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SPORTS SECTION - FEBRUARY 16, 2000

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Third Straight Top 10 For Mat Tigers
CHS Wrestlers Take 5th Place At Class A Finals
It should come as no surprise that Commerce's wrestling team finished the year among the state's elite.
With a fifth-place finish at this year's Class A event at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, Commerce had placed in the top 10 four of the last five years.
Commerce started the 1990s with the state championship. In 1996, the team took eighth place before earning two straight 10th places in 1998 and 1999.
Wes Smith and Tyson Brown each brought home second-place individual medals to lead Commerce this year.
Lee Sorrow claimed his second straight third-place medal.
Blake Milford took fourth place. John Martin was fifth place at 275. Adam Perry was sixth.
"We had a great season," coach Joe Hames said. "They did a lot to be proud of."
Lovett took first place at the event with 231.5 points. Jefferson was the runner-up. Landmark Christian and Armuchee rounded out the top five.
KEEN'S LAST STAND
Jefferson High School's retiring wrestling coach Jack Keen was honored at the event with a plaque for his 35 years as the Dragons' coach.
Two Jefferson wrestlers won state championships in their weight class.
Hunter Garner won his individual title for Jefferson Saturday night.
Eric Wilburn was named co-champion this week after a call by the finals referee was overturned.
Near the end of the third period of the finals match Saturday evening, Wilburn's opponent called timeout. When the match was tied at the end of the period, the referee bypassed the first overtime and proceeded to the 30-second overtime, citing that the timeout in the third period initiated the move.
Wilburn was unable to break the hold and left the mat with an apparent second-place finish.
Tuesday, Wilburn was awarded co-champion status, according to Keen.

CHS Boys Bow Out After Loss To Buford
Tigers' 15-6 Record Best Mark In 20 Years For Commerce
The best season in 20 years ended with the worst finish of the past three years.
After making the state playoffs for the past two years, the Commerce Tigers' season ended last week with a 72-57 loss to Buford in the subregion tourament.
Commerce shot 47 percent from the floor for the season, which was a school record. The regular season mark of 14-5 and the final record of 15-6 were the best the Tigers had managed in two decades.
But the season did put the Tigers on their goal.
"Our 15-6 record was the best we've had here in 20 years," coach Rex Gregg said. "But that doesn't put you in the state tournament."
Greater Atlanta Christian finished as the Region 8-A South champion. Buford was the runner-up.
GAC topped Union County Saturday nigth for the region title and the top seed.
Buford beat Banks County to take the third seed.
VS. BUFORD
Commerce and Buford split their regular season match-ups during the regular season, with the road team wining each time.
On neutral ground, the Wolves used consistent shooting to down the Tigers.
The Wolves closed out the first quarter with a four unanswered points to take a 19-14 lead. Buford pushed that lead to nine points in the second period before the Tigers knocked the game back to 35-30 at halftime.
Buford started out the second half with another charge, taking a 48-34 lead with 3:11 to go in the third quarter.
Commerce made another run, butting the lead to 53-48 on a halfcourt shot at the buzzer by Daniel Carder.
Carder was playing in his first game since suffering a sprained ankle in the final game of the regular season.
The Tigers missed the opening shot of the final period. Buford responded with a 12-0 run that put the game away.
Michael Collins had 18 points and seven rebounds to lead Commerce. Twion Shealer had 11 points.
Carder finished with 13 points. Senior R.T. Poole had 13 points and eight boards in his and Carder's final game
"We shot the ball horrible," Gregg said. "That was probably the worst game of the year for us. We played like we had too much pressure. We beat them the last time over at their place, so they had some incentive to beat us. But Buford played a great game."



Leopards unleashed for state
BCHS boys to face Athens Academy Friday night
BY DREW BRANTLEY
At first glance playing the Spartans in Sparta seems like an uphill battle for sure. But the Banks County High School boys' basketball team isn't going to back down from any challenge, even facing the Athens Academy Spartans in the first round of the state playoffs at Hancock Central High School.
