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NOVEMBER 27, 2002

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Leopards hope inside game pays off big
If there’s one thing the Leopards have going for them this year, it’s definitely size.
Banks has five guys taller than 6-feet 2-inches, including towering Kyle Roberts, who stands in at 6-feet 8-inches.
“Big Kyle has come on,” head coach Mike Ruth said. “We sent him to some big man camps and got him some work this summer.”
The Leopards also return Kyle Duncan to size up their front court. Duncan saw limited time last season but will be a key component this year.
“He’ll be a big impact,” Ruth said. “He can get up there. His feet are spring-loaded.”
Big man Reggie Smith returns this season as well. Though Smith isn’t one of the taller guys on the team, his physical size makes him a commanding force inside and he led the team in scoring last year.
“Reggie is a condo in there,” Ruth said. “He’s not real tall, but he eats up a lot of space. He plays well above his height.”
Though Ruth feels confident in his inside game, he still has some doubts on how the perimeter will shape up.
“I feel much better about our inside game than our perimeter game,” he said. “I don’t know about our perimeter. Our outside shooting is fairly shaky.”
After having lost three big-time scorers from last year’s team, the Leopards have had to call on several guys who established themselves with regular playing time last season but didn’t generate stellar point totals.
Matt Dale returns as the team’s second best three point shooter last season with 24. He also hit 74 percent in the 38 times he stepped behind the charity stripe. The Leopards will likely call on him frequently to make a big play outside.
“Dale is our main threat outside,” Ruth said.
Banks can also count quite a bit of speed up top. Dustin Bonds and Seth McCoy will provide vital quickness in the team’s backcourt but will be looked upon to put the ball in the air more.
“We’re not proven yet with our ball handling and perimeter shooting,” Ruth said. “I’ve challenged Dustin and Seth and couple of other guys that if they’ve got a shot, they’re going to have to take it.”
One thing, however, Ruth isn’t as worried about is his defensive game. With the team’s quickness, the Leopards will be able to put out an aggressive defense.
“We’re going to press more, force some turnovers, get the fast breaks and get some guys to score lay ups,” he said. “We’ve got some good quickness.”
Ruth also rated Bonds as one of the top five defensive players in Region 8-AA.
“I’d put Bonds up against anybody,” he said.
The Leopards will have the opportunity to draw more off the bench this
“I can go deeper into the bench,” Ruth said. “There’s some experience there.”
The team’s attitude this season has also been an encouragement, Ruth said.
“They’ve got as big a heart as any kids I’ve ever coached,” he said. “Their attitudes are great. I’d walk through fire for this bunch of kids.”
The team’s character prompted Ruth to adopt a slightly different starting line-up this season. Instead of having a base of five sure starters, Ruth will rotate through his entire roster as the season progresses.
“We are going with a rotation, a different starting line up every game,” he said. “The kids like it. With such a good positive attitude, I feel like I owe that to them to get two or three starts this year. We’ll work through nine or 10 guys.”
Ruth said many of his kids still have a bad taste left over from the team’s 7-18 finish last season and are looking to make improvements this year.
“They’re pressing so hard now because they’re hungry,” he said. “Most of these kids were part of the losing season last year. It bothers them to lose.”
Ruth isn’t quite sure how the season will end up, but says he’ll be pleased now matter how it turns out.
“I’ll enjoy this season even if we don’t win a ballgame because of the attitude and determination these kids have,” Ruth said. “I needed to end up with kids like this at this point in my coaching career.”
Banks County will get its chance to start on the right foot this weekend. The Leopards travel to Chestatee Friday and then Flowery Branch Saturday. They’ll host their first game Tuesday against Buford.

