Going into a basketball war
Columnist takes road trip with hoops teams. I didnıt play any sports in high school. So the experience of traveling to a game on a team bus was foreign to me.
I first did it in the fall on a lengthy ride up a mountain to Union County with the football team. The whole encounter gave me a new view of what goes on behind the scenes.
But to get a different feel for the experience, I decided to try and ride with the basketball teams to their final away game at Dawson County Friday. The coaches and administration approved my request and I was set.
We boarded the bus and the left the school just after 5 p.m. Friday. Coach Mike Gordon was driving the bus, as he usually does. Mike Ruth and cheerleading coach Kim Chosewood sat in the two front seats behind Gordon.
Behind them were the cheerleaders, then the girlsı basketball team and then the boys, with some mixture in between. I was stuck somewhere in the middle.
The atmosphere for the ride to Dawsonville was relaxed and fun. By no means was it a crazy free-for-all, but it wasnıt quite the deathly silence of the football team bus I experienced in October.
Some of the other players just sat back and closed their eyes. Others talked about homework or school or their friends. Some listened to headphones and watched the scenery go by. And many of the cheerleaders helped each other with makeup.
I talked with a few of the senior basketball players and sat back to enjoy the ride, taking in the typical atmosphere of an away-game bus trip.
After a little more than an hour and a million ³how much longer do we haves,² we pulled into Dawson County.
Coach Ruth had the boysı team put their jackets on and we all got off the bus and headed into the school, just in time to see the last half of the boysı junior varsity game.
Not daring to go into the girlsı locker room, I waited around for the Leopards to head into their locker room during the fourth quarter of the girlsı game.
The Leopards filed in and sat down on several benches. Coach Ruth gave a brief speech, encouraging them to alter their postseason fate. At the time, the scene reminded me of the several basketball movies Iıve seen over the past few years.
Afterward, Coach Ruth moved to a large dry erase board covering one wall of the locker room. The players all turned to face him and changed from placid observers to students of the game.
Ruth had a few plays already drawn up on the board and went over them with the players. He made some new markings on the board, asking and answering questions as he went along.
Finally, the buzzer sounded as the girlsı game ended. Ruth wrapped up and said a few more things to the group. Assistant coach John Bertrang stepped in behind Ruth and gave a short but inspiring speech to the players, commending them for their character through a season wasnıt always on the winning side.
Then the Ruth, Bertrang, Kandy Parks and the players gathered in a circle in a circle in the middle of the room. Each of them put their hands in the center of the circle and readied to say the Lordıs Prayer.
Much to my surprise, Ruth invited me over. So I joined in, saying the prayer with the team. And then the playerıs headed out to do their pre-game warmup.
I didnıt go into the locker room during halftime or after the game. Though I was invited, I decided to allow Ruth to have the team without any distractions. Iım sure a guy standing in the corner of the room with a camera is a probable distraction.
The ride home was much different than the trip to the game. Most of the players had caught rides home with their parents. Only a couple remained to ride back to Homer.
Most of the cheerleaders, on the other hand, boarded the bus for the trip home. And after a little more than a hour ride, we were right back where we started, at Banks County High School.
Adam Fouche is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. His email address is email@example.com.
Milford Closes Commerce Career With State Title
Hames Impressed With Wrestling Teamıs Fifth-Place At State. Itıs been a four-year journey, but Commerce wrestling standout Blake Milford can now call himself a state champion.
The Tiger wrestler capped off a stellar senior season and career by bringing home the title in the 135-lb. weight class this past weekend with a 11-4 defeat of McIntosh County Academyıs Antonine Armstrong in the championship finals Saturday in the state tournament in Adairsville.
³Thatıs been a long time coming,² head coach Joe Hames said. ³Heıs really worked hard for four years.²
Milfordıs individual state crown is Commerceıs first since Josh Smith won the 152-lb. class title in 1998.