Banks County earned a berth in the Class A tournament by beating regular season Region 8-A North champion Rabun County in the subregion semifinals 68-61. The Leopards followed with games down to the wire in the Region 8-A North title game and the region seeding game.
"This is what you play for," Banks County coach Mike Ruth said. "This is why you practice and play all the games. We're pleased to get a chance to be in the state tournament, that was one of our goals. But we're not satisfied. There are just 32 teams left. If we play well, we can get to go to Rome and be in the sweet 16."
The Leopards lost to Union County 68-64 at Towns County. Buford held off Banks County's last run Saturday night to win 70-68.
Banks County will play Athens Academy at 8:30 p.m. this Saturday.
"Athens Academy and Social Circle are very deliberate," Ruth said. "They just keep running the offense over and over. They hold on the ball and wait for you to make a mistake defensively."
"Athens is pretty physical," Ruth said. "They've got two guys inside that bang around in there. They've got a good point guard and a good wing shooter. We fee like if we can keep them off the boards, and at least give them one shot and out, we've got a fairly good chance against them."
Ruth is glad that his team has chosen the final few weeks of the season to put together their best efforts.
"Our defensive efforts during our run in the last 10 ballgames has been the key. Since we beat Rabun Gap, only one team has scored 70 points on us and that was Buford in the region tournament."
Winners advance to the second round of the state tournament at Floyd College in Rome.
BUFORD
Banks County made two runs at Buford, leveling the game after trailing by 20 points and then 15. The Leopards finished the game by outscoring the Wolves 21-8 in the final period.
"We played with Buford and had an opportunity to beat them," Ruth said. "Our effort against Buford was as good as we can play, especially in the second half.
"Nobody thought that the teams from the north could compete. We lost by two and Union County gave Greater Atlanta Christian all they could handle."
Victor bonds led Banks County with 21 points.
Mike Ivey was the only other Leopard to reach double figures with 20 points.
UNION COUNTY
"In our subregion title game against Union we were just dog tired," Ruth said. "We had played the night before in the 8:30 p.m. game. It was late when we got home. I'm not taking anything away from Union County, but they were rested.
"We still played well, we just didn't have any legs left.We were down 11 points and made a run to cut it to two points. We just couldn't turn the corner."
Four Banks County players reached double figures in scoring.
Bonds had 21 points to pace Banks County.
Crumley had 15 points. M. Ivey had 12 points. Justin Smith added 10 points.
RABUN COUNTY
The Wildcats had edged out Banks County twice during the regular season. The first game was decided in overtime and the second was in doubt until the final minute.
Rabun County began the subregion semifinal on a track to make the game less interesting.
The Wildcats had a 7-1 lead to start the game. Neither team had success hitting their shots nor rebounding misses.
But Banks County made an 11-5 run to tie the game on a three-pointer by Crumley. At the close of the first quarter, Rabun County had a 16-14 edge.
The Wildcats hit a three-pointer with eight seconds to go in the half that gave Rabun County the 25-22 edge at the intermission.
The third quarter was evenly matched as neither team took more than a three-point lead.
Rabun County appeared to be pulling away in the fourth quarter, taking a 53-47 lead with just more than four minutes to play. But Banks County scored six unanswered points to tie the game at 53-53 on a layup by Bray Maxwell.
From that point, the Leopards took a 15-8 edge to claim the win.
Mike Ivey scored nine of the final 15 points for Banks County, including four free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the win.
Up 59-57 with 1:31 to go, Ivey made a steal and a layup. Crumley came up with the turnover on the Wildcats' next possession and hit on of two free throws to give Banks County a 62-57 lead.
"It seems like Mike Ivey has stepped up for us all year," Ruth said. "When we needed a big play he was there. But that's the thing with this bunch. They were down 20 to Buford and came back. Then we got down by 15 and we could have thrown in the towel. There's just no quit in this bunch."
