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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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)
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
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.
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,"
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,"
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."
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
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
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
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
"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."