The Tiger senior dusted off three foes to get to the championship round, opening with a pin over Michael Carr of Bremen, pinning Truetlonıs Derek Heath and then topping Landmark Christianıs Jeremy Smith 5-2the only wrestler to hand Milford a defeat this year.
Milford, who finished the year with a 33-1 mark, now has a career record of 120-21 to go along with four area championships and his state gold medal.
Commerce had a solid showing as a team as well, placing fifth out of 26 squads, behind such powerhouses as Bremen and cross-county rival Jefferson, which finished first to take the schoolıs sixth state wrestling title.
The Tigersı performance came as a pleasant surprise Hames after saying last week that his team didnıt wrestle up to par at the area tournament.
³Thereıs nobody more surprised than me,² Hames said of his teamıs impressive showing. ³Going into state, I thought we had a chance at ninth or 10th...but they wrestled great at state.²
The Tigers boasted two third-place finishersKevin Wilson (160) and Taylor Massey (215)along with three that placed fifthJesse Smith (112), Jonathan Beasley (125) and Justin David (275).
Both Wilson and Massey avenged second-round defeats to win rematches in the consolation finals, giving them their third-place finishes.
³That was surprising,² Hames said.
Hereıs a run down of Friday and Saturdayıs action:
Wilson medaled by winning four straight matchesdowning Bowdenıs Patrick Foster 18-5, Social Circleıs Chris Swearengen by disqualification, Jeffersonıs Daniel Love 7-2, and Treutlonıs Brian Mason in a rematch, 14-8after falling to Mason in the second round 7-2.
Wilson opened up with a 14-6 first-round win.
Massey secured a third-place showing by also reeling off four consecutive wins, capped off with a pin over Pelhamıs Hollis Taylor in a rematch in the consolation finals Saturday.
He started the tournament with a first-round pin followed by second-round loss to Taylor. Massey then pinned Joe Loftin of Heard County, Tommy Peters of Social Circle and Jeffersonıs Chris Seibert to move on to the consolation finals.
Smith picked up a fifth-place medal with a pin over I. Sebastain of Trion in his final round of action. Smith started with first and second round pins before falling to Bremenıs Alan Threadgill and Bufordıs Jake Pendergrass in the third and fourth round.
Beasley notched a fifth-place showing with a 5-1 defeat of Michael Harris of Bremen in his final match Saturday.
Beasley was dealt a 3-1 loss in the first round by Landmarkıs Paul Muchnick but rallied for third and fourth round wins before falling 7-4 in the fifth round.
David picked up his fifth-place finish by pinning Hunter Glen of Jefferson in his last round of action this weekend. He opened up the tournament with a pin over Montgomery Countyıs Chris Chambers followed by a loss to Bowdonıs Chris Harrison. David then rebounded with third and fourth round pins before falling in the fifth.
Dragons claim sixth wrestling title
Team sets new scoring mark with 273 points. The Jefferson varsity wrestling team entered last weekendıs state tournament as a heavy favorite to win the Class A state title, and Dragon grapplers didnıt disappoint their followers.
Jefferson claimed the sixth state crown in the programıs history with a record-setting performance. Seven Dragon wrestlers reached the tournament finals, and six came away with gold medals. The teamıs 273 total points eclipsed the previous record of 259 set by Lovett in 1999.
Landmark Christian finished a distant third at 157.5, followed by tournament host Adairsville (137.5) and Bremen (135.5). Commerce wrapped up an impressive season with a fifth-place showing and 109 team points.
In one of the most evenly-matched finals of the night, Jefferson senior and returning state champion Blake Gooch fell by a slim margin to another returning state champ, Pelhamıs Terrance Almond, in the 140-pound weight class.
Almond won the state title last year at 135, while Gooch took the gold at 130.
Winning in the final round and claiming individual championships were Corey Mack (112), Jeremiah Wilson (119), Nathaniel Wilson (125), Forrest Garner (145), Hunter Garner (152) and Jeremy Smith (171).
