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JANUARY 29, 2003

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Down the stretch
Losing to Rabun County Tuesday night couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Leopards.
A win would have nearly assured Banks’ boys (9-10, 2-3) of a third place finish in the subregion, keeping the team out of a play-in game come tourney time. But with the 53-48 loss to the Cats, the Leopards’ future remains uncertain.
And with just three subregion games left, Banks needs to notch as many wins as it can over the next several days.
As it stands, Banks could still manage a third person, having two wins already over Dawson County. Sweeping Dawson County in the coming week and picking up a victory at Union Friday could go a long way toward helping the cause.
But the Leopards have fallen once already to the team from Blairsville, a 67-50 loss several weeks ago.
“I did not feel good about the Union County game,” coach Mike Ruth said. “We got whipped in every aspect.”
Though Banks fell to the team last time, Ruth said he feels his guys can match up well with Union County. But he is worried about the Warriors’ inside speed.
“Union is quick inside,” he said. “They’ve got good, quick moves to the basket and we have trouble keeping up with them.”
To make matters worse, the Leopards will be traveling up the mountain into far northern Georgia to play Union County, a trip that usually tires bus riders.
“I think if our kids will just come out and play with the same enthusiasm and play with the same heart they had at Dawson County, we’ll be allright,” Ruth said.
After the Leopards get past Union Friday, they’ll get back onto the court Saturday to host Lumpkin County at 6:30 p.m. The girls’ game starts at 5 p.m.
Banks hasn’t played Lumpkin yet this season. The two teams’ first game scheduled for several weeks ago was rescheduled due to wintry weather. And that rescheduling pits Banks against the Indians Saturday and again on Tuesday.
“They have a pretty solid basketball team,” Ruth said. “They shoot the ball well from the perimeter but their inside game is not what they want it to be.”
Lumpkin will likely not match-up well inside with the Leopards. Most of their team stands at 6’2” or shorter. But they do have a good point guard and play what Ruth calls a “hard-nosed man-to-man defense.”
“That beats us sometimes,” he said.
Like many of Banks past few contests, Ruth said the key to winning lies in the little things—holding onto the ball and capitalizing on rebounds.
With Banks’ size, rebounding shouldn’t be a problem. But turnovers have plagued the team much of the season, though the Leopards turned around some of their ball handling troubles as of late.
“If we can hold our turnovers down, we should be able to stay with them because we’ll have the advantage inside,” Ruth said.
Ruth added that Lumpkin was similar to Dawson and to his own team, minus the size.
“Us, Dawson and Lumpkin are carbon copies of each other,” he said. “But we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
The Lady Leopards (5-14, 0-5) are in desperate need of some subregion wins to stay out of the cellar.
They’ll have a chance to do so this week, facing a Lumpkin County team twice that has also gone winless in its tries at subregion opponents.
“I say that it will be a pretty competitive game,” girls coach Robert Sain said. “If we play well, we’ll have a chance.”
Standing ahead of Lumpkin, however, is Union County. Banks fell to the Lady Warriors 49-31 earlier this year. And this time, the game is in Blairsville.
“People tell me that going to Union County is a hard trip to make,” Sain said. “If we go up there and play well, we have the tools to beat them. If we play poorly, we won’t have a chance.”
The Lady Leopards are still trying to work key perimeter shooter Ashley Campbell back into the rotation. Though she’s been back from an injury for several games, they still haven’t gotten her back into her pre-injury groove.
“The way we were playing when Campbell got hurt is not the way we are playing now,” Sain said.
Regardless, the Lady Leopards still need a few subregion wins to try and avoid a play-in game.
“We’ve still got some winnable games and we’ve been competing lately,” Sain said. “The kids have been doing this thing since October. Now it’s just a matter of executing. We haven’t done that since Christmas.”

