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JANUARY 8, 2003

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Banks headed into slew of subregion opponents
Momentum may be key for Banks County in its next few games.
Both teams are coming off good runs over the Christmas break and will look to carry that momentum into a few solid subregion wins.
“Obviously winning breeds winning,” Lady Leopards coach Robert Sain said. “Once you get that taste of it, you see what you’ve got to do.”
Sain’s Lady Leopards (5-9, 0-1)) have won five of their last seven outings, four of those wins coming in a row.
Friday, Banks heads up to Tiger to take on Rabun County, a competitive opponent over the past several years. Sain, who was still preparing for Tuesday’s Dawson County game, said Monday that he hadn’t focused much on the Lady Cats yet.
“I think we’re common opponents,” Sain said. “We both got beat bad by Wesleyan and GAC. You’ll see two very similar teams playing.”
Saturday night the Lady Leopards will deviate from subregion play to host Flowery Branch. Banks was beat 43-24 by the Lady Falcons the second game of the season but looks to avenge the loss this time around.
“We’ll have a better chance,” Sain said. “We defended well the first time. We just didn’t score. We’ll be better off offensively this time.”
Sain said he was hoping his team wouldn’t come off the Dawson and Rabun County games only to have an emotional letdown against a non-region opponent Saturday.
Next Tuesday, the Lady Leopards will also host north foe Union County.
As the Leopards (7-7, 1-0)) head into the heavy subregion schedule, they’ll be looking to begin maneuvers for the crucial end of year seeding.
“I told our kids that from now on out, there’s not a team on our schedule that we can’t beat,” Leopards coach Mike Ruth said. “But there’s not a team on our schedule that can’t beat us either.”
Friday, Banks will get a Rabun County that plays a very similar game to the Leopards.
“They have two or three decent outside shooters and a good post man,” Ruth said. “They lost some good guys though.”
Ruth said the Wildcats have a lot of fresh faces and wasn’t quite sure yet of what to expect.
Saturday the Leopards are hosting Flowery Branch, the team they beat in the second game of the season.
“It was a struggle the first time,” Ruth said.
Banks will look to improved play in its perimeter game over the past several weeks to make a difference the second time around.
“Our perimeter people are coming around,” Ruth said. “We are starting to knock down perimeter shots and the main thing, we are taking better care of the basketball.”
Tuesday, the Leopards will also get Union County at home.

Panthers start sub-region play
When Jackson County travels to Winder-Barrow on Friday night, those in attendance can expect as intense an atmosphere as they will see this season, with the two rivals squaring off in a battle with sub-region ramifications, not to mention good old fashioned hatred.
A chance to salvage what has been a disappointing start to the season so far also exists for the Panthers. Despite a winless record thus far, and with sub-region play only just beginning, Jackson County still has plenty to play for. Panther head coach Ron Smith is insisting his team stay focused on the coming games ahead with an important stretch of contests beginning with the Bulldoggs.
It’s a meeting that both teams prepare for and one that neither side wants to lose. It’s definitely a rivalry game for them.
“That’s one game that our kids really get up for,” Smith said. “We beat them when they were No. 1 in (Class) AAA last year and played them three times and had three really good games with them, so I would say they are our biggest rival right now.”
Absent from this year’s game will be a plethora of big-time scorers, including former Panther Buzz Wehunt who netted a team high 32 points in last year’s 78-70 upset win over the Bulldoggs in late January.
As has been the case all season for Jackson County, finding a way to replace the scoring lost from last season will be the key to earning a win. Luckily for the Panthers, Smith noted that Winder-Barrow is in a similar position as they also lost a number of players from their team from last season.
“They’re not as talented as they were last year,” Smith admitted.
Panthers fall to Habersham Central
Jackson County squared off against Habersham Central in their first 8-AAAA South game of the season last night and were defeated ?-? despite ?
The loss was the 14th straight defeat for the team, but if you ask Smith, things are only just beginning to heat up, largely because of the importance of sub-region play in determining which teams will move on to the state tournament.
But, right now the Panthers are simply trying to improve.
“We’re playing a little bit better but we’re still up and down a little bit,” Smith explained. “Its just a real tough league that we’re in.”

No. 10 West Hall upends Jackson County
Saturday Jackson County hosted West Hall and were defeated 75-55 to fall to 0-13 on the season. The Panthers were led by guard Kennard Mattox’s 12 points and Clay Scott’s 10, however no other Panther reached double-figures in scoring. Dustin Clark and John Richardson each poured in eight points, however the Eagles pulled away in the second half for the 20-point win at The Panther Pit.

