Friday, February 29, 2008

5A sectionals at Marietta High School

Just got back from two excellent basketball games on this Elite 8 Friday. Let's start with the girls game, which began at 7 p.m. 

Parkview came in as a big favorite in this one, but Mykala Walker didn't care. She scored 22 points - including 11 in the fourth quarter - to put the Lady Wildcats in the Final Four with the 51-37 win.

She hit jumpers, she got to the rim, she rebounded the ball - this was one of the most impressive performances I've seen by a basketball player all year. If Walker gets the ball around the basket, she'll find a way to make it go in, or she'll get fouled. She took over the ballgame against No. 1 seed Parkview - and she's just a junior. A star has emerged.

It wasn't just a cakewalk for Duluth, as the score might suggest. They led by only three points after the third quarter - 29-26 - but blew it open from there, and even got to empty their bench with less than a minute remaining.

Mykala Walker... remember that name. She's got Duluth peaking at the right time.

Norcross vs. Northview 

It stayed close for a while, but Norcross slowly wore Northview down and cruised through the second half for a 75-60 victory. It was only a two-point lead for the Blue Devils after the first quarter, but Al-Farouq Aminu (29 points), A.J. Hawkins and Taariq Muhammad were too much for the Titans to handle.

Northview, however, has to get credit for hanging with one of the best teams in the nation. The Titans were talented enough to knock off Marietta, keeping them from playing the quarters in their own gym in a Blue Devil-on-Blue Devil matchup, but Ralph Sampson III's efforts couldn't overcome Norcross' efficient offensive play. 

An interesting sub-plot to this game: Norcross' Hawkins, a senior forward, transferred from Northview to join Eddie Martin's Blue Devil squad. 

Both fanbases were as spirited as I've seen, and Norcross supporters now have a lot to cheer about. Their Blue Devils will be at Gwinnett Arena for a shot at a three-peat.

Class 2A quarterfinals preview

This week will tell us all we need to know about Randolph-Clay basketball, as both teams are in the quarterfinals at Savannah State University tonight. Boys coach Joe Williams, in his 27th year with the program, eclipsed the 1,000-win milestone earlier in the season but wants to add a seventh state championship to his many accomplishments. Led by 6-foot-6 forward Jeremy Bennett, who was a nominee for the McDonald's All-American team, the Red Devils will meet defending champion Dublin for a Final Four berth. Dublin has only one senior on the roster, as Nick McRae, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound football commitment to Georgia Tech, provides the upperclassman leadership (he also has a football state title).

In the other matchups, Wesleyan meets 6-AA mate Pace Academy. These two teams met on Jan. 2, and the Wolves took home a 67-55 victory. Talented forwards Zuri James and Allen Mallory will try and pull off the upset over Wesleyan. Lovett makes the third team from that region to get to the Elite 8. 5-foot-9 guard Andre Hicks may be short in stature, but he plays as big on the basketball court as he does on the football field. He'll try and lead the Lions to the Final Four in two sports.

For the girls, Randolph-Clay wants to get back to the Final Four after a crushing defeat against Wesleyan in the waning seconds of the state semifinals last year. They'll face a Laney team that's currently riding a 15-game winning streak and fresh off an 83-66 blowout of Vidalia in the previous round. Glentrice Sapp's 26 led the Lady Wildcats in the contest. 

As in the boys bracket, three Region 6 teams remain for the girls, and it would have been four had Greater Atlanta Christian not been upset by Coosa. Wesleyan takes on rival Buford, and Paideia will face Coosa, which beat GAC 60-56 on Wednesday.  Paideia's Kaci Palmore had an amazing 20 rebounds in the 49-45 win over Manchester. Wesleyan and Anne Marie Armstrong will be the favorite to win their fourth title in five years, but they have to get past Buford first. 

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Class 3A quarterfinals preview

From Score Atlanta reporter Josh Bagriansky:

If there's anything we know about the state tournament, it's that we don't really know anything. I have to admit, I was one of those Region 5-AAA snobs who was sure that at least two of those teams were destined for the Final Four. But after Hart County beat Blessed Trinity, only Dunwoody remains from the region.

