Tez Collins (left) and junior Nazae Baltimore (right)

If the Yellow Jackets (12-5, 1-1) are able to recover from Tuesday's loss at home to South Aiken and get by Midland Valley on the road this Friday, this coming Tuesday's game at Aiken (14-1, 3-0) will be for the top spot in the region.

Midland Valley at South Aiken

Seniors Melvin Mckie (left) and Anthoney Ray (right)

Both Midland Valley (7-10, 1-1) and South Aiken (8-5, 1-1) have the chance, by winning Friday, to enter Tuesday's matchup with 2-1 records, which is no easy feat in this region.

Region Standings and Background for 4A Frenzy

SC's top 4 teams will play each other for state playoff positioning Tuesday.

Remember, unlike in Georgia, South Carolina has no region tournaments. So the results of this 4A region's 8 game regular season schedule will determine state playoff seeding. Nowhere, except college football I guess, are regular season region wins more important.

Also, next Friday #2 Aiken will host South Aiken, which knocked off #6 North Augusta this past Tuesday to move into a three way tie with North Augusta and Midland Valley. This is a fun heavyweight region, the best and most competitive in the area, in my opinion.

Also Tuesday - 2A Takeover

Butler at #5 Laney

Seniors Donald Henley (left) and Drez McBride (right)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Interview with Aquinas coach Darren Douglas about the Irish's defensive philosophy, rules and tactics

Aquinas "shrinks the floor" in win over GMC Saturday

#2 Aquinas (16-3, 13-0) has proven its defensive prowess against the state's best teams. The excellence also shows in the full season defensive statistics that coach Darren Douglas shared with me after the Irish's 69-33 victory over GMC Saturday:

  • 44 PPG
  • 29% shooting - 35% 2PT FG, 23% 3PT FG
  • 83% of our opponents shot attempts are contested

That last stat is not one you regularly will see recorded and tracked by a coaching staff. But as you can see in our interview below (Darren's words are indented), Aquinas's coaches approach the game, and their team's performance on defense, in innovative ways. So I asked him some questions to find out if we can all learn something.

Interview with Aquinas head coach Darren Douglas

Whether playing zone or man, your defense makes very few mistakes and usually forces a contested three, usually off the bounce. Is that part of your strategy and philosophy? Coach (Wes) Wuchte talked to me about what you stress on defense and how you measure and chart it. Can you or he just go deep into how you guys do what you do because it works wonders and you can probably teach us something?

Yeah, our defensive goal is to only give up a contested jumpshot. We try to make sure we have help defenders to “shrink the floor” on dribblers (close any gaps they have to the basket)

We watch film and hold everyone accountable for every detail that would go in a possession from defensive communication, on ball defense, help defense, boxing out and rebounding.

We clip up all of our “defensive fails” from games and we watch and talk it through so everyone is on the same page.

Last night (against GMC) would have graded an A+ for us.

We only missed 2 rotations all night.


2 rotations all game. A+ indeed. A couple more questions.

It’s 11AM (Sunday) now. How much time have you already spent on last night’s tape?

I’ve spent 2 and a half hrs on it. Gonna go back and grade shot selection tonight.

Does this picture show your “shrinking the floor” point.

Aquinas packs the paint against GMC

5 guys, four 6’4” and above, are in the paint addressing 3 GMC guys and Tre Gomillion is about to “fly around” (Wes’s words) to the guy catching it on the perimeter.

That’s exactly what it’s about. If we can do these things for 32 minutes, then we can control the game with our Defense:
1) Get Back on Defense and get set before the Offense arrives
2) Shrink the Court to Defend a smaller area

3) Closeout on the Catch with High Hands

4) All 5 Players Rebound.

Let’s be this type of team.

The next question is whether what I’ve seen recently from Trent Bowdre lately (22 pts, 4 as Saturday) what you’ve always expected from him? And is it even different from what he’s given all season and I am just now catching on?

I’ve always thought he could play at this level, but (before) he wasn’t mentally tough enough. He has completely changed his way of thinking and how he prepares for games (he watches film like a coach) and it shows in how he is playing.

Bowdre and Gomillion hook up for a Play of the Year candidate:

Frame-by-frame: Trent Bowdre throws a lob off the glass to Tre Gomillion, who slams it home.