Crumley had 20 points to lead the Leopards. M. Ivey had 19 points. Bonds had 11 points.
"When we played Rabun County it was a lose-and-you- go-home situation. We knew that we had to have that game. Our attitude was that we weren't going to be denied.
We wanted to win against Union County and Buford, but they weren't do-or-die situations. Now we're back to that situation. I think our guys are going to respond the way they did in the Rabun County game."

Leopards crank up season Tues.
Banks County baseball team opens year with Lakeview in tournament
BY DREW BRANTLEY
Banks County High School will jump start the baseball season again this year by serving as co-host to the Bi-County Tournament next week.
The event features six teams and will be played over a two-week span. Banks County plays its first three games of the tournament this week.
The Leopards open the event Tuesday against Lakeview Academy at 7 p.m. in Homer. Banks County will also play at home Friday against Athens Academy at 5:15 p.m. Jackson County, the other host for the tournament, will travel to the Leopards Saturday at 4 p.m.
Oglethorpe County and Jefferson are the other two teams in the tournament, which concludes March 4 at Jackson County Comprehensive High School.
Getting several games in early in the season is a good way to prepare for the ones that count, said Banks County coach Michael Williams.
"Obviously you'd like to win, but you also want to get a look and see what we need to work on," Williams said. "All in all, it's preparation for the subregion. You want to win them all but you want to be prepared when the subregion starts."
While Banks County returns seven starters from the team that closed out the season with four wins in its final six games, some key players will enter the season without much preparation time.
Justin Smith, Casey Murray and Bray Maxwell all saw significant time on the field last year, but are still playing with the basketball team in the state playoffs. Stephen Caudell and Will Gordon played on the junior varsity last season and are also on the basketball squad.
"I think we're ready. We're ready for a test," Williams said. "This should be a good test for us. Hopefully, we're going come out with a passing grade."
Smith joins Steven Cruce and Nate Landrum as the three seniors on the squad.
"The experience level is going to be a positive thing for us this year," Williams said. "We've got three seniors who have played a lot. We've got 10 juniors and the majority of those guys have played on the varsity. We've got seven returning starters and that makes a big difference."
Building on last year's strong finish and a winning record in the subregion will be important this year.
Joseph Whitlock is not a returning senior nor junior. But as a freshman last year, he proved he is an important part of the team on the mound and at the plate.
Making the all-tournament team of the Bi-County tournament last year, Whitlock wasted little time settling into varsity baseball.
In the opener, Cruce and Whitlock are the early favorites to get the start on the mound, Williams said.
"We finished on a strong note," Williams said. "We beat Rabun County and they ended up winning our side of the region. We started playing good baseball. We're looking for good things this year. And we're looking to improve on that 10-12 record."
Banks County will close out the Bi-County tournament with games against Oglethorpe County Feb. 29 and Jefferson on March 2. The Bi-County finals will be held March 4.



Dragons earn Keen's sixth runner-up trophy
BY TIM THOMAS
Jefferson's varsity wrestling team wrapped up its season Saturday by taking second in the state class A tournament at Riverside.
The performance was the 10th time in retiring coach Jack Keen's career that the Dragons finished second or better in the state tournament.
For the seventh time in school history, five wrestlers reached the championship match in their respective weight classes. The last three times Jefferson placed seven in the finals (84, 89, 95), the team came home with the state championship trophy. Only twice in 32 years has Jefferson failed to have a representative in the final round.
Freshman Hunter Garner won the individual championship at 140 pounds, and senior Eric Wilburn was declared a 135-pound champion Tuesday (see related story). Seniors Justin Gooch (125) and Steve Green (171) brought home silver medals, as did freshman Jeremiah Wilson (103). Michael Albea took third place at 112. The six medalists finished the season with a combined record of 206 wins, 24 losses, and one tie, just a few tenths shy of a 90-percent winning record.