The fall of 5-AAA has been the story for me. We always hear about the teams in the metro area, but there is great basketball being played all throughout the state. Big-time props go out to Flowery Branch, East Hall and Hart County; all three defeated 5-AAA teams at some point in the tournament and are headed to the Elite 8 this weekend.

One non-Atlanta team to watch is Glenn Hills, which hasn't lost a game since just before Christmas. The team has a great duo in Chris Reynolds and Jerel Stephenson, who were key in the win over defending champion Jordan last round.

I've still got to say that Dunwoody is my favorite to win it all. They're loaded with talent and impossible for most of these 3A teams to match up with. Delwan Graham and Chris Singleton are a ridiculous combination of size and athleticism, and the backcourt of Pierre Jordan and Issiah Grayson can get them the ball in scoring position all day long. But like I said, none of us know as much as we think, and that's what makes the tournament so great.

As for the girls, it looks like Kendrick just might get it done this year. They've come so close over the past several seasons; and if they don't get it done now, they might not get back for a while with all the talent that will graduate (four of five starters are seniors). The two most talented teams in the state are likely them and Hephzibah, which face off in the next round. Jasmine Judge is a do-it-all talent that will give them a shot against the Lady Cherokees. Look for Carrollton to make some noise as well, as they play Franklin County in the next round.

Bagriansky can be reached at

Class 4A quarterfinals preview

From Score Atlanta reporter Fletcher Proctor:

The second round is in the books and only 16 teams remain: eight on the guys' side and eight on the girls' side. Overall, NO. 1 Westlake, behind another strong showing from Oklahoma-bound Raymond Willis, is set to go against Rashad Hassan and Riverdale, the Region 4-AAAA champion. Willis netted 38 points in Westlake's 74-69 second-round win and he has 56 points for the playoffs in total. Elsewhere, No. 2 Columbia struggled from the free-throw line, hitting only 15 of 32, but still advanced to face Tony Woods and Rome in the quarters.

On the other side of the draw, Noel Johnson recorded 28 points, one game after hitting for 30, and Fayette County survived to face Jonesboro, who eked out a one-point win over Statesboro. The final quadrant finds No. 4 Lithia Springs's Jeremy Flagg going against Miller Grove's Mfon Udofia, who struggled to find his shot in the second round. Miller Grove was averaging 70 ppg before only tallying 59 in the win over Cherokee.

As for the girls, No. 1 Southwest DeKalb is looking stronger by the game. Their record now stands at 28-2 after taking down Norgthwest Whitfield 68-53 behind Charenee Stephens's 17 points and Eboni Mitchell's 16. Kayla Lewis will also look to pitch in when the team faces Region 8 champion Clarke Central in the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, in the top of the bracket, No. 3 Westlake moved past Americus-Sumter behind the efforts of Sharnae Boykin (33 points) and Tamika Willis (22 points). Dalia robinson will be an excellent third spoke of Westlake's triumvirate when the Lions take on Baldwin. Tessah Holt is one Fayette County player that Northside-Warner Robins will want to try and contain. Holt scored 21 in the Bainbridge blowout and she gets help from Anma Onyeuku. But the Eagles can counter with Tai Brown, who can score in bunches. Finally, Mays senior Sade' Means hit for 24 points in the second round and is looking to take down No. 7 Madison County and Courtney Freeman in the quarters.

Proctor can be reached at

Class A quarterfinals preview

From Score Atlanta reporter Jason Boral:

While there have yet to be any buzzer beaters in the boys Single-A tournament, the favorites have moved on, setting up some fantastic matches in the later rounds. The game between Southwest Atlanta Christian and Wilkinson County will feature the last two state champions. WilCo is a danger from outside, as seen by the 13 threes they knocked in as a team on Tuesday. Southwest Atlanta will rely on its big man Joel Lamb, making the game a contest of inside-outside play.