Panthers to play the underdog role at Cedar Shoals on Friday
The Jackson County boys will look to play the role of spoiler this Friday when they travel to face off against the unbeaten and No. 3 ranked Jaguars from Cedar Shoals.
And, for roughly a quarter of the two team’s last meeting, the Panthers proved they were every bit as talented as the Region 8-AAAA leading Jaguars (18-0).
Jackson County (1-21) was up 10-2 to start the game before Cedar Shoals came roaring back to win 91-61.
At this point in the season, and at this stage in the game there’s not a whole lot left for the Jackson County boys to play for, except the future. The team dropped two games last week to Winder-Barrow and Newton respectively, all the more reason for the Panthers to look ahead and play with nothing to lose.
“We talk about mistakes and we talk about doing the things we need to do to win,” Jackson County coach Ron Smith explained. “We’re just going to go out (in our remaining games) and try to get some momentum heading into the summer.”
Following Friday’s contest, the Panthers do not play again until Tuesday when they make the trip to play the lone squad they have defeated - Madison County.
Winder-Barrow narrowly escapes from The Pit
Last Friday the Panthers played the Bulldoggs closely throughout the contest, but just couldn’t quite get over the hump late in the game, falling 62-56.
Winder-Barrow used a 19-8 run to take control, and Jackson County played catch-up the rest of the way. The Panthers did manage to cut the lead to 29-27 by halftime, however Winder held on in the end.
Jackson County was led in scoring by Kennard Mattox’s 16 points. John Richardson also chipped in with 15.
Winder-Barrow was led by Rayez Cooper with 16 points.
Jackson County falls
to Newton
Facing one of the better teams in Region 8-AAAA, the Panthers struggled from the opening tip-off Saturday night en route to a 96-49 loss at the hands of the Rams.
Newton’s Legale Floyd was the story of the game offensively, as he drained seven first-half 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 32 points. Jackson County was outscored 19-5 to start the game and they trailed the rest of the way.
Richardson led the Panthers with 15 points and Clay Scott chipped in with 14 in the losing effort.
One thing that the Panthers can build on according to Smith is their dedication both to working hard and remaining unified.
“They’re good kids, they come in and work hard everyday...nobody’s pointing any fingers or anything like that,” Smith pointed out.

Lady Tigers Setting Sights High As Region Tournament Nears
Thanks to a clutch 42-40 win over subregion foe Prince Avenue, Commerce can finish no worse than third out of Region 8-A South.
But don’t expect Don Watkins’ club to be content with that.
As of Monday, the Lady Tigers were eyeing a move into a tie for second in the subregion. If the team topped Athens Christian Tuesday night (results weren’t available), Commerce could move into that position with a win over Athens Academy this Friday night. The Lady Spartans have one subregion loss. As of Monday, Commerce had two.
“I’m glad to see that the team’s attitude is ‘how high can we go?’,” the Lady Tigers’ coach said.
The team will likely need that kind of gusto this week as a contest with eighth-ranked Jefferson on the road on Saturday night follows the away matchup with sixth-rated Athens Academy.
Paired with this past Tuesday’s road trip to Athens Christian, Commerce will have had three straight away dates through this weekend. But Watkins said playing away from home is what life in the postseason will be like and it’s best to get used to it now.
“We have to be road Warriors,” he said of the road slate. “But that’s alright. That’s what we’re going to see at the region tournament.”
Commerce will head into this week’s stretch on the heals of what Watkins called “overall, a pretty good week.” The team currently owns a two-game winning streak with victories over Prince Avenue and Rabun Gap while nearly pulling off an upset last Tuesday against Towns County.
“We’ve got to build upon that (the past week) and go into this week,” the coach said.
Getting past Prince Avenue was much more of a chore the second time around for Commerce as the Lady Tigers outlasted the Lady Wolverines in the closing minutes Friday night for a 42-40 win.
“It was a lot tighter game,” Watkins said of the rematch. “I felt we played pretty good. We had a few offensive possessions that we did not handle well.”
Down 41-40 in the final minute, Prince Avenue took the ball down the floor and ran the clock down to 12 seconds as Commerce stayed in a zone and didn’t pressure the ball. The Lady Wolverines finally put up a shot with five seconds left which missed the mark as Stephanie Rainwater secured the rebound and was fouled with 0.9 seconds remaining.
Rainwater hit her first attempt and missed her second but Prince Avenue had no time to get off a desperation heave, giving Commerce its third subregion win of the year.
The Lady Tigers got production from its top three scorers in the win as Mashenta Hester scored 17, Lauren Lance had 13 and Rainwater threw in 10.
Hester had the hot hand to start the second half as she scored seven straight points for the Lady Tigers to give it a 30-24 third quarter lead.
After Prince Avenue cut the lead to 37-36 midway through the fourth, Rainwater came through in the clutch, hitting a basket to give Commerce a three-point cushion and then broke a near-three minute scoring drought from the Lady Tigers with a basket with 1:39 remaining to up their lead to 41-36.
Unlike its down-to-the wire affair with Prince Avenue the night before, there was no need for the pacemakers against Rabun Gap as Commerce downed the hapless Lady Eagles 58-15 Saturday night.
Nine of the 10 Lady Tigers who played in the contest got in the scorebook as Commerce led 32-6 at the half and 43-9 after three quarters.
Lance, Tiffany Smallwood and Katie Wilbanks all had nine points to lead the team.
Shay Klugh had an impressive night under the boards with 10 rebounds while Mary Beth Howington came off the bench to score eight points and grab five boards.
Mishaps at the worst time doomed Commerce in last Tuesday night’s contest with Towns County in a 62-53 set back to the the Lady Indians, the Lady Tigers’ second this year to the region foe.
Commerce knotted the game at 49 early in the fourth quarter and trailed 57-54 with 1:12 to play before the Lady Tigers unraveled.
“We missed a couple of shots and had some turnovers,” Watkins said. “If we had handled the last minute of the game differently, we could have possibly gotten a big win.”
Lance led the team with 20 points while Hester threw in 17 which included a perfect 4-for-4 night at the line. Rainwater had 11.