Demanding early season schedule tough on Panthers
A demanding schedule against non-region foes have pitted the Panthers against a flurry of talented squads thus far this season. The stringent schedule has been one reason the team has had a hard time winning. Particularly tough has been the early-season tournament scene, in which they have met three of the top 10 teams in Class AAA and have yet to have a game where they would be considered a favorite. Along with No. 1 East Hall, the Panthers have also butted heads with No. 5 Hart County as well as two tough games against a talented Johnson team.
That said, if the team can gather themselves and gain some sub-region wins, they will be in remarkably good shape considering the circumstances.

Lady Tigers Looking For Consistency
Lady Tiger head coach Don Watkins doesn’t have to offer a wordy diagnosis to assess his team’s play through eight games.
“Very inconsistent,” the coach said of his 2-6 squad which is currently nursing a two-game losing streak.
The Commerce girls, which fell to Banks County 44-33 Friday and Jefferson 69-45 Saturday, have demonstrated the intangibles of a winner at times according to Watkins, but continue to be hindered by costly lapses.
The most glaring of the inconsistencies the coach pointed to is that his team has been held to single digits during a quarter on four occasions during the past three games.
Paired with some defensive troubles, life on the court has been a uphill battle so far in 2002-2003.
“We’ve been inconsistent offensively and have missed some assignments defensively,” Watkins said. “I think once we put four quarters together, we can be a pretty good basketball team.”
Commerce, who took on Athens Christian Tuesday night in its subregion opener (results weren’t available), will attempt to remedy its problems against two more tough region foes this week.
The team will play a “much improved” Prince Avenue squad which has all its starters back from last year Friday before facing one of the Class A’s top teams in Athens Academy Tuesday.
Watkins pointed out that the team should have a good idea where it stands in the region pecking order over the next week since the South sub-region favorite Lady Spartans have already downed Jefferson by 12 while Lady Dragons won by 14 over Social Circle which Commerce plays next Friday.
After trailing by 17 points in the third quarter, the Lady Tigers whittled Banks County’s lead to four points in the final quarter before folding down the stretch in an 11-point loss.
Watkins pointed out that his erratic team failed on two opportunities to cut the deficit to two but couldn’t convert.
“It’s that inconsistency that bothers me,” Watkins explained.
The team was also haunted by another bad quarter, getting outscored 17-4 in the second quarter after trailing by just two after the first period, sending them to the halftime locker room down 30-15.
Commerce, however, got back into the game with an 18-5 run capped off by a basket by Lance with four minutes left in the game.
However, Banks slammed the door with a 7-0 run to close the contest.
The Lady Tigers offense was highlighted by a trio of scorers registering in double figures with Stephanie Rainwater getting 11 and Lance and Hester both picking up 10.
Watkins pointed out that inconsistency reared its ugly head again in his team’s 24-point loss to Jefferson as it was outscored 21-6 in the second quarter after trailing by just two after the opening period.
“We’ve just got to eliminate those single-digit quarters,” Watkins explained.
Commerce, who only hit 26 percent from the floor in the loss, were led offensively by Lance who scored 16 points. Whitney Brown threw in 11.
Thanks to a 17-4 first quarter outburst, Commerce never had to look back in a 24-point route of Athens Christian in the consolation round of the “WJJC Holiday Classic.”
The Lady Tigers, who led by nine at the half and 10 after three quarters, were paced by 15-point performances from both Mashenta Hester and Lauren Lance.
Armed with a sizeable advantage for most of the game, the Lady Tigers were able to empty their bench and build some depth.
“We were pleased overall to get a win,” “The important thing is that we played a lot of people and that will help us down the stretch so that we don’t have to rely on just our five starters.”