As for great matchups, both Whitefield Academy and Hancock Central won on the road on Tuesday, meaning one of their seasons will end when they play each other at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. We will have three No. 1 seeds one No. 2 seed in the Final Four for the boys.

On the other side of the bracket, all-state candidate David Buchannon led the Portal Panthers into the quarterfinals to face Terrell County. Buchannon reminded most of a reversible jacket, working well inside and out while scoring 25 points. His one-man show will have to be at its peak if the Panthers want to defeat Terrell.

Terrell County probably earned the sweetest victory on the girls side by beating Treutlen. Not only did they earn a spot in the Elite 8 against Savannah Country Day, they avenged last year's season-ending loss at the hands of Treutlen. The Greenwaves of Terrell boast two players who aren't strangers to the 20+ points-a-game category in Monshay Thomas and Shayla Jester. But against Savannah Country Day, the points will be tougher to come by because of their stellar defense.

We all know that while defense wins championships, it's offense that sells tickets. Meaning, the game between the Southwest Atlanta Christian and Gordon Lee girls should have a packed house. SWAC brings to the table the "Three Amigos" of offense with Latanya Scott, Briana Brown, and Mariah Eaves, who all scored in double digits in their second-round victory. On the other bench, don't take your eyes off Kori Penland. She might be more machine than girl, scoring over 38 points multiple times this season.

Boral can be reached at

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Class 5A quarterfinals preview

From Score Atlanta reporter and Score Prep Fulton editor Erik Horne:

Ho-hum. Norcross just keeps rolling along towards a seemingly destined return to the state finals. The same can go for Wheeler, as it looks like the two are speeding towards each other like locomotives with 40-inch verticals. Don't think the Wildcats have forgotten their first-round loss to the Devils last season. The entire state has its fingers crossed for a Dequan Jones - Al-Farouq Aminu showdown on March 7.

After the two heavyweights, there are still some teams looking to shock the state. Northview has the tall task of playing the Blue Devils in the quarters, but if anyone can rise to the occasion, it's triple-double machine Ralph Sampson III. Also, if Berkmar superstar Wesley Witherspoon can out-dunk Jones and the Wildcats, then the Patriots will have a good shot at the crown. Three other teams have beaten their first two opponents by 18 points or more (Douglass, Stephenson and Savannah), so expect the unexpected. 

For the girls, it's strange not to see Collins Hill on your bracket, but Mill Creek and Porsha Porter have taken the torch of Gwinnett playoff success and are running with it. Porter was dominant against Berkmar and will need to be again against Marietta. The No. 1 Hawks and No. 2 Blue Devils will clash in the best matchup - boys or girls - of the 5A quarterfinals.

Don't sleep on the Parkview-Duluth game, because I don't think anyone has the guts to tell Duluth its dream run is over. The Wildcats fought off Chattahoochee's fab freshman Erika Ford (26.5 ppg in the state tournament) to advance to face the No. 6 Panthers. ... It would be a crime not to mention the beatdowns Stephenson has been administering thus far. Not many squads can stop Jylisa Williams from getting to the rack and Luella will be the next to bear witness. Williams and Co. have only conceded 36 points in their first two games.

Finally, keep an eye on the Douglass-Redan matchup, as the region rivals will meet for the fourth time this season. The Astros hold a 2-1 series advantage.

This weekend won't be short of action in Class 5A hoops.

Horne can be reached at

Boys second round quick hits...

5A boys

Wheeler comes back from 11 down in the fourth quarter to get past McEachern 70-67. Wildcats sophomore point guard Phil Taylor only had 11 in the contest, but hit two big 3-pointers down the stretch to spark the rally. Wheeler meets Berkmar on Saturday.

Norcross downs Centennial 69-54 in a rematch of last year's championship game. Al-Farouq Aminu had 17 points and guard Taariq Muhammad chipped in 15 for the Blue Devils, who move on to play...

...Northview, who just shocked Marietta 71-61. Marietta key players - Deandre Cannon and Chris Tanzy - were injured, the Blue Devils hit just 11-24 free throws, and Northview's Ralph Sampson III blocked seven shots ... that's a recipe for an upset. 

