Saturday, March 8, 2008

Class 2A Boys Championship Game - Wesleyan vs. East Laurens

Final impressions
Smith showed why he's an ACC player. He absolutely took the Wolves on his shoulders and carried them to the win. East Laurens just fouled too much in the second half. They got impatient on offense, committed some costly offensive fouls, and went to the outside shot only when it was too late. It's a shame that the Falcons second loss on the year had to come in the championship game, but that's the way it goes.

The Wolves players can always remember that they walked off the floor to Britney Spears's "Oops I Did it Again" after the first boys state title in school history.

Fourth quarter
Exclamation point: Tanner Smith's breakaway dunk after a steal with 30 seconds to make it a 61-43 final. It's a mob scene. Thompkins stands with his arms in the air, Erik Strong falls to the floor sobbing... Wesleyan has a lot to cheer about.

Down 19 with 2:45 left, East Laurens needs to start attempting some 3s. They can't hit any. Guard Antwan Bailey is trying frantically to hit a trey, but to no avail. With a minute and a half and a 17-point lead, the Wesleyan fans are anticipating a sweep of 2A and the first-ever title for the boys.

Smith posts up again, and lays it up to make it 53-39. A charge on the other end of the court charged to EL, and the Falcons fans are barking at the officiating again. Smith fouled shortly after, and hits one of two free throws to make it 54-39 with 4:58 left. East Laurens has ten team fouls, and seems to be losing a little bit of composure. 

Thompkins has been receiving intermittent treatment from some of the team's trainers, who are stretching out his legs and having him walk around next to the Wesleyan bench.

A charge from East Laurens' Lewis on the other end, and the Falcons have seven team fouls. Dillon McLaughlin hits both free throws after a Falcons reach, and Wesleyan leads by 12 with 5:55 left in the game. EL has not been able to follow up Williams's miracle shot. 

Zac Johnston, sophomore shooting guard for the Wolves, gets a layup for the first points of the quarter for either team. Wolves by 10. After an East Laurens miss, he gets fouled to put the Wolves one foul away from being in the bonus. 

Third quarter
East Laurens trying to fight back, but still trails by 11 with 20 seconds left in the third. After a Wesleyan turnover, Williams hits a halfcourt shot from right in front of the press table with no time on the clock. With the view I had, it looked good as soon as it left his hand. Wesleyan by only eight points, 45-37, after the buzzer beater, and now the Falcons fans are on their feet. This could be an interesting fourth quarter.

Tanner Smith is a man. He keeps the ball in his hands, looks like he's going to set up the offense, then dribbles through the EL defense for a contested lay-in. Down the court, he throws up his arms to incite the Wesleyan crowd. Needless to say, it worked. My ears hurt. Next Wolves possession, Smith pulls up for a 10-footer. East Laurens coach Jimmy Williams decides he's seen enough for the time being, and calls a full timeout. Thompkins limps to the Wesleyan huddle. 43-32 Wolves.

Boy, has the pace picked up. Up and down the court. East Laurens is attacking the basket a lot more with Thompkins out, but may be getting a little overzealous. Williams picks up a charge at the 4:07 mark.

Expect to see a lot of Tanner Smith in the second half. Aside from handling the ball, he should be in the post a lot more. He just posted up an EL guard and got a layup.

East Laurens' Bailey gets the hoop and foul on a stick back, but airballs the free throw. Cue the Wesleyan cheering section. 35-25 Wesleyan with six minutes in the quarter.

Thompkins looks like he wants to play, and is still on the Wesleyan bench at the start of the half. But the way he's walking, I wouldn't expect to see him.

Second quarter
Wesleyan is up 33-21 at the half, but star big man Thompkins is the last to get to the locker room and is requiring a lot of help to get there. Don't want to guess the nature or severity of the injury, but it doesn't look like he's going to play anymore today.

Thompkins is up, but in obvious pain. He's walking slowly back to the bench and, clearly, is not going to attempt these free throws. We'll keep you updated.

Thompkins gets undercut (accidentally, of course) by an East Laurens defender after trying to bring down an offensive rebound. He hit the ground flat on his back and has been down for a good three or four minutes. 

Thompkins banks in an eight-footer over two defenders. The Falcons are missing layups and wide-open 3s, something they weren't doing in the first quarter. The Wesleyan lead has ballooned to 12 at 31-19.

Tanner Smith is taking over the game. He just hit a 3 and took it coast-to-coast for a layup and foul. Hits the free throw to make it 29-19 with 2 minutes to go in the half.

Chris Sephus of East Laurens with a nice, hang-in-the-air drive to get it past Thompkins. 18-13 Wolves.

Jimmy Williams airballs a shot, and the Wesleyan crowd lets him hear it. Tanner Smith gets his first two points of the game on a tough post move. He's got a good inside-outside game, and can handle the ball as well. Right as I'm typing this, he leads the break and dishes to guard Michael Cornelius for the transition bucket. 17-11 Wesleyan with 5:40 left.

Both crowds need a break after the first quarter; they've been animated, to say the least. If you're watching on TV or following the GPB stream online, you know what I'm talking about. We're ready for more basketball. Wesleyan to inbound.

First quarter
The East Laurens fans are REALLY upset with some of the calls that have gone against the Falcons lately... tied 11-11 at the end of the opening period.

Thompkins blocks his first shot of the game on Terrance Strong's attempt, and the Wolves score on the next possession to make it 8-6 EL. 

Out of the timeout, Williams sends the Falcons fans into a frenzy with a layup. 

Ken Taylor, 6-5 senior shooting guard, puts the Falcons up 4-1 with a jumper. Williams with a steal off a Thompkins pass on the next possession, passes to Taylor for an uncontested layup in transition. 6-1 EL going into the game's first TV timeout.

East Laurens wins the tip, and Jimmy Williams, Jr., the coach's son, gets a layup off his own miss. 2-0 Falcons. 

More random pre-game musings...
So the Centreplex staff (or GHSA, or whoever) has really pulled out all the stops for the warmup music. Listening to LFO's "Summer Girls" right now... Next up it's something that sounds like Backstreet Boys, but after a quick Google search I find out it's 5ive, a British boy band from the late 90s. Notice a pattern here?

Ok, how about some real basketball analysis? On first sight, and with a cursory glance at the roster, East Laurens is clearly going to be at a disadvantage in the post. Howard Thompkins of Wesleyan, at 6-9, is two inches taller than any of East Laurens' kids. The Wolves have five players 6-5 or taller, the Falcons from Dublin, Georgia have two.

Advantages (purely guesses at this point): 
Quickness: East Laurens
Shooting: Wesleyan
Experience: Wesleyan
Size: Wesleyan

Thompkins is headed to Georgia next year, and 6-5 Tanner Smith to Clemson for the Wolves, so edge also goes to the Norcross school in terms of high-profile talent. East Laurens also has a pretty decent collection of fans here; wonder if they picked up any supporters from crosstown rival Dublin High, which lost to Wesleyan in the semifinals?