Gomillion's 2 hand dunk off the alley oop pass from Trent Bowdre in Saturday's game was an instant "Play of the Year" candidate. I captured it imperfectly with the still shots above. But I was given this copy of the video footage of the play by someone in attendance:

Right ahead of Tuesday's Glenn Hills-Butler showdown, check out MLK Day highlights of wins from #1 Laney (girls), #1 Glenn Hills, #5 Laney, and #8 WACO

The 17-0 Spartans will try to stay focused in tonight's 2A Takeover game at home against rival Butler.

1) Stay tuned to @AugBball on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram tonight (Tuesday) starting at 6:30 for live 2A Takeover coverage from Rob Drew of the undefeated and #1 Glenn Hills' Spartans' home game against rival Butler (9-9, 5-2).

2) The following is Rob Drew's report from day 3 of the 10 day long 2A Takeover. Here is a link to my highlights and the story from Saturday's 2A action: http://www.augbball.com/2018/01/today-at-evans-undefeated-laney-tips.html

MLK Day Recap

Six top 10 teams met for 5 special MLK Day games at Evans Monday. The favorite won in every matchup, headlined by the defending state champion, undefeated and top ranked Laney Lady Wildcats’ 73-53 win over #3 Johnson of Savannah.

The also undefeated an #1 ranked Glenn Hills boys (17-0 as are Laney's girls) also stayed perfect, thumping Evans 71-50 after a 26-4 third quarter blitz.

#5 Laney (14-3, 5-1) routed Midland Valley 65-41 to close the evening.

In the opening games Washington County’s girls (#5) and boys (#8) teams posted victories to start the day.

The highlight videos above are part of Rob Drew’s 10 day long 2A Takeover, which continues tonight when Region rivals Glenn Hills and Butler meet at 6:30 at Michael Curry Gymnasium.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Today at Evans , undefeated Laney tips off day 2 of the 2A Takeover after instant classic Saturday at Josey

Today Laney will play its second game against a top 10 team in 3 days

After Saturday’s matchup between #1 Laney and #6 Josey, which is described in detail below, the Lady Wildcats' game will again today take main event status, this time at Evans High School in a special MLK Day matchup against Johnson of Savannah, which enters with a 10-3 record and the #3 spot in the class 3A rankings.

These are only 2 of a total of 6 top 10 teams playing at Evans Monday. Expect live coverage at the @AugBball Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds. Here is the schedule of games:

Laney’s undefeated streak will be tested again today

Laney’s winning pedigree came in handy Saturday, first when the Lady Wildcats almost put the game out of reach with a 25-12 second quarter run that gave the Wildcats a 20 point halftime lead, and next when Laney responded to that lead evaporating with an 11-0 run as part of a game closing spurt that dashed Josey’s upset hopes.

Stay tuned to @AugBball on social media for Rob Drew's coverage of the 2A Takeover (described here):

Williams gets AugBball Player of the game AND Play of the Game mention

During both spurts it became clear to me that Laney’s roster not only includes the best player in the area, in Alabama signee De’sha Benjamin, but maybe the second best player too in senior Jhessyka Williams. Williams scored 24 of her 30 points in the first half when Laney almost took complete control. And she calmly and patiently answered Tykedra Rolland’s fourth quarter layup, which put Laney behind for the first time, with a drive and a dish for a Jaiden Hamilton score that assured that the Eagles would only have a handful of seconds to lead the mighty Wildcats.

Laney's Benjamin (left) and Williams (right) form the area's best 1-2 punch

Jhessyka’s play impressed the whole AugBball staff. Rob Drew, who is bringing full coverage of the 10 day long  2A Takeover to AugBball’s social media accounts, agreed with me that Williams was Saturday’s “player of the game,” and that her assist to Hamilton was the “play of the game.”

The Wildcats will need more of these kinds of performances today to win their second game against a state title contender in three days.

Josey coach has lofty goals for surging Eagles

Josey made an instant fan of me with their valiant effort Saturday. Coach Jawan Bailey would not let his players quit when they trailed by 20 points at halftime, which couldn’t have been easy after watching all the beatings Laney has handed out during its nearly 50 game winning streak. Not only did the Lady Eagles not give up, but for 12 minutes they manhandled Laney, something I didn’t think would be possible until after Benjamin and Williams graduate, to the tune of a 30-9 run.