Dragons to meet Towns County today for first-place in 8-A North
About the only thing certain about tonight’s make-up game between the Jefferson boys and Towns County is that when the final buzzer sounds, one of the two teams will have sole possession of first-place in 8-A North. Meanwhile, the other will have suffered their first subregion loss.
Other than that there’s a certain degree of uncertainty surrounding the contest, largely because of the delayed meeting between the two schools. Although Jefferson has played two other schools from the opposite subregion twice, the Indians - whose unblemished 8-A North record will surely be tested - have yet to even face off against the Dragons. However, with two meetings in the next nine days beginning today (Wednesday), it’s safe to say that the two schools will likely become used to one another shortly.
Although they haven’t yet played, Jefferson coach Bolling DuBose is familiar enough with the Indians to know that they are a potential match-up problem for the Dragons, especially in the paint.
“They’re big up front,” DuBose explained, “They’ve got a big six (foot) seven (inch) player in the middle named Robby Elliott who’s probably their best player. They’ve also got a couple of six-five guys (on the wings)...”
Six-foot-five-inch Shaudrick Martin is the tallest Dragon player, however, if Jefferson can get the game tempo they want then it may be the Indians who face match-up trouble.
“I think we’re quicker than they are,” DuBose said. “The key will be if we can pressure their guards into turnovers and make them get up and down the floor with us.”
Jefferson, (12-9, 5-0) heads into the match-up following an 80-54 blowout over Rabun Gap, however over the weekend they saw their seven-game winning streak come to an end with consecutive road losses to Athens Academy and Johnson.

Dragons cruise past Rabun for fifth subregion win
A Jefferson 33-10 scoring barrage in the first quarter opened up Tuesday night’s contest against Rabun Gap, thus enabling the Dragons to cruise the rest of the way en route to a 80-54 win. The victory gave Jefferson the regular season sweep over the Eagles.
Montray Riley led the Dragon scorers with 29 points, while freshman Duran Rakestraw chipped in with 20. Martin added 12 points and Jarvis Hunter netted 10.
Mark Butler led Rabun Gap with a game-high 30 points on the evening, but the Eagles never threatened after Jefferson led 56-21 at halftime.

Johnson squeaks by Jefferson in overtime
A trip to Class AAA Johnson last Saturday showed just how far Jefferson has come over the course of the season according to DuBose. Unlike earlier in the year when the Dragons were blown out in the second half by the likes of other larger schools such as Buford and Franklin County, Jefferson stood head-to-head against the Knights.
A 17-12 first quarter saw Jefferson take an early lead, however Johnson responded with a strong second quarter and took command 32-28 by halftime.
The two battled neck-and-neck for much of the second half, however in the end Johnson was able to pull out a close win in overtime.
“That was just one of those games where both teams played well and it was tough to see either team lose the game,” DuBose explained. “I think that game showed that the kids have come a long way this year, even though we lost,” he added.