The championship matches provided strong competition, as most of Jefferson's final matches were close. Garner won a three-point decision, and Wilburn wrestled Armuchee's Jeffery Burns to a 7-7 tie. The pair are Georgia's first-ever dual wrestling champions.
Green lost a close 7-5 decision, and Wilson dominated his opponent before being pinned. Gooch earned the third state runner-up spot of his career after a very physical finals loss.
Jefferson entered the tournament as a huge underdog to wrestling giant Lovett. The Lions had won five consecutive state AA titles in the early 90's before dropping down to win class A last year.
With 13 wrestlers in the tournament, Jefferson looked to have a chance to hang with Lovett, but a poor showing in the opening round quickly dropped the Dragons from contention. Only Jefferson's six eventual medal-winners made it to the quarterfinals, compared to 11 for the Lions. After day one, Lovett held a commanding 113.5 to 62 lead.
Day two saw a tremendous role reversal. Jefferson excelled in the crucial semifinal round, winning five of six matches. Meanwhile, the Lions struggled to win six of 11. The Dragons scored 56 team points in the round, but with only two wrestlers in the consolation brackets, they had no chance to catch Lovett.
Although the Lions won the tournament by a convincing margin, Jefferson wrestlers won four of their five individual matches against Lovett.
Aside from Wilburn's championship tie, Jeremiah Wilson turned in perhaps the most exciting match of the tournament for Jefferson in the semifinals. Wilson controlled his opponent late, but trailed by a point. Unable to get a near fall, Wilson let his man go with seconds remaining, then dove back on for the tying takedown. Wilson was awarded the win in overtime when his opponent, in an attempt to avoid being taken down, was called for a grasping penalty.
Others wrestling for Jefferson were Blake Gooch, Jeremy Smith, Joseph Carter, Chris Seibert, Chad Hemphill, Clint Bryson and Brendon Kemp. Jon Veldhuis qualified for the tournament as an alternate, but did not get to participate.
After the final coaching event of his career, Keen had high praise for his wrestlers.
"All members of this year's wrestling team ­ not just our 14 starters who traveled to the state ­ should be congratulated for a great season, and for a wonderful season-ending finish in both the state area and state final tournaments."

Lady Dragons to play in Sparta
Sophomore sensation Lee DuBose will lead the Lady Dragons into the state class A basketball tournament Saturday at Hancock Central.
Jefferson will face Social Circle in the tournament's opening round. Social Circle took the second spot in region 7-A after a 50-30 loss to Warren County Tuesday. The Lady Dragons should be a heavy favorite in the game, and a win Saturday would earn the team a spot in the sweet 16, next weekend in Rome.
DuBose has been hot in Jefferson's most recent games, in more ways than one. She scored 21 points in a win over Greater Atlanta Christian last week that clinched a state playoff berth, then followed with 19 in the subregion championship loss to Buford.
A day later, DuBose racked up 27 in only three quarters in a region tournament blowout over Rabun County, despite being hampered by a fever. DuBose has scored 455 points so far this season, giving her an amazing two-year career total of 843.
In the GAC game, the Lady Dragons were down 42-38 after three periods. DuBose scored eight of her team's 24, and Staci Childress was 5-for-6 from the foul line in the fourth to whip the Lady Spartans 62-52 and qualify for the state tournament. Annie Goza scored 20, and Childress added 11.
Surprisingly, the Lady Dragons were within single digits of Buford in the second half of the subregion championship. The Lady Wolves led 48-24 at the half, but Jefferson cut the lead to nine in the third period. Goza and Brooklyne Marlowe each had 10 in the 73-51 loss.
Against Rabun County, Marlowe scored 10 and Goza 16. The Lady Dragons stretched a seven-point halftime lead against the north subregion's top team to 18 after three, and finished with a 64-48 victory.
