Monday, March 3, 2008

Boys Final Four Previews


Hiram vs. Wheeler: Three of the four teams that reached the semifinal round were expected to be there from the beginning. The Hiram Hornets were a different story. Entering the state tournament with zero postseason wins in school history, the Hornets won their three state tournament games by slim margins. Stewart Clark leads the way with over 1,000 career points. Still, Hiram is in for a tough battle against nationally-ranked Wheeler. Aside from a three-point squeaker against McEachern in Round 2, Wheeler has obliterated their opponents, capping off their streak with a 22-point win over Berkmar in the quarterfinals. With Miami-signee Dequan Jones and star junior Ari Stewart on the floor, the Wildcats have a great shot at winning their second state championship in four seasons.

Norcross vs. Savannah: Another nationally-ranked team, the Norcross Blue Devils, reached the Final Four. Led by’s top-ranked small forward and Wake Forest-signee Al-Farouq Aminu, the Blue Devils won all three of their state tournament games by at least 15 points. Denzail Jones and Tarriq Muhammad make the back-to-back defending state champs even more dangerous. But if you think the Savannah Blue Jackets will be intimidated, think again. Savannah is led by Kevin Williams, who scored 19 points in the team’s quarterfinal victory over Douglass. And head coach Tim Jordan was also selected to be the head coach of the South team in the upcoming North-South Senior All-Star Game on March 30.

Tad Arapoglou can be reached at


Fayette County vs. Miller Grove: The Fayette County Tigers, having never won a state playoff game prior to this season have RUN all the way to the state tournament’s Final Four. Head coach Andre Flynn’s team normally puts 70 points on the scoreboard and is led by flashy 6-foot-7 junior Noel Johnson and 5-foot-11 senior Brandon Boykin. Miller Grove, meanwhile is led by Mfon Udofia, who has simply been a beast in the scorebooks. In the quarters, the 6-foot-2 junior scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Wolverines head coach Sharmon White will also use quick 6-foot-6 center Obataiye Edwards down low to clean up the boards.

Westlake vs. Columbia: On the other side, some are calling the Westlake vs. Columbia game the “de facto championship,” as it pits No. 1 Westlake vs. No. 2 Columbia. Columbia entered the tournament as a No. 3 seed following an early region tournament loss, but Travis Leslie and the rest of the Eagles seniors refused to let the team fail to reach the Final Four. Leslie had 23 against Peeblebrook, and the team shut down Tony Woods and Rome in the quarterfinals. The Eagles fell in the state championship game last year, so they are hoping to win it all this time around. At Westlake, however, a two-headed monster will be standing in the way. Oklahoma-bound Raymond Willis has been tearing up defenses all year and Gideon Gamble will make you pay if you leave him open.

Fletcher Proctor can be reached at


Dunwoody vs. Carver-Columbus: Dunwoody are the clear favorites this weekend. Three graduating seniors and Division-I signees – Chris Singleton (Florida State), Delwan Graham (Louisiana State) and Pierre Jordan (Florida State) – are all headed for big things at the next level. They have great outside shooting with Jordan and Issiah Grayson. And also attack inside with athletic bigs in Graham and Singleton. They’re a deep team too, with plenty of talent coming off the bench. With just three seniors on the roster, Carver-Columbus is easily the most untested team remaining. But they will ride into Macon with an eight-game winning streak, 16 wins in their last 18 games, and plenty of confidence - especially after their three-point victory over Liberty County in the quarterfinals rounds.

Hart County vs. Glenn Hills: Most fans didn’t know much about Hart County before the state tournament. They know now. Rock-solid center Quint Clinkscales is the catalyst offensively for an athletic team that scored just under 70 points per game in the regular season. When it comes to talent, Glenn Hills is right up there. Forwards Jerel Stephenson and Chris Reynolds are both headed for Division I-A ball. And they can both do it all. Point guard Reggie Middleton might be the key to their success - he always spots the open man and can score too.

Josh Bagriansky can be reached at


Dublin vs. Wesleyan: Dublin, last year’s Class AA boys champions, beat previously undefeated Randolph-Clay 80-79 in the quarterfinal round. Dublin, which started the year with four straight losses because it was missing team members which are also football players (including 6-foot-5 Georgia Tech commitment Nick McRae, the team’s only senior), finds itself in the Final Four yet again, and will take on Wesleyan on Thursday. Wesleyan lost in last year’s second round, but had Georgia commit Howard Thompkins rejoin his team after spending a year at Oak Hill Academy. He and Clemson commit Tanner Smith give the Wolves a chance to win their first-ever state title. Wesleyan comes into the Final Four with a gaudy 25-5 record.

East Laurens vs. Lovett: East Laurens, which plays alongside Dublin in Region 4-AA, plays Lovett, Wesleyan’s regionmate in 6-AA. East Laurens is led by coach-on-the-floor Jimmy Williams, Jr., as well as fellow seniors Antwan Bailey and Ken Taylor. The Falcons come in with a near-perfect 29-1 record, with the only loss coming to Class AAA West Laurens, 79-77. The team easily took care of a talented Long County team by 26 points in the quarters. Point guard Andre Hicks, who signed with the University of Alabama-Birmingham as a running back, makes the Lovett attack move; he and Alex Elam form a two-man attack that was instrumental in taking out Coosa in the quarterfinals in Rome last week.

Alex Ewalt can be reached at


Turner County vs. Wilkinson County: This game will challenge the definition of substitution as both teams will rely heavily on their benches, an advantage that can make any player on the team a leading scorer candidate. However, that’s where the similarities end between these two. Wilkinson is looking for their second consecutive state championship while Turner is looking for their first since 1963. Wilkinson’s guard combo of Jamaal Day and Justin Stubbs have in-the-gym range and are great from behind the arc, which is where the Warriors look to do most of their damage. Turner’s advantage, meanwhile, may come in the paint where Demetrius Ewing and Todd Lawson will look to easy baskets on offensive rebounds and close range shots. The duo will need the talents of Marquis Jackson to get them the ball inside.

Portal vs. Hancock Central: The Final Four is unfamiliar territory for each of these teams who have hovered around the semifinal round for the past couple of years only to be eliminated in the quarterfinals. To get into the finals, Portal will need an excellent game from their field general, point guard David Buchannon. On the season, Buchannon is averaging over 20 points and right around three steals a game, which helps jumpstart the Panthers’ offense. For Hancock, the offense rests inside in the hands of Kammeon Holsey. He led the team in scoring with 16 in their quarterfinal win over Whitefield, and has really grown over his junior season.

Jason Boral can be reached at