Trek To Trion
If Commerce’s road in the state playoffs leads back to the state title game, the team will likely have to get used to life on the highway.
Barring an upset, Commerce (10-1) won’t have homefield advantage during the rest of its stay in the post season.
But that’s not a concern for Commerce head coach Steve Savage who said opportunity, not location, is the important thing.
“We’d go to New York City right now to play a game,” he said. “We’re just happy to still be playing.”
Like the team’s second-round trip to Adairsville last year, the Tigers will travel to the Northwest corner of the state Friday for a matchup with Region 6-A champion Trion.
If Commerce, which downed Bowdon 41-22 to move to the second round, were to prevail and keep its season alive, the Tigers would meet the winner of Miller County (8-2) and Dooley County (5-6) in the state quarterfinals, marking its fourth trip there in the past six seasons.
But the Tigers are running into a Trion team which sports an impressive resume in 2002.
First-year coach Mark Laudermilk has guided the Bulldogs to a 9-2 record this season, a five-game improvement from 2001’s 4-7 mark.
Trion’s only two losses this season came at the hands of two AA squads—Calhoun, coached by former Tiger Hal Lamb and Darlington.
The Bulldogs capped their regular season by blasting previously unbeaten Gordan-Lee 34-0 and then beat Georgia Military 27-14 in the opening round of the playoffs.
Trion should be a familiar team to Tiger veterans. Commerce downed the Bulldogs 27-0 in the second round of the 2000 playoff en route to a state championship. Savage said several on that Trion team will lineup against Commerce Friday night.
Three of the key players that the Tigers will have to contend with is Trion’s backfield trio comprised of the brother tandem of Daniel and Jarvis Blevins and Chris Chapman.
Aided by the blocking of guards Michael and Tony Lively—also brothers—Trion’s “Double Slot” offensive attack has averaged over 30 points a game this year.
Savage compared the Bulldogs offensive scheme to what Air Force and Wofford use at the collegiate ranks, featuring a lot of misdirection which is something he said has given his team trouble.
Defensively, Trion is surrendering just over 16 points per game and is anchored by the Blevins brothers who double as linebackers.
Despite their dominance this year, Trion had its troubles on both sides of the ball this past week in its win over Region 7-A four seed GMC (5-6).
The Bulldog rushing attack was limited to 164 yards while Trion’s defense gave up huge chunks of yardage on the ground as GMC rolled up 354 rushing yards.
In fact, Trion trailed 10-7 in the second quarter before putting things away in the second half.
Savage, however, expects his team to meet a Bulldog outfit playing inspired football.
“They’re playing with a lot of poise and character right now,” he said. “...It will be a tremendous challange for us to go over there and play them.”

Knights outrun Panthers in season opener
If there’s one thing Jackson County coach Ron Smith wants his team to improve on heading into this week’s tournament at East Hall, it’s got to be rebounding the basketball.
In their season-opener Saturday night, the Panthers were repeatedly beaten to the glass by an athletic team from Johnson in an 81-58 defeat before a sizeable crowd at The Pit.
After hanging around against the Knights in the first half, the Panthers were overwhelmed in the second half by an offensive explosion that saw the Knights open up the play to more of a full-court style game and with that increased what was a four point halfime lead to double digits.
Four players reached double figures for Johnson and accounted for much of the second half run, as the Knights used full-court pressure to help up the tempo in the final two quarters and dominate the boards.
“They pressed us hard the whole game and we really didn’t have a chance to set up our offense,” Jackson County head coach Ron Smith explained afterwards. “And, when we did get good shots we just didn’t make them, but it’s nothing that can’t be corrected.”
Following a half-court tempo in the first half the Panthers hung tight, as the play was more conducive to the Panthers’ game.
Following some adjustments the Knights were off and running in the final two quarters during which they erupted for 46 points, mostly on transition opportunities.
Tyler Sanders scored a team-high 17 points, including five 3-pointers, while Donte Williams, Qise Wright and Sam Greavu each netted 14 points in the game for Johnson. Those four accounted for roughly 72 percent of the Knights’ offensive output.
John Richardson was the offensive story for the Panthers in the first two periods, as he connected for 15 of his game-high 19 points in the first two quarters to keep his team close.
In the second half he was quieted considerably, however, scoring just four points and struggling to find a rhythm after suffering a groin injury. Will Wilbanks also added 13 points including 9 of 10 shooting from the free throw line for the Panthers, but a slew of turnovers as well as cold shooting by the Panther offense overall allowed Johnson to take over.
A 21-6 run by the Knights to begin the second half separated the two teams from their 35-31 score at halftime. Included in that spurt was a 10-1 run to start the second half as Johnson came out firing on all cylinders in the first three and a half minutes. From there the emotional tide swayed the way of the Knights and Jackson County never quite recovered.
Johnson led by as many as 27 in the game and were never challenged from then on out as they cruised to the easy 23-point road win.
Fast break opportunities were often fueled by the Knights’ ability to snag defensive rebounds and start their transition game the other way, something that Smith indicated was a concern for his team all night long.
“The difference was we got beat on the boards,” he said.
Overall the performance was indicative of a Panther lineup playing in just their first game of the season, according to Smith.
“Really, we just haven’t gotten into the basketball flow yet,” he said. “It’s a slow process and it may be until after Christmas before we get to where we’re clicking—that’s what we’re shooting for.”

