Area Sports...

January 24, 2001

Banks County reaching for wins in next three
An old adage claims that "there's no place like home."
Banks County's varsity basketball teams hope that adage rings true over the next two weeks.
The Leopards and Lady Leopards will be hosting their final three games of the season, two of which are against subregion opponents.
The final stretch begins with East Hall Friday night. Both the Leopards and the Lady Leopards were defeated the last time the two teams met at East Hall.
The East Hall game, along with next Friday's Dawson County game, will help determine the all-important seeding going into the Region 8-AA tournament.
Banks County will get a break from their subregion play to host Union County Tuesday.
For the Leopards, Friday's game against East Hall will also be a test on a team that has seen its share of emotional ups and downs this year.
"It will be a test to see whether or not we will lose our mental composure," Leopard head coach Mike Ruth said.
The Leopards will be attempting to salvage the esteem lost during Friday's night emotionally charged 64-54 loss to Rabun County.
Banks County led the game 27-23 at the half. By the end of third quarter, the team retained a smaller 42-41 lead.
But less than a minute into the fourth quarter, the Leopards' lead began to crumble.
Rabun County was fouled on a successful three-point attempt. The additional free throw gave the Wildcats a 45-43 lead.
On the Leopards' next possession, a Rabun County player managed to get ahold of the ball and a foul was called on Bray Maxwell as he reached to get it back.
As tensions rose, an official then called a technical foul on Maxwell, probably the most even-tempered of Banks' players, for allegedly making an obscene comment.
The Wildcats were allowed four free throws, three of which they made.
However, the official erroneously allowed the same player to shoot all four free throws, though the player Maxwell fouled was supposed to shoot two of them.
"It was a big turnaround," Ruth said of the fouls. "They scored nine points before we even got to touch the ball again."
From there, the Wildcats only increased their lead as Maxwell, Chris Ivey and a Rabun County player fouled out of the game.
"I feel like we played pretty good," Ruth said. "We just got a couple of bad breaks."
Mike Ivey led Banks' scoring attack with 18 points. Cody Whitlock added 16 and C. Ivey had 11.
To round out scoring, Maxwell put up four points, Casey Murray had three and Will Gordon scored two.
A total of 39 fouls were called in Friday's game, 21 against Rabun County and 18 against the Leopards.
Banks only had four fouls in the first half.
LADY LEOPARDS
The Lady Leopards also saw a loss at the hands of Rabun County Friday night, falling 57-32.
Banks County started the game out falling behind 6-0 early. Haley Crumley finally put the Lady Leopards on the board, nailing her 22nd three-pointer of the year.
From there, the Lady Wildcats pushed ahead to a 30-14 halftime lead.
Rabun County continued to run ahead of Banks County until finally taking the win.
Crumley topped the scoring for the Lady Leopards with nine points.
Other scorers included: Ashley Freeman, seven; Laura Carlyle and Jennifer Martin, four; Taffy Carruth, Dana Garrish and Chastico Beasley, two; and Megan Williams, one.



Hoops teams hope to peak as regions near
AS JANUARY winds down, area basketball action is heating up.
Basketball teams from Jefferson and Jackson County will wrap up their regular season schedules next weekend, both against local rivals.
Jefferson will host longtime rival Commerce next Friday in what will likely be one of the most hotly contested matchups of the season. In the teams' first meeting earlier at Commerce, the Lady Tigers handed Jefferson their first region loss on a buzzer-beating shot from just inside the three-point line.
Jefferson's boys overcame a tight first half to down their Tiger counterparts by a seven-point margin.
Depending upon what happens between now and next Friday, the meeting between the two rivals could have an impact on the final Region 8-A standings.
With dates against Buford and Lakeview remaining on the region schedule in addition to the Commerce matchup, Jefferson's boys sit at the top of the region standings through Tuesday's games, at 10-1. Buford and Commerce are both 7-3, but Commerce seems to have an edge over the Wolves for second.
Buford still must face three of the other four top-five teams, and Commerce meets only two contenders in addition to also-rans Tallulah Falls and Rabun Gap.
If Jefferson were to falter in their final three region games ­ which seems unlikely, given that one is against 5-6 Lakeview ­ either Buford or Commerce could claim the top spot outright by winning out.
Wesleyan ­ the only region team to beat Jefferson this season ­ could tie with the Dragons, forcing a tie-breaker since the teams split in their regular-season meetings.
Jefferson's girls can still make the top spot, but must hope for help from Providence or Buford against the seemingly unbeatable Wesleyan. The Lady Wolves are 11-1 in region play, their only loss to Jefferson in the early weeks of the season.
Commerce could also catch the Lady Wolves.
LADY PANTHERS LEAD
8-AAA
SOUTH
Jackson County's Lady Panthers are just a whisper away from clinching the top spot in their subregion race.
At 6-0, Jackson County cannot be overtaken in the standings, though they could be caught by Monroe Area. The two teams meet in Monroe Friday, and the Lady Panthers would wrap up the subregion title with a win.
A Monroe win Friday would likely mean a tie in the standings, since the Lady Hurricanes would have only Winder-Barrow and Loganville left on their region slate.
Ron Garren's boys can still catch Winder-Barrow, but the Bulldoggs own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Jackson County and would therefore have to fall to both Monroe and the winless (thus far) Loganville.
A first-place finish would mean the Lady Panthers would likely meet either Stephens County or Elbert County in the second round of the region tournament Feb. 16 or 17 at Hart County, after an opening-round bye.
If the Panther boys finish second, their likely second-round opponent would be Stephens County.
Hart County, with both of the state's top-ranked Class AAA teams, sits at the top of both the boys' and girls' 8-AAA north subregion, at 5-0. Stephens' boys are 5-1, and Madison County's girls follow Hart, also at 5-1.
The Raiders and Panthers will square off in the final games of the regular season for both teams next Friday at the Panther Pit.
Since the two schools are in separate subregions, the games will not count toward the final subregion standings.
The top four teams from region tournaments in all classifications qualify for the state tournament.
See this week's Jackson Herald for more local basketball coverage.

