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DECEMBER 11, 2002

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Bring on the Tigers
With five games behind them, both Banks County varsity basketball teams are looking at their seasons with a critical eye.
The Lady Leopards (0-5) have fought their way through some tough competition and are looking at making some pretty good match-ups this weekend.
“They are getting used to what we’re doing,” girls coach Robert Sain said. “They are getting more confident in our style and how I coach.”
The Lady Leopards were set to play one of the top teams in the state Tuesday night. Wesleyan has proven early that it will likely make a run at the state crown.
Friday, Banks will host the Providence Lady Stars. Sain said he hadn’t had much of a chance to study Providence yet since he was still looking at teams he had to play on Tuesday.
He said he planned to look at them after the Wesleyan game.
“They’ve only lost a couple of games,” he said. “They are a very solid team but they won’t be as solid as GAC or Wesleyan. We play well in our own gym.”
Saturday, the Lady Leopards get to face off against nearby rival Commerce. Banks downed the Lady Tigers 129-52 in two games last season.
The game this year will be Commerce’s third of the season.
“They’ll be several games ahead of us but that’s going to be the case with a lot of teams we’ll play,” Commerce coach Don Watkins told The Commerce News. “It will be different, but I do know that they’ve got a lot of good players over there. Duncan and Freeman will be doing the things they did last year.”
Junior guard Stephanie Rainwater will be one of the Lady Tigers key players this weekend. Rainwater is one of the team’s quicker players.
Sain said he expected his girls to be ready to play against Commerce Saturday.
“It won’t take much to get the girls juiced up for the Commerce game,” he said. “Not to take anything away from Commerce, but they are not as solid as some of the teams we’ve played.”
After the Commerce game, Banks takes on Towns County. The game was scheduled for next Friday in Homer but has been moved to Thursday.
The Leopards are still looking to work some early turnover problems and shed a pattern of digging themselves a hole during the first part of games.
“We keep digging holes and we can’t get out of them,” head coach Mike Ruth said. “That’s been a problem all season.”
Banks has also struggled with ball handling and turnovers on the perimeter, a problem that has prevented the Leopards from getting the ball inside to their big men.
“The ball handling is weak right now,” Ruth said. “We’re not consistent with it and we have too many turnovers. We need to put four quarters together.”
The Leopards will get chance to put together four solid quarters as they head into several very winnable games over the next few weeks.
Friday, Banks will host the Providence Stars, another south subregion opponent.
“I feel like we can compete with them,” Ruth said.
On Saturday, the Leopards travel to Commerce for the Tigers’ debut game. Because of their football playoff run, the Tigers didn’t begin basketball practices until this week.
“They’ll be fresh,” Ruth said.
The Tigers return several key players, include defense man Casha Daniels.
But Commerce will be without sophomore forward Nick Slayton, who dislocated his knee in the football game last week. As a freshman last year, Slayton was the second leading rebounder and third leading scorer on the team.
Commerce will also lack some of the size the Leopards have. The Tigers’ biggest man, forward Tyson Randolph, stands in at 6’5”. The Leopards have one guy, Kyle Duncan, who can match up pretty equally and another, Kyle Roberts, with a three-inch height advantage.
“We feel like we’ve got some games coming up that we’ve got a good chance to win,” Ruth said.

Lady Tigers To Face Banks County Program Under New Leadership
When Commerce’s girls face long-time rival Banks County Saturday night, there will definitely be a sense of a “changing of the guard.”
For the first time in 24-years, a Commerce Lady Tiger basketball team won’t be facing a Mike Gordon-coached team.
Commerce will instead face a new breed of Lady Leopard under the direction of first-year coach Robert Sain, who made his way to Banks County after coaching for 13 years at the high school and college level in Tennessee.
Commerce girls’ head basketball coach Don Watkins, who coached against Gordon for 17 years, said the absence of the long-time coach will be felt in the rivalry.
“It’s definitely going to be different without seeing coach Gordon down there,” he said.
Banks County has had its bumps and bruises so far under a new coach with an 0-6 record heading into this weekend, losing to teams like Greater Atlanta Christian, Wesleyan and Flowery Branch.
As of Monday, Watkins said he didn’t know a whole lot about what kind of schemes the Lady Leopards were employing under Sain. But he did say Banks County already has several games under its belt and is equipped with good personnel.
“They’re playing in a tough region right now and they’ve played five or six games,” he said. “They’ll be several games ahead of us but that’s going to be the case with a lot of teams we’ll play. It will be different, but I do know that they’ve got a lot of good players over there. Duncan and Freeman will be doing the things they did last year.
The Lady Tigers will certainly be looking to reverse recent history when they do square off with the Lady Leopards as Banks County pounded Commerce by a combined 129-52 in two meeting last year.
The Lady Tigers come into the game with a 49-44 loss to Oglethorpe County in their season opener before taking on Lakeview Academy at home this past Tuesday night.
After taking on Towns County next Tuesday, the Lady
Fifteen points by Stephaine Rainwater and 10 more from Mashenta Hester weren’t enought to carry Commerce past Oglethorpe in this past Tuesday’s season opener against the Lady Patriots.
Watkins said the team handled the ball better in its first game than it did last year but experienced some cold spells from the floor and missed some easy baskets.
Conversley, Watkins said the Lady Patriots made too many easy three-to-five foot baskets for his team to win the game.
“We missed some shots that we shouldn’t have and we allowed some baskets that we shouldn’t have,” he said.
Another major difference in the game were the Lady Tigers’ struggles at the free throw line where they hit only 2-of-7 attempts.
“It was a five-point game, so if we hit those five free throws then we’re alright,” Watkins said.
Watkins was pleased with this teams performance out of the gate as it latched on to an 18-12 lead after a quarter.
Commerce then clung to a 25-21 halftime lead before getting outscored 14-6 in the third quarter to fall behind 35-31.
“We went cold offensively and we had some defensive let downs,” Watkins said.
The Lady Patriots then outscored Commerce 14-13 in the final period to hang on for the win.