No. 2 Jefferson girls knock off Buford, start 2-0
Of the four teams remaining on the winner’s side of the Sonny’s Smokin’ Shoot-out girls’ bracket, it’s safe to say that Jefferson is the most excited considering the size of the other schools that advanced in the opening round Saturday.
The Lady Dragons received a solid team effort during their 76-59 win over Class AA Buford on Saturday night, and showed drastic improvement in one area in particular that brought a smile to first-year head coach Brandy Corbett’s face following the win.
After a sluggishly played win Nov. 19 against Walker, the Lady Dragons looked like a team still struggling to find themselves at times—especially from the free-throw line, where they shot just 48 percent for the game.
Saturday the foul line was their friend, something Corbett said made all the difference in the world.
“It was definitely the key for us,” she said. “We shot poorly in the (Walker) game and that was definitely something we wanted to improve on.”
That they did, and as the percentage went up Saturday from the foul line, so too did the Lady Dragons’ margin of victory.
Buford was forced to foul Jefferson most of the night because of aggressive play by the Lady Dragons as they took the ball to the hoop with authority. The resulting 31 of 41 foul shots made by Jefferson (78 percent) proved to be one of the keys to the win, Corbett said—but it was not the only one.
Facing a Buford team that experimented with several defenses throughout the game, each with the intention of stopping the low post play of Jefferson’s Annie Goza, Corbett noted that her side showed terrific adaptability in the win.
They tried playing a ‘Box and One,’ and a ‘Triangle and One’ on Annie and we adjusted well,” Corbett said. “We were pretty efficient on offense against most of their defenses.”
Goza scored 13 points to go along with 10 rebounds, but unlike the previous contest, she was not alone in the scoring column.
Point guard Shenita Moon had a lot to do with the Lady Dragons’ success as well, as she led the team with 14 points on the night, including eight of nine free-throws. Molly Cleveland stepped up big also adding 12 points and four rebounds, and played “outstanding defense” according to her coach. She led the team on that end with five steals.
Sunny Bush and Kenyotta Beasley rounded out what was an extremely balanced scoring attack for Jefferson as five players reached double-figures in points. Bush had 11 points and five rebounds while Beasley added 10 points of her own.
Following an up and down first quarter, Jefferson grabbed a one-point lead before they began to pull away in the second quarter, leading by as many as five.
By halftime the lead was 36-32 Jefferson until the Lady Dragons began to distance themselves in the second half.