I guess Savannah was a little more comfortable on its second trip to Clayton County this year, as the team took down Mundy's Mill by the score of 82-52. Mundy's Mill won the first meeting by a point. Savannah will host Douglass on Saturday.

4A boys

Lithia Springs beat Dacula 69-63 yesterday to earn the privilege of playing red-hot Miller Grove at Marietta High School on Saturday. Jeremy Flagg had 18 points in the Lions' road victory.

Columbia has recovered nicely from their stumble in the region tournament, and despite earning Region 6's third seed, are now in the Elite 8. The Eagles defeated Pebblebrook 59-57, and Travis Leslie scored his jersey number (23). Phil McCrary's team will face Wake Forest signee Tony Woods and Rome, which just took out Stone Mountain by a point, the team that upset Columbia in the region tournament in the first place.

3A boys

There was a lot of talent on the floor in the Glenn Hills-Jordan matchup in Augusta, and Glenn Hills alone has three D-I signees. Reggie Middleton (Winthrop), Jerel Stephenson (UNC-Wilmington), and Chris Reynolds (Campbell) scored 49 of their team's 52 points in the 52-49 win. This is a senior-laden squad with the talent to win it all.

2A boys

Wesleyan rolls into the quarterfinals over Macon County, but regionmate Greater Atlanta Christian is out after being upset by Coosa, 85-82. 

Defending champs Dublin are still in the thick of things after a win over Swainsboro, but must meet Randolph-Clay in the quarters at Savannah State University.

A boys

If you live in the Rome area (or even if you don't) and are a fan of high school basketball, do yourself a favor and check out some of the best teams in the state at Georgia Highlands College on Saturday. The four best teams in Single-A will be in action on the same day: Whitefield Academy takes on Hancock Central at 5:30, and Southwest Atlanta Christian meets defending champ Wilkinson County at 8:30. Each of these teams won their second round games by double digits; these squads are the cream of the crop in this classification. 

BT falls to Hart County

It was a wild ride for the Blessed Trinity boys in the last few weeks, beating nationally ranked South Atlanta in the region tournament, then losing to Hart County in the second round in what I consider a pretty significant upset; I even regarded BT as a darkhorse title contender. The Titans got past Chestatee in the first round, but fell 73-68 to Hart County yesterday. I had a chance to talk to their coach Brian Marks.

On the BT season: "Real proud of the season we had, winning over 5A powerhouse Marietta, beating Dunwoody on their court, beating South Atlanta in the region semifinals, these are just amazing things for our program, finishing 27-4."

On his second-round opponent: "We knew Hart was very athletic, and that they would rebound the ball very well. They're not a great perimeter shooting team, but they came out and hit five threes early in the game ... They're just a real athletic team, they play good, hard defense, they disrupt you ... their main thing is attacking the boards. They got a lot of second-chance points, and we were one-and-done most trips. It's a tough place to play up there, too."

Hard loss to take for the program, indeed. But we'll see if Marks can't use this season to help build his program into a perennial contender.

On the other hand, Hart County, a team I admittedly knew little about before yesterday, must have turned some heads with this performance.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Miller Grove 59, Cherokee 50

Miller Grove let Cherokee dictate the tempo of the game for the first half, then asserted its will on defense after halftime. 

"We did our homework and we knew that they would keep the game in the 40s and 50s," said Miller Grove head coach Sharman White. "Second half, we knew we had to get out and run more, get out and make plays in transition, and continue to keep the defensive intensity."

White's Wolverines overcame shaky shooting in the first two quarters of the game by pressuring Cherokee's ballhandlers in the second half. Cherokee hung around in the Wolverines' 59-50 win, but the game was never really in doubt.

Miller Grove junior guard Mfon Udofia struggled a bit with his shot throughout the contest, but was happy with his effort and his team's performance.

"I feel like I managed the game well, I got my teammates involved," Udofia said. "I missed a couple of free throws, but overall we played a good game."