Lady Panthers remain hot
LATE LAST MONTH following the team’s first three games, Jackson County basketball coach Chad Pittman looked out on the floor and saw a winless and frustrated basketball team, but one that he felt was gradually making progress and coming together as a team.
It appears Pittman knows his squad pretty well.
Following the three game losing skid, the team has definitely come together, to the tune of four straight wins to start December.
The Lady Panther’s latest victim was Rockdale County who were knocked off at The Pit following an impressive defensive performance from Pittman’s squad.
Jackson County (4-3, 3-0 8-AAAA) held the Lady Bulldogs to just 17 first-half points en route to a 66-47 blowout win.
Despite a similar sluggish offensive performance in the first eight minutes of play, however, they were aided by five first quarter points by Tosha Ransom. Ransom scored 16 on the evening and Cecilia Hill led the Lady Panthers with as she continued to play well of late as she scored 23 points, including 13 points early.
Jackson County led by 10 points at the half, however they came out on fire in the last two periods and increased their lead substantially.
A 21-point third-quarter all but buried the Lady Bulldogs, who’s leading scorer, Sarah Jett (13 points) was the only player on her team to reach double-digits in the scoring column.
The 39 points accounted for by Hill and Ransom were the second-straight game the inside tandem has provided scored more than 30 points combined. It’s something Pittman says is crucial to the team’s offensive game. “When they score like that they open it up... and everybody’s able to get better shots,” Pittman said.
The result is a balanced score sheet elsewhere on the team, as everyone else is able to find the basket easier, he added.

Jackson County holds off Johnson
Much like the two teams previous meeting on Nov. 23 (won by Johnson 69-66) the Lady Panthers and Lady Knights battled to the very end, however this time Jackson County was the more dominant team down the stretch.
On the strength of a superb fourth-quarter defensive effort, Jackson County got pay-back for their earlier defeat.
Nikki Sosebee led a balanced scoring attack with 23 points and Ransom added 16 and 14 points respectively in an up-and-down game full of transition opportunities.
The difference for the Lady Panthers this time out, according to their coach Chad Pittman, was that while they got to the foul line successfully, they also were able to make several shots while Johnson fouled them.
“In that game, unlike the other games, we were getting fouled and finishing,” Pittman said. “I was very proud of our effort.”
Although free-throw shooting was still somewhat of a thorn in the team’s side (16-for-27), Pittman noted that the misses are nothing that can’t be corrected in the future through hard work.
“I think a little of that is fatigue,” Pittman said. “We were a bit worn down because they pressed us the whole game (and went deep into their bench).
“I feel like last week we were headed in the right direction and then to cap it off with a win against Johnson at Johnson was big for us.”

Lady Panthers beat Loganville
Last Friday’s key game in Loganville put Jackson County in fine company in Region 8-AAAA as the Lady Panthers improved their region record to 2-0 on the season with a 56-45 road win.
Led by Ashley Rainwater’s 23 point, eight steal, and five assist performance, Jackson County was ferocious on defense and quick to the basket on offense.
Loganville was hampered by Lady Panther pressure all game long, to the tune of 30 turnovers on the night, three of which were the result of half court violations in which the Lady Red Devils never even crossed the center line.
“When we get that many turnovers we do well,” Pittman said.
A 16-6 opening quarter run put the Lady Panthers ahead early en route to a 28-23 halftime lead. Loganville’s only solid quarter was the second, during which time they cut what was a 10-point lead down to five.
Rainwater was 2-for-3 from the 3-point line and 5-for-5 from the charity stripe in the game, while Jackson County as a team, held the Lady Devils to just two field goals in the final quarter.
“The key for us is that we’ve got to continue to be an inside-out team because if we can get the inside game going it really opens up the outside game...and allows us to get better shots.”