³Iım real proud of all our guys,² Dragon head coach Doug Thurmond said afterward. ³Having two sets of brothers made it pretty nice; I donıt know that anyoneıs ever done that before. Hunter became our first three-timer, and could become our first four-timer next year. Forrest winning as a freshman gives him that chance, too.²
Other Jefferson wrestlers claiming medals in the event were Will Roper (fifth, 103), Scott Nix (fifth, 130), Jason Fields (fifth, 135), Daniel Love (sixth, 160), Chris Seibert (fifth, 215) and Hunter Glenn (sixth, 275).
Commerce senior Blake Milford won the 135-pound state title, capping his career as a three-time state medalist. Jesse Smith was fifth at 112, Jonathan Beasley fifth at 125, Kevin Wilson third at 160, Taylor Massey third at 215 and Justin David fifth at 275 for the Tigers.
STATE DUALS SATURDAY
While most teams across the state can hang up their singlets until October, Thurmondıs Dragons have one more date on their schedule: The state dual tournament, scheduled for Saturday at Adairsville. And while Jefferson breezed through the traditional tournament, Thurmond seemed a bit concerned about the duals.
³Weıre happy ab out whatıs occurred already very happy,² the second-year Dragon head coach said, ³but itıs kind of hard to be too excited when youıve got another job to do. The duals are a different story, and these duals are definitely different, when you look at who weıre wrestling.²
Jefferson will face off with Bremen in Saturdayıs opening round, then likely face Adairsville before a potential finals matchup with Landmark Christian.
Jefferson will have to defeat the third and fourth place teams from this past weekend to set up the final with Landmark, while the Eaglesı first two duals will be against teams that finished ninth and tenth.
³Itıs just how the bracket fell,² Thurmond said. ³It will be a very tough road.²
Jackson County fourth in Class AAA; Powers, Kubiak win gold
Jackson County wrestlers Jason Powers and Chris Kubiak each brought gold medals home from last weekendıs State Class AAA tournament at Westminster, and the Panthers finished fourth in overall team points. Powersı title makes him the only two-time champion in the history of the Jackson County program.
Also placing for the Panthers were Rusty Colley (second, 130) and Jared Herrington (second, 140).
Colleyıs loss in the finals came in overtime, and Herringtonıs was to the returing state runner-up at 119 in 2001, by a 5-4 margin.
Several other Panther grapplers came close to winning medals as well, and nearly all the wrestlersı losses came at the hands of eventual state medalists.
Senior Matt Potts upset Lovettıs David Gutt in the first round at 135 for his final career victory before losing to the eventual state runner-up and the fourth-place medalist, both by margins of four points or less.
Brother Seth Potts lost to eventual fifth and fourth place finishers at 152, both by decision. Lee Reece lost to wrestlers who finished second and fifth at 160, and Travis Ingram lost to the eventual runner-up at 171. At 275, Casey Berrymanıs losses were to opponents who went on to finish third and fourth.
Dublin won the team title with 197.5 points, followed by Lovett at 176.5, Westminster at 150 and Jackson County at 102. Area IV-AAA champion Loganville was fifth at 93.
STATE DUALS SATURDAY
Jackson County will participate in the first-ever state dual meet tournament Saturday at Winder-Barrow, and will start off with a tough opponent in the first round.
Perennial wrestling power Lovett will square off with the Panthers at 11 a.m., with the winner meeting either West Laurens or North Forsyth at 2 p.m. The championship final is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
Madison Co.upsets Franklin Co. 57-56
Maybe itıs actually the fourth time thatıs the charm.
The Madison County basketball team, topped three times earlier this year against Franklin County by an average score of 64-51, won the matchup that mattered most by upsetting the Lions 57-56 Monday night in the ³play-in² game of the 8-AAA region tournament.
For a program thatıs been struggling to find its feet the past five years, the win over the quality Franklin County outfit was a needed shot in the arm.