"Our coach always tells us we're a second-half team," said Udofia's teammate, junior forward Stephen Hill. The Wolverines utilized a full-court press and in-your-face perimeter defense after halftime to frustrate the Warriors, who struggled with Miller Grove's all-out pressure.

On Cherokee's end, head coach Roger Kvam was naturally disappointed in the loss, but had high praise for his kids and Miller Grove as well.

"We lost six of our top seven from last year, and for these guys to win twenty games and make the state tournament and advance past the second round, which is something the last team couldn't do ... I'm very proud of them, my seniors in particular."

His thoughts on Miller Grove: "They're long and athletic, quick, they're in passing lanes, tipping balls and blocking shots. They do a variety of things that make it hard to score."

Cherokee had a tough time getting the ball into junior center Shawn Kemp, Jr. (son of the former NBA star), who also struggled with fouls throughout the game.

Monday, February 25, 2008

First Weekend reflections...

Welcome hoops fans!

Alex Ewalt here ... as the prep beat writer for Score Atlanta and the editor of our Cherokee and DeKalb prep papers, I've had the chance to see a lot of great basketball this season.

Just one weekend in the books for the 2008 high school basketball tournament, and there's already so much to talk about. I'll start with two first round games that drew a lot of attention:

Call it what you want, but Dacula's win over Tucker in the first round of the Class 4A boys bracket was no upset. We at Score had the Falcons ranked highly for much of the regular season, and in fact, put them above Tucker for many of those weeks. Dacula's Trent Kammerer (6-foot-8) and Brian Cole (6-foot-9) are talented enough to put them in the "sleeper" category, but first, the Falcons will have to beat a fine Lithia Springs team on Tuesday to get to the quarterfinals.

Ok, you can call it an upset, but East Hall's victory over South Atlanta was not the shocker everyone is making it out to be; remember, East Hall is the defending state champion. This year, the Vikings are at it again, beating the Hornets 63-60 at home in the first round and holding the most talented player in the southeastern United States, Derrick Favors, to just 11 points. Anyone who saw South Atlanta's loss to Blessed Trinity in the 5-AAA region tournament can see what everyone's strategy against the highly touted big man will be going forward into next year. I was at that game, and saw that double and triple teams - as well as constantly and aggressively denying him the basketball - can cause him to lose focus, But I can't be too hard on the junior, who will undoubtedly mature between now and next season.

Changing gears ... is it Stephenson's year to win the 5A girls title? Former Collins Hill phenom Maya Moore is now tearing it up in Storrs, Conn., for the Lady Huskies, and Dennis Watkins's team has the senior leadership, in the form of Jylisa Williams and Taylor Turnbow, to win it all. There's a similar situation in Class 4A girls hoops, as Southwest DeKalb finds itself in pole position after playing third fiddle to St. Pius X and Marist the last two years. Current Tenessee Lady Vol Kelley Cain, so instrumental in Pius' consecutive championships, is gone, and SWD has the upperclasman experience (Charenee Stephens and Eboni Mitchell) to take home the title.

In Single-A boys hoops, there are some interesting matchups that could materialize in the next week. Look for powerhouses Whitefield Academy and Hancock Central to meet on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Georgia Highlands College in Rome, and for Southwest Atlanta Christian and Wilkinson County to follow at 8:30 p.m. at the same site. That, my friends, is good basketball no matter what classification you follow.

I'm planning on catching the Miller Grove-Cherokee second-round boys matchup on Tuesday in Lithonia, so check back here for a full report. Two top juniors - Cherokee's Shawn Kemp, Jr. and Miller Grove's Mfon Udofia - will battle it out in this one.

Any comments, questions or suggestions? Shoot me an email at

Friday, February 22, 2008


In a joint effort among Score Atlanta, Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Georgia High School Association, we will be providing you continuous updates on the state high school basketball tournament next week. leading up to the finals March 7-8 which will be broadcasted live on GPB stations across the state. Make sure to check back daily as our reporters with technical support from GPB will be providing scores as soon as the games end, a fully updated bracket and then following with blogs on all the action, including live blogging during the championship games. GET READY for some great basketball!