BOYS ELIMINATED BY GAC
Jefferson's boys, saddled with the south subregion's fourth seed, defeated Providence before closing their season with a loss to GAC in the subregion semifinal. The Spartans earned the top subregion seed by going 12-0 against subregion opponents during the regular season.
Despite their serious underdog status, the Dragons came within inches of beating the Spartans. GAC scored a whopping 31 points in the second period, but were held to a total of 31 in the second half.
GAC led 42-32 at intermission, and still by 10 after three. At one point, Jefferson trailed by 15 in the fourth period, but Dantonio Chandler led the Dragons back to 66-62 with three minutes left by scoring eight unanswered points.
Buzz Wehunt hit a three-pointer at the two-minute mark to cut the lead to one, and Daniel Goza added two points at 1:25 to give Jefferson a 67-66 lead.
After the Spartans jumped on top 71-67, Ryan Gurley's three-pointer made it 71-70 with three seconds left. Jefferson fouled GAC after the inbounds pass, and the Spartan player hit both shots to stretch the lead back to three with 1.7 seconds remaining.
After the inbound, Wehunt quickly dribbled to mid-court before throwing up a hopeful tying shot at the buzzer. The shot was just at the right height, but wide to the right by about a foot.
"I told our kids after that game that I was really proud of them," said coach Bolling DuBose. "They showed a lot of improvement over the course of the season, and they may have played their best game of the year against GAC." The Spartans have been ranked in the top five for most of the year, as have a number of Jefferson's opponents this season.
"While an 11-14 record is a little disappointing, 10 of our 25 games were against ranked teams," said DuBose. "This was one of the toughest schedules we've ever played."
Jefferson will return eight of their top 10 players next year, and will lose only two to graduation after that.
"We've done what we needed to do," said DuBose, "so that the prospects for us in the future are really great."
TIPOFF CLUB HONORS
Jefferson has had three players named to the Atlanta Tipoff Club during the past two months. Daniel Goza and Lee DuBose earned the honor in December, and Buzz Wehunt in January.




Lady Panthers move on to Dalton
Annette Watts takes her Lady Panthers north this weekend to face Northwest Whitfield in the opening round of the state class AAA basketball tournament. The game will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, at Dalton's Northwest Georgia Trade Convention Center.
The Lady Panthers qualified for the state tournament with a region quarterfinal win last week over Oconee County. A rowdy group of Warrior fans and a counterpart group of Panther students kept the game interesting throughout. A host of controversial calls also helped.
Jackson County led by 14 at the half, and 17 after three quarters in the 69-43 blowout win. Krystal Britt led the team with 15 points, thanks mostly to her 13-for-16 performance from the foul line. Abrielle Varnum also put 15 on the board, Megan Elliott had 13 and Monic Stewart 10.
The Lady Panthers struggled over the weekend at Newton County, losing first to North Gwinnett, 60-56, then to the host Lady Rams, 53-50. North Gwinnett has beaten Jackson County three times on the season, by a total margin of only 10 points. The Lady Bulldogs gave Central Gwinnett a tough game in the region final, forcing overtime before falling to the number-one team in the state.
"We played really hard both days," said Watts. "We just made turnovers down the stretch that cost us both games."
Stewart scored 20 in each game. Varnum put up 14 against North Gwinnett, and April Cantrell added 11. The Lady Panthers continued their extended hot streak from the foul line, hitting 12 of 13 against Newton County.
Britt and Stewart are both in triple digits for rebounds and points on the season, and Britt is closing in on 100 steals.
BOYS FALL TO BULLDOGS
Jackson County's boys fell to region powerhouse North Gwinnett last week in their final game of the season. A poor seed in the region tournament had made it extremely difficult for the Panthers to earn a state tournament berth. Jackson County finished 13-10 on the year, the most wins the team has posted since 1982.
"I told our kids that we lost our opportunity to advance and play in the tournament by losing a couple of key subregion games at home," said coach Ron Garren. "Championship-caliber teams have a very, very good record at home."