Rhykeria Rolland scored a team high 25 points Saturday.

This kind of showing makes it easy to understand why Bailey has such lofty goals for his group, which like Laney relies on a trio of versatile scorers in Tykedra Rolland (14 vs Laney), Rhykeria Rolland (25), and Ebony Clark (14).

"Games will come down to the wire and someone will definitely have to show confidence to lead us down the stretch," Bailey said about winning against the state's best teams. "We want the big one. Region for sure but a shot at the state is our ultimate goal."

Coach Bailey’s expectations are reasonable. And because the three players listed above are all juniors, the Eagles may have several more chances to prove they belong in the state title conversation.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Laney, Josey, Glenn Hills, and Butler's 2A Takeover

Saturday's class 2A Laney-Josey matchup is 1 of 3 involving top 10 teams coming the next 10 days.

Regarding local class 2A games involving top 10 teams in the state, the next 10 days have many, beginning today, when two top 10 girls team meet in our area's most storied rivalry:

#1 Laney Lady Wildcats at #6 Josey Lady Eagles

Saturday, Jan 13 - 5:00*

- Laney (15-0, 5-0)
- Josey (15-1, 5-0)**

Then the defending state champion Lady Wildcats will take on one of class 3A's best in a special MLK Day game at Evans Monday:

#1 Laney Lady Wildcats vs #3 (Class 3A) Johnson-Savannah

Monday, Jan 15 at Evans

On the boys side, the undefeated and top ranked Glenn Hills Spartans, the #7 ranked Laney Wildcats, and Butler, which I think will prove also to be a state title contender before the season ends, will all play each other in a sort of round robin set of games between Tuesday, January 16 and the next Tuesday, January 23.

Here are the coming games of note for these three class 2A contenders:

#1 Glenn Hills (16-0, 7-0)

#1 Glenn Hills at Evans

Monday, Jan 15

#1 Glenn Hills vs Butler 

Tuesday, Jan 16

#1 Glenn Hills at #7 Laney

Friday, Jan 19

#7 Laney (12-3, 4-1)

#7 Laney at Josey 

Saturday, Jan 13

#7 Laney vs Midland Valley at Evans

Monday, Jan 15

#7 Laney vs #1 Glenn Hills

Friday, Jan 19

#7 Laney vs Butler

Tuesday, Jan 23

Butler (9-9, 5-2)

*According to Maxpreps
**Before Friday's game vs Jefferson County

Thursday, January 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

Glenn Hills' 6'8" center Timmy Sellers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aquinas' Dajuan Hill

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

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

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

Individual Stats in wins over ELCA and Dacula:

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

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

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

Baldwin is adjusting to being "hunted"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lakeside is familiar with Friday's spot!

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

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

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

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

Oh and about that student section...

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Lytes leads Aiken to overtime win over rival South Aiken

Jordan Lytes scored 20 points, including 13 after halftime, to lead Aiken to a 58-53 overtime win on the road against rival South Aiken in both teams' region opener. Lytes scored the final 5 points of regulation to force overtime, first stealing the ball and making a basket that cut the Thoroughbreds' lead to 47-46 with 1:29 remaining, and next burying a three pointer from the left corner with 7 seconds left to tie the game at 49.

Lytes scored 4 more points in overtime when the Hornets (12-1, 1-0) took their first lead since early in the second quarter. South Aiken controlled most of the second half after ending the second quarter on a 14-3 running and taking a 22-17 lead into intermission. Melvin Mckie scored 8 of his 13 points during a three possession third quarter stretch that gave the Thoroughbreds a 36-27 lead.

Aiken responded with a 9-0 run that ended when Lytes tied the game at 36 on the first play of the fourth quarter. George Williams, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half, made key baskets down the stretch for Aiken, as did Calvin Mathis (10 points and 11 rebounds) and Nazae Baltimore (10 points and 12 rebounds).

Dra Patterson and Josh Drayton led South Aiken (7-5, 0-1) with 14 points each. The duo combined to lead SA's second quarter spurt that gave the Thoroughbreds their first lead.

Also on South Carolina's class AAAA, region 4 opening night, Midland Valley (7-8, 1-0) topped Airport (12-4, 0-1) 70-58. The win sets up Friday's visit from Aiken, which will feature two 1-0 teams.