Raiders perfect after two contests•
Note: Due to an earlier print date this week with the Thanksgiving holiday, Tuesday’s basketball results weren’t available. Please see next week’s paper for details.
It remains to be seen how life in Region 8-AAAA will treat the Raiders, but Madison County has flexed its muscle outside league play early on.
As of Monday night, the Raiders were off at a 2-0 start after picking up a pair of wins on their home floor in the Northeast Georgia Invitational Tournament, downing AAA Elbert County 60-52 and AA Oglethorpe County 62-45.
The team was set to play Eastside Tuesday but results weren’t available due to early holiday deadlines.
Madison County hopes the strong start will give it momentum as it travels to Newton County Tuesday to face the Rams in a 7:30 p.m. contest.
“We feel really good about being 2-0,” Crouse said Monday night after his team’s win over Oglethorpe County. “We beat two very good basketball teams with good athletes with big guys inside.”
After two games Crouse said he felt his outfit had a better “game feel,” which he said was evident in the Raiders’ win over the Patriots where Madison County held a large lead, held its composure during an Oglethorpe rally and still walked away with a lopsided-win.
The coach also pointed out that the team had some of its main scorers like Orlando Lattimore in foul trouble early against Oglethorpe but had others step in to pick up the scoring slack.
“And that’s what it’s going to take to play in 8-AAAA,” Crouse explained.
One of the things that Madison County is going to have to sharpen in braving a new region and classification is its free throw shooting according to Crouse.
The coach said his team needs to put away foes earlier when they’re given the opportunity at the charity stripe.
The team missed 16 free throws against the Patriots.
“We like to make things interesting. We like to keep folks around,” Crouse joked of his team’s free throw shooting.
Comfort almost turned to chaos Friday night as Madison County held on for an eight point win after watching a 15-point fourth quarter lead nearly evaporate.
Not until a free throw from Russ Drake with 11 seconds left which gave the Raiders a 58-52 lead, could Madison County breathe easy, having withstood a furious 25-12 Blue Devil run.
The Raiders cruised into the final period armed with a 42-27 lead but the atmosphere of the contest changed with Elbert County whittling that lead down to just two points with 45 seconds left.
When put at the charity stripe, Madison County wasn’t spectacular at the line down the stretch but did enough with the benefit of the double bonus to seal the win, hitting 6-of-10 from the charity stripe in the closing seconds.
The Raiders’ front court scoring was a key in the win as Madison County went inside against the Blue Devils, which were minus two of their key post players, and got 20 points from Orlando Lattimore and 12 more from Drake.
The Madison County back court had a solid night as well as Josh Booker added 10 points and Bryan Bird threw in eight, including two three-pointers.
Madison County lead 13-8 after a quarter and by as much as nine points in the second quarter before Elbert County whittled the lead to six at halftime.
However, the game looked like it might into a route in the third quarter with Madison County picking up turnovers, hitting from the outside and muscling the ball inside to build a 42-27 lead heading into the fourth.
Crouse said his team did a better job playing with a lead in its 17-point victory over the Patriots than in its win over the Blue Devils.
Like the Elbert contest, Madison County build a large third quarter lead which dwindled by the middle of the fourth quarter against the Patriots.
However, the Raiders, which had a 15 point lead shrink to seven with 4:44 left in the game, killed the Oglethorpe rally, not by scoring, but by playing keep-away.
Taking a page out of the Princeton basketball playbook, Madison County held the ball out of Oglethorpe County’s hands for over two minutes straight in the final period, efficiently working the ball around the floor and forcing the Patriots to foul six times, putting the Raiders in the bonus.
From there Madison County hit 12 of 17 times from the free throw line to win in convincing fashion.
Lattimore was held to just eight points in the contest but three Raiders came through with double figures in scoring—Drake, 15; Bird, who went 9-of-11 from the line in collecting 14 points; and Tobias Gantt, 13.
Madison County came out cold early, tied with Oglethorpe at 12 after one quarter.
However, Josh Booker and Matt Seawright combined for back-to-back three pointers to give the Raiders a 28-20 advantage late in the second quarter.
After leading by four at the half, the Raiders got three pointers from both Drake and Gantt in the third to build a 10-point lead heading into the fourth. Madison County drained seven three’s on the night.
The Raiders then claimed its largest lead of the night early in the fourth with a bucket from Drake with 6:25 left in the game, putting Madison County up 49-34.

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  Banks County
Date Opponent Score
8/30 at Oglethorpe Co 18-21
9/13 Commerce
9/20 Wesleyan
9/27 at Buford
10/04 Apalachee
10/11 at Dawson Co.
10/18 Rabun Co. 20-48
11/1 at GAC
11/8 Lumpkin Co.
11/15 at Union Co.

Date Opponent Score
9/6 Franklin Co.
9/13 at Banks Co.
9/20 at Morgan Co.
10/04 Lincoln Co.
10/11 Madison Co.
10/18 at Athens Acad.
10/25 Athens Christ.
11/1 at Towns Co.
11/8 Jefferson
11/15 at Social Circle

  Jackson County
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Winder-Barrow
9/13 at Clarke-Centl. 12-41
9/20 Eastside
9/27 at Salem
10/11 at Newton Co.
10/18 Heritage
10/25 Rockdale Co.
11/1 at Habersham Cen.
11/8 Loganville
11/15 at Cedar Shoals

Date Opponent Score
8/30 Apalachee
9/6 Union County
9/13 at Lumpkin Co.
9/20 at Landmark Christian
9/27 Monticello 42-26
10/11 Athens Christ.
10/18 Towns Co.
10/25 at Social Circle
11/8 at Commerce
11/15 at Athens Acadm.

  Madison County
Date Opponent Score
8/30 Franklin Co.
9/6 at Hancock Cent.
9/13 at Athens Acad.
9/20 Monroe Area
9/27 Jefferson Co.
10/4 Grayson
10/11 at Commerce
10/18 Northview
11/1 Buford
11/8 Cross Keys
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