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 email@example.com.