Dragons remain dominant, prep for road tests this week
JUST A WEEK or so removed from another jarring sport—of the gridiron variety—and with few preparation days under their belts, nearly three-fourths of Jefferson’s wrestling team traded in their helmets for headgear last week—and it’s safe to say the transition went smoothly.
Although they were rusty at times, coach Doug Thurmond’s squad still came out head and shoulders above the competition on the mat last weekend as they managed to dominate the field at the Panther Invitational at Jackson County. Led by seven first-place finishers Jefferson grapplers blew away the competition and won the 20-team meet convincingly, outdistancing second-place Dawson County by 114 points.
Ten Dragon wrestlers took home top-four finishes and the seven first-place winners equaled the number of medals brought home by the entire rest of the field combined.
Despite the win, Thurmond noted that Jefferson is only just now beginning to get their feet wet this season and he noted that there is plenty for the team to work on in the coming weeks.
“The five days that we’ve practiced (so far) were not real hard days, and we’re still not in wrestling shape,” Thurmond said following Saturday’s meet. “We’ve got to work on our moves and get into wrestling shape. It’s different from football shape.”
Set to take on some nine teams today (Wednesday) in the North Georgia Duals in Winder, Jefferson will look to continue what they started as the season hits full stride this week. Friday and Saturday the team also travels to Dahlonega to take part in a meet hosted by Lumpkin County.
Wednesday’s dual format meet includes teams from Apalachee, Grayson, Jackson County, Loganville, Monroe, Social Circle, Winder-Barrow and Dacula, while this weekend’s Smith Invitational
“Conditioning, conditioning,” was a common trait Thurmond noted the team needed to improve on. “We’re behind the eight-ball right now, but we’ll get there,” he said.
Gold medal winners Saturday from JHS included: Nathaniel Wilson (125), Jeremiah Wilson (130), Seth Potts (140), Forrest Garner (152), Hunter Garner (160), Daniel Love (171) and Jeremy Smith (189).
“For our first tournament and not being in shape I was real proud of them, but we’re not there yet,” Thurmond said.
Others also placing include: Hunter Glenn’s third-place showing in the heavyweight division, Steven Nix took fourth in the 135-pound division and Jason Fields landed a fourth-place spot at 145 pounds.
Caleb Beckwith, Corey Mack, Jose Zavaleta and Jake Gurley all also won matches during the meet.

Raiders looking to buckle down defensively
Note: Due to deadlines, Tuesday night’s basketball results were not available.
Madison County’s defensive mission won’t be complex this week: limit the other team’s go-to guys.
After watching two Salem players to account for over half the Seminoles’ 79 points Friday and then having Franklin County’s Amonzo Gantt rip his team for 26 points Saturday, Raider head basketball coach Steve Crouse said his team has to find a way to buckle down on scorers.
“We’ve got to be able to contain the other teams’ key players,” he said.
Madison County slipped to 2-4 this past week with 79-56 and 68-47 losses to Salem and Franklin County and fell last Tuesday as well to Newton County 65-50.
While his team had trouble limiting opponents’ offensive weapons this past week, the Raider coach feels his team will fare better this week.
Madison County is set to meet Rockdale County Friday night and then gets a chance to get even with Gantt and company in a rematch with the Lions Saturday night at home.
The team also played Loganville Tuesday night, but results weren’t available.
“We’re looking forward to playing Franklin County on our home floor. They’re not in our region, but its a good rivalry,” he said Monday. “I just feel this week, we can be more competitive than we were last week. I just think we’ll be able to compete better size and speed-wise.”
As for the past week, Crouse explained that the mistakes in the Salem loss reiterated what the team must avoid doing if it wants to be successful.
“We knew that Salem would be tough,” he said. “We didn’t handle their pressure and we’ve got to be able to do that because we’re going to see that night in and night out all through the region.”
Crouse said there were errors in the Franklin County loss as well.
“I think when we look at the Franklin County film we’ll see some opportunities that we missed.”
Madison County whittled a sizeable Seminole lead down to four points in the third quarter, but came unraveled down the stretch in a 22-point home loss Friday.
The Raiders came out of the gate slow, trailing by 22-11 after a period and 39-28 after a half before making their third quarter run.
However, Salem ran away with the game by outscoring Madison County 25-14 in the final period.
“They had some good players,” Crouse said of Salem. “...We’ve got to find a way to step it up against guys that are bigger and more athletic than us.”
Crouse pointed out that his team was able to work the ball around and spread the scoring out evenly in the loss with four Raiders tallying double figures—Orlando Lattimore with 11, Russ Drake with 12, Bryan Bird with10 and Booker with11.
The Raiders were able to limit one-half of the Lions’ potent tandum, Matt Shoemaker, to just 10 points in the game and held the other, Gantt, to just one point during one quarter. The problem was that Gantt scored 25 points in the other three in propelling his team to a 68-47 win.
“Twenty-five points in three quarters—we can’t let people do that.” Crouse said.
The coach pointed out that his team seems to be unraveled by one bad quarter and Saturday night’s Achilles Heel was the second period when the team was outscored 21-5 to put itself in a 37-15 hole at the half which it was never able to dig its way out of.
The Raiders got some big contributions from its front court in the loss with Lattimore scoring 22 and Tobias Gant adding 11.
Crouse said his team played well in last Tuesday’s 15-point loss to Newton County but wasn’t able to overcome the Rams’ defensive pressure.
Crouse also pointed to two harmful cold stretches, the second quarter where his team only scored five points, and then the fourth quarter where the team hit only 3-of-10 free throws.

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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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