³This is exciting,² Raider head coach Steve Crouse said. ³To beat a great Franklin County team....thatıs big for this program.²
Itıs been a while since the Raiders have had a win of similar significance.
In fact, Madison County (5-19) hadnıt won a postseason contest since Feb. 9, 1998, when it downed Monroe Area 63-57 in the opening round of the region tournament.
But instead of an early exit this year, theyıll move on and face top-seeded Jackson County (6-2 in 8-AAA South Subregion) at 8:30 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) at Winder-Barrow High School.
Madison County will be quite familiar with their Panthers foes after tangling with them only five days ago at home in a 71-52 loss.
If the Raiders are to pull an upset this time, theyıll have to devise a way to stop a potent Jackson County trio in ³Buzz² Wehunt, Tim Birdette and Dustin David.
The three have torched foes this year, averaging a combined 57 points a game.
³Weıre just going to have to play really hard and hope to slow them down,² Crouse said of the Panthersı standouts.
On the offensive side of the ball, the coach added that the team would have to be aggressive against Jackson Countyıs tough zone defense.
³Weıre going to have to attack the basket,² Crouse said.
If the Raiders were to pull off a stunner against Jackson County, thatıd mean theyıd a secure a spot in the state tournament for the first time since 1997.
Crouse said that would be an indescribable feat.
³I couldnıt put that feeling into words...Itıd be miraculous,² Crouse said. ³I really canıt think that far ahead, but I do think itıs a possibility.²
Hopefully for Madison County, the win over Franklin County will give them momentum heading into contest with the talented Panthers.
The Raiders came through in the clutch in the upset of the Lions with Lattimore nailing a basket in the closing seconds while the team held off the Lions in the waning moments to secure the victory.
Crouse said a key in the win was that his team hung around in the ball game and kept it close the entire night.
The team trailed by only five after the first quarter and turned it on in the second, taking a 39-35 lead at the half.
The third quarter was then pivotal.
Madison County slipped behind by four points, but rather than crumble in the second half like the Raiders have been prone to do, the team tied the ball game back up en route to trailing by only a bucket heading into the final quarter.
The Raiders then came through with some late, scrappy play in a whirl-wind finish at the end.
Down by one in the final minute, Madison County attempted to foul the Lions to stop the clock, but ended up securing a crucial turnover with Trey McCay picking up a lose ball.
McCay was then fouled, which gave Madison County a chance to run an inbounds play to get the ball to either Baker or Lattimore.
Baker was double-teamed however, so they slipped the ball in to Lattimore, who knocked down the go-ahead bucket with 15 seconds left, putting the Raiders up by one.
Franklin County got the ball down the floor and into the hands of both their top shooters, but neither could supply a game-saving buzzer-beater for the Lions.
Amonzo Gantt first missed from six feet. Shoemaker snagged the offensive board, but his attempt also missed the mark.
Baker secured a rebound and was fouled. The Raiders then ran the clock out to lock up their fifthand most meaningfulwin of the year.
³These guys have played hard all year long and to have something like this happen at the end of the season is great,² Crouse said. ³Iım so happy for them.²
The coach also praised the efforts of the Raidersı scorers in the win.
Baker tallied 23 points while Lattimore added 18.
³Thatıs a good inside/outside threat,² Crouse said of the Lattimore-Baker tandem.
Crouse said Lattimoreıs rebounding was also a key factor in the win.
³Orlando had a great night on the boards. We got a lot of rebounds off their misses,² he said.
JACKSON COUNTY 71, MADISON COUNTY 52
Madison County will hope to avoid repeating their most recent contest with Jackson County in their region playoff contest tonight.
The Panthers rolled out to a 27-4 after a quarter, 38-16 at the half and 56-34 after three quarters Friday night coasting to a 71-52 win.
Baker led the team offensively with 23 points while Lattimore added 15.