Jackson County was 3-2 in subregion games at home. The losses kept the Panthers out of the top two spots in the subregion, either of which would have helped them avoid North Gwinnett until after qualifying for state.
"North Gwinnett is without a doubt the class of our region," Garren said. "The key to the game against them was our inability to put the ball in the hole. We only had two turnovers against their press. I guess what I was proud about was the fact that we came out in the third quarter and played extremely well."
The Panthers will return four starters next year, all of whom will have started for at least two years. Rodrick Gresham finished his high school career with more than 1,000 points and 700 rebounds. Even with the loss of such a key player, Garren says his team should adapt well.
"What records Rodrick has set," said Garren, "B. J. [Wilmont] will have a chance break, and Dustin David will probably have an opportunity to break B. J.'s records. Next year will be the first time I've had a junior-senior dominated team." In addition, Wilmont, David and Tim Birdette all plan to play on a traveling AAU team in the off-season.

Colley, Ledbetter place for Panthers
BY TIM THOMAS
Stephen Ledbetter wrapped up Jackson County's wrestling season Saturday in the state class AAA finals at 135 pounds. Ledbetter lost a 5-4 decision in the championship match to a wrestler from Ringgold.
Also placing in the tournament was Rusty Colley (119). Colley blew through three opponents before losing to the eventual 119-pound runner-up in the semifinals. The earlier wins gave Colley a sixth-place finish, earning the Panthers valuable team points.
The Panthers finished a respectable 17th out of 71 teams participating in the tournament. Jackson County finished the highest of any area 8-A school. Oconee County pulled in just behind the Panthers in 18th, and Newton County was 20th. Far back in the pack was area champion Habersham Central, in 40th.
Jackson County was 10th after a good first-round showing. Six of the team's seven state representatives won in the opening round. The Panthers were not as fortunate in round two, as all but Colley and Ledbetter were defeated.
Brian Bowles fell victim to poor bracket placement at 130, losing to Gordon Central's Matthew Pitts. Pitts went on to win his second state championship in as many years.
Jared Herrington, one of the favorites to contend for the state title at 125, was eliminated after a last-second 5-4 loss. Dacula's Paul Stansbury, last year's champion at 119, took the gold at 125. Herrington defeated Stansbury earlier in the season, at the Panther Invitational.
Herrington led by one late in his second-round match, when his adversary scored a takedown in the final seconds. The Starr's Mill opponent held Herrington's feet as the Panther struggled to remain standing and get off the mat. Just before time expired, Herrington lost his balance, and the Starr's Mill wrestler kept his own feet just in bounds to earn the takedown and win.
Jason Powers lost 4-0 to the runner-up at 103, but earned his second tournament win in the wrestle-backs.
Steven Barber won by pin in a huge round-one upset at 215. Brian Gower lost in the first round to a tough grappler from Lithonia.
Three of the seven ­ Ledbetter, Bowles and Barber ­ are seniors.



Diamond days:
BY ZACH MITCHAM
Charlie Griffeth's squads know how to cut a gem on the baseball diamond.
The Madison County Red Raiders are 202-87 over the past 10 years and have two state final appearances - in 1992 and 1998 - and one final four showing in 1993.
And this year's club, which opens its season Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at home versus Monroe, has the potential for more glories, sporting both talent and experience. Pitching ace Scott Tolbert returns, along with eight other seniors.
Still, Griffeth is reserved when it comes to predictions.
"Everything is a big question mark," he said. "Hopefully, experience will be a strong point. We've got a chance to be pretty good."
Griffeth notes the absence of pitcher Danny Chandler as a major void. Chandler had half of the team's 18 wins last season. The only other senior on last year's team was Brad Moon.
"Pitching will be a question," said Griffeth. "But it could be a strength. We've got guys who will throw strikes, but other than Scott (Tolbert), we don't have one who will strike out 10 or 15 in a game."