Jefferson wrestlers set for dual with Parkview today
Something will have to give when Parkview and Stockbridge grapplers come to Jefferson today for what has the makings of an outstanding dual meet between three solid programs. The Panthers enter the JHS gymnasium with one of the state’s finest wrestling programs and a team that hopes to challenge a Jefferson squad that has yet to fall in a dual meet this season.
In addition, the chance to prove themselves against the larger likes of the Class AAAAA schools is yet another reason the Dragons will be no doubt be pumped up for the meet.
According to Dragon head coach Doug Thurmond, Wednesday’s competition could very well come down to whose favor the card flips end up in, due to the relative parity between the schools. One thing seems certain, however, close matches will be found on each mat.
“They’re going to bounce their lineup around some,” Thurmond said of the No. 3 Panthers who will be reshuffling things following their last meet. “So it’s going to come down to the flip, but I’ll tell you this much, there are going to be some awesome matches.”
Last Saturday Jefferson got a taste of what Parkview has to offer as they took part in the 32-team Gwinnett Invitational in Lawrenceville. Once again, they showed why they are considered among the favorites to win the Class A state title again this year as they took second in the tournament.
Jefferson beat third-place Parkview by 168 1/2 points and were the only squad to keep pace with the event’s first-place squad from Collins Hill.
In the end, however, the No. 2 Eagles prevailed with a team total of 273 points with the Dragons posting 238 1/2.
Nonetheless, it was another top-notch showing for the Dragons, who saw three wrestlers take home gold.
“I’m extremely pleased,” Thurmond said of the result.
“To go out in a 32-team tournament and place second when 90 percent of the teams were from (Class) AAAAA was quite an accomplishment. As far as a team effort we couldn’t ask for much more.”
The result was just the first time in six tournaments this season that the Dragons did not come away with a first-place award, but according to Thurmond, the squad can hold their heads up high because they were simply beaten by a powerhouse.
Eagle team. Collins Hill, whose enrollment of approximately 3,500 students is some 10 times greater than JHS, won the AAAAA state championship last season.
“We had some (wrestlers) that didn’t have their best day...and I think they were upset, but it’s hard to come out (on top) in every meet,” Thurmond explained.
Saturday’s champions for the Dragons included Nathaniel Wilson (125), Daniel Love (171) and Jeremy Smith (189). Garnering second-place for the Dragons in their respective divisions were Forrest Garner (152) and Hunter Glenn (HWT), while third-place performers Jeremiah Wilson (130) and Hunter Garner (160) rounded out the top medal winners for Jefferson.
In addition, those placing for the Dragons included Jose Zavaleta and Jason Fields, while Caleb Beckwith, Corey Mack, Scott Nix, Seth Potts and Jake Gurley all also helped accumulate team points by winning matches.

Heading into the subregion stretch
By all accounts, Madison County has taken small, but positive strides on the court this year.
At 5-8, the team has equaled its win total from last year, already claimed a Region 8-AAAA win in its first year in a new classification and in a real morale-builder, claimed a holiday tournament title last week.
“The win at the (Commerce) Christmas tournament did a lot for us,” Madison County head coach Steve Crouse said. “That’s the first time we’ve every won anything. It made the guys feel good about themselves.
While the coach knows this year’s Raiders have “no doubt” demonstrated improvement, he also knows that the true test has only just begun with the onset of the brutal sub-region schedule (which began last night with a 78-49 loss to fourth-ranked Cedar Shoals).
“Can we sustain (our improved play) once we get into a sub-region that we know is going to be tough? That’s going to be the question.”
Crouse said he hopes a combination of grit and basketball smarts can sustain them against a 8-AAAA North sub-region that sports a lot of athletes.
“It’s going to be tough, but we’ve been playing well lately and playing hard and we have knowledge of our opponents,” the coach said.
Coming off a loss to Cedar Shoals, Madison County will have to find a way to outmaneuver another athletic subregion foe as it takes on Clarke Central Friday.
“They’re not exceptionally tall but they’re lanky and athletic and they really get after you and they go really deep into their bench...They’re going to play tough man-to-man. They go to their strengths which is their athleticism and their bench,” Crouse said.
The Raiders will then play their third sub-region game Tuesday against a struggling Jackson County team who’s played a great deal of tough competition.
“They’ve played everybody we’ve played (in the other subregion) and we didn’t do too well against the other side of the region.”
Sandwiched in between those subregion matchups is a non-region contest with an upstart Athens Christian club which Madison County downed 60-50 in the Commerce holiday tournament title game.
“They gave us a great game. They’re much improved. They really play hard...They’re very fundamental. They’ll be a tough opponent.”
Armed with three starters it didn’t have in its first meeting with Madison County, Elbert County breezed by the Raiders 60-39 behind 26 points from freshman standout Lajarvis Goss and 13 more from Eddie Jones.
Madison County won the first meeting 60-52.
Crouse said the team simple suffered too many defense breakdowns to beat a team featuring a player the caliber of Goss.
“We don’t matchup well individually with great players,” he said. “But what was disappointing was that our help defense wasn’t there—even when we were playing a zone...We didn’t stop their easy shots.”
Madison County was able to keep the game close for three quarters, trailing 16-10 after a quarter, 26-18 at intermission and 39-30 after three periods. However, things got out of hand in the fourth as the Blue Devils outscored the Raiders 21-9 during the period.
Crouse said his team never had any cohesiveness.
“We didn’t play well,” he said. “We didn’t play together as a team. I don’t think we came in fully prepared to play the game.”

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