Collins, Guards Return Tigers To Form
The Commerce Tiger basketball team got 62 points from future Tennessee Volunteer Michael Collins and vastly improved play from their guards last week. The combination snapped a three-game losing streak and put the Tigers in charge of their own destiny in Region 8-A play.
Commerce overcame a miserable first quarter Friday night to beat Wesleyan 86-79, then had a similar comeback Saturday to knock off Buford, 56-55.
"These were extremely big wins for us, after dropping three in a row," observed Coach Rex Gregg, whose Tigers are tied for second in 8-A with an 11-4 mark overall and a 6-3 8-A record.
Commerce was scheduled to play Lakeview last (Tuesday) night, then host Tallulah Falls Friday, Lakeview Saturday and Providence Academy next Tuesday.
VS. WESLEYAN
For the first quarter, it looked like the Commerce losing streak would go to four games.
"We couldn't do anything, and everything they did worked," said Gregg.
The Wolves connected on a number of three-pointers, leading by as much as 16 points early. At the end of the first quarter, Commerce trailed 27-13.
But the Tigers found their game in the second period, outscoring Wesleyan 21-8 and closing the game to 35-34 at the half. After three periods, the Tigers were up 62-56.
"Our guards played a little bit better. We didn't have as many turnovers and Rob Brown gave us a big lift off the bench, 11 points, including three for three on three-pointers," Gregg said.
It didn't hurt that Collins had a monster game, scoring 39 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. Twion Shealer added 14 points and had seven rebounds, while Casey Gary scored 11, had eight rebounds and six assists. Brody Bearden scored five points, while Wes Massey and Vonté Reed had three each.
"Michael's mid-range game is so good, it's unbelievable," said Gregg, who called Collins' point total "the quietest 39 points ever."
VS. BUFORD
The second batch of Wolves to come to Commerce went home disappointed as well, but Saturday's first quarter was nearly a repeat of the Wesleyan game, with Buford up 16-9. Early in the second quarter, the Wolves stretched the lead to 16 points, but the Tigers got back into form and closed the gap to five, 31-26, at the half. After three periods, it was knotted at 44.
The lead swapped back and forth during the final period. With 29 seconds left and the Tigers down 55-54, Reed went to the line for a two-shot opportunity. Having already hit six of six from the line, Reed missed both shots. But Collins grabbed the rebound for Commerce, and with about 12 seconds left hit a 12-foot jump shot to give the Tigers a one-point lead at 56-55.
Buford had a chance to win the game, but managed only a 30-foot air ball, after which time ran out.
"That was two games in a row we found ourselves trailing by 16 in the first half, but they hung in there and fought back," Gregg said. "We gave ourselves a chance to win. With only 10 turnovers, our four guards did a good job taking care of the ball. Brody Bearden came in and hit two of four from three-point range."
Collins led the offense with 26 points and had 14 rebounds. Shealer, Reed and Bearden scored eight apiece, Massey added three, Gary scored one and Brown added one.
Collins, averaging 25.9 points per game, made the Atlanta Tip-Off Club Team of the Month for January.


Raiders breeze by Blue Devils
Madison County has had its shooting woes this year.
But Friday, the Raiders put on a shooting show, burying shot after shot in a 78-63 win over Elbert County at home.
"It's good to see us shoot well from the perimeter," said Crouse, whose team improved to 5-15. "We had four players in double figures and that's tremendous for us."
Senior guard Chad Youngblood was the Raiders' top scorer, pouring in 20 points. Youngblood was three-of-five from three-point range and three-of-four from the charity stripe. He also dished out six assists and grabbed three rebounds.
But Youngblood wasn't the only shooter with a hot hand Friday. The Raiders finished the evening with a strong 29-of-58 (50 percent) performance from the field, while posting a less-then-spectacular 19-of-34 (55.9 percent) effort from the free throw line.
The team broke on top early, thanks to a scoring surge by Ben Baker, who picked up Madison County's first eight points of the evening, draining two three-pointers within the first 70 seconds of the game. Baker, who grabbed five rebounds, finished with 12 points on the night.
Youngblood also tallied eight points in the first period, including two three-pointers, helping the Raiders jump on top 24-13 after eight minutes of play.
Madison County extended the lead to 39-29 at intermission. But Elbert County cut the Raider advantage to seven in the third quarter, 49-42.
However, baskets by Trevelle Heard and Youngblood late in the third period sparked an 8-0 run that stretched into the early moments of the final period and helped the Raiders regain momentum.
The fourth quarter turned in to a lengthy free-throw shooting contest. And while the Raiders missed some shots from the charity stripe, they held on for the win.
Heard turned in another strong offensive performance, tallying 19 points, while grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists. Kurt Cooper scored 12 points and snagged five rebounds.
Crouse pointed out that Friday night was the first game this season that the Raiders had more assists, 13, than turnovers, 12. The squad also grabbed 25 rebounds - nine offensive and 16 defensive.
"It was a big subregion win for us," said Crouse. "Both the varsity and the JV won and that was a big plus....I'm very pleased with how hard we worked....Hopefully, we can continue to shoot the ball well."
The Raiders, who traveled to Stephens County Tuesday - results were not available as of press time - will visit Franklin County Friday at 8:30 p.m., before hosting Oconee County at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on "senior night."
Crouse said his team is gearing up for postseason action. The region tournament begins Feb. 12.
"We've got the (region) tournament coming up," he said. "And everybody comes in at 0-0."


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