Tolbert, who signed with Georgia Southern recently, is an imposing force on the mound, overpowering many hitters with a laser-like fastball. As a junior, Tolbert had 96 strikeouts in 65.2 innings, giving up 57 hits, 26 walks and 37 runs - 28 earned. He had a 3.01 ERA.
Madison County, which ended last season with an 18-9 record, losing to Central Gwinnett in the third round of the region tournament, will suit up nine seniors, four juniors and four sophomores.
Griffeth said the starting spots are still up for grabs.
"We've got a lot of competition going on," he said.
Those competing for mound duties include Tolbert, Colt Rice, Joseph Hardigree, Chad Youngblood, Kurt Cooper, Dustin Dinsmore and Adam Nash.
Behind the plate will be Andy Coile and Jeremy Minish. But Minish is out indefinitely with a broken hand. Chad Gillespie and Stephen Seagraves will see time at first base. Bo Williamson and Jonathan Pou are the team's second basemen. Hardigree and Nick Mattox are the squad's shortstops. Rice, Dinsmore and Cooper are competing for the third base starting job. Jeremie Strickland, Nash, Jamaris Mattox, Daniel Smith and Youngblood will share duties in the outfield.
While many teams will come into the season somewhat rusty, most of the Madison County squad participated in summer and fall baseball leagues, playing about 30 games in the summer and about 15 in the fall. Griffeth, who doesn't coach either summer or fall ball, said the summer season was "pretty brutal," with the team not hitting or pitching well. He said things were somewhat better during the fall.
Griffeth said this year's Raider schedule will "be a tough one," noting that Gainesville (March 6), South Gwinnett (March 7) and Brookwood (April 1) will be difficult matchups.

Lady Raiders knocked out of region tourney
Madison County finishes season at 18-5
BY ZACH MITCHAM
Madison County coach Tim Cook knew his team would be good this year. Their 18-5 record proved that.
But Cook also knew "good" might not be enough against the Lady Raiders' tougher Region 8-AAA foes.
Madison County bowed out of the Region 8-AAA tournament in the first round Wednesday with a 69-50 loss to North Gwinnett, ending the Lady Raiders' best season under Cook, who became the Lady Raider coach in 1994.
"I was pleased with our record, but we don't have a whole lot to show for it," said Cook.
Cook said he wasn't as upset with his squad's performance in the North Gwinnett game as with the Lady Raiders' loss to West Hall on Feb. 1, a setback that put Madison County on the road versus a tough region foe instead of at home in the tournament.
"North Gwinnett was just a better team than us," said Cook.
He added that it's sometimes frustrating to be in a region that sports many of the state's top teams.
"Many teams would like to win 18 games," said Cook. "But in our region you've got to win about 20 games to get into the state tournament."
Madison County, which committed nine first half turnovers, fell behind early Wednesday, trailing North Gwinnett 21-13 after one quarter and 30-19 at halftime.
The Lady Raiders slowed the tempo in the opening moments of the second quarter, cutting an eight-point lead to four midway through the period on a Brittney Escoe three-pointer. But North Gwinnett held Madison County scoreless for the rest of the period.
The Lady Bulldogs pushed their lead to 36-21 with 5:15 to go in the third quarter. Madison County answered with a 7-0 run, cutting the deficit to 36-28 with 3:30 left in the period. But North Gwinnett followed with an 8-0 rally and their lead never dropped below double digits.
Leading Madison County was senior Tawana Moon, who scored 18 points in her final game. Escoe finished with 12. Ashley Myers added 10. Renee Mathews had four; Stacie Beard chipped in three. Sheena Mason finished with two and Heather Jones added one.
The contest was also the last game for Lady Raider senior Wintre Hubbard.
Cook said he feels next year's team, which will include eight seniors, has a lot of potential.
"Nobody can replace Tawana and what she did," said Cook. "But as a group, everybody can pick up the slack. We'll see what this senior class can do."


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