Academy upends Jefferson in region play
A low-scoring affair between rivals Friday night featured a Spartan lineup that was able to jump out in front and hang on in the end for a 57-53 victory. A 17-10 first half spurt by Academy along with a poor second quarter during which Jefferson only managed five points set the tone early.
“That’s just a tough place to play,” DuBose said of the Spartan Center. “We just never seem to play well down there.”
A 23-16 fourth quarter run by the Dragons tightened up the contest and gave Jefferson a chance to steal a road win, however the Spartans eventually were able to hang on.
“We went man-to-man there in the second half and were able to get back in the game, but we just dug ourselves a hole we could not get out of.
“Give credit to our kids though...they came back after being down and had a chance to win the game in the end there,” DuBose explained.

Lady Raiders eye winning season, respectable tournament seeding
A decent seeding in February’s region tournament is of course on the Lady Raiders’ minds, but that’s not the only item on the wish list.
With an 11-10 record, the Madison County girls can clinch a winning regular season mark if it wins two of its next four contests.
Considering that the team went 4-22 last year in a lower classification, finishing above .500 in its first regular season in AAAA would be a monumental accomplishment for the team according to its coach.
“We’d really like to finish the season with a winning record,” Lady Raider head coach Latana Coile said. “...That would really be good for us this year and something we could build upon next year.”
As for the region tournament, Madison County’s seeding picture took a hard hit Tuesday night with a a 60-34 setback at Cedar Shoals.
The team now has a 2-4 record in a 8-AAAA North subregion that was wide-open according to Coile heading into the game with the Lady Jaguars.
This week, the team will face two subregion foes that it’s already fallen to—Winder-Barrow, Friday, and Jackson County, Tuesday.
Madison County will also go out of the region for a contest with Elbert County Saturday before closing its subregion slate with Habersham Central Feb. 7.
“We’d like to finish as well as we can to get the highest seeding possible at region,” Coile said Monday. “We feel if we can pick up a few more wins, we can get a decent seeding.”
Coile called the Lady Raiders’ first meeting with Cedar Shoals—a 51-49 Madison County win—perhaps her team’s finest performance of the year.
The sequel, however, won’t receive the same type of reviews.
The Lady Raiders, minus two players due to illness, were buried underneath a 16-0 third quarter run by the Lady Jaguars in a 60-34 loss.
The tone was set early as Madison County mustered just 10 first half points in trailing by 12 at intermission.
The Lady Raiders looked to awaken, though, in the middle of the third quarter as a bucket from Bridget Browner chopped the lead to 26-20.
But Cedar Shoals then answered with its 16-point tear as Madison County was held scoreless for two and a half minutes.
Leading by 10 at the half, Clarke Central pulled away for good early in the third, going on a 10-0 run, thanks to several turnovers forced by full-court pressure on the Lady Raiders. Madison County cut the lead to 15, 39-24, with a 7-0 run late in the third after a Tiffany Ledford three-pointer and two Bridget Browner baskets. But Clarke Central answered the charge, carrying an 18-point lead into the final quarter and winning the game by 22.
“I was a little disappointed,” Coile said. “I looked over at my team at the end of the third quarter and it looked like we had given up a little bit. That’s the only time I’ve felt that this year.”
The team was limited to just nine points in both the third and fourth quarters in the loss. Coile said her team can’t afford to have single-digit quarters at this level of competition.
“That’s a big difference in being in AAA,” she said. “I think you can overcome those, but in AAAA its hard to overcome.”
The Lady Gladiators had four players in double figures, while Madison County had none. Ledford and Browner led the team with six points apiece.
In a depth-builder game, Madison County built a large lead thanks to some early defensive pressure and then emptied its bench in a 31-point win over Heritage Saturday.
Everybody on the team played at least two quarters.
Coile said her team, which led 21-7 after a quarter, 39-17 at the half and 49-23 after three quarters, was able exploit the weaknesses of what she said was an athletic, but unfudamental Lady Patriot team
“We played well,” she said. “We came out and pressed them which gave them some problems. We were able to confuse them...The press helped us set the tempo.”
Browner led the team with 20 points while McDonald had 13.
In limited playing time, Bentle had six assists and Sapp had seven rebounds.
Madison County only had 10 turnovers.
The rest Madison County’s contest with Habersham Central might have lacked some luster but Tiffany Ledford’s final shot was a gem.
The senior guard hit a shot with five seconds left to put Madison County up 41-40, which would turn out to be the game-winner.
“Sometimes you have those games were you don’t play too well but you still win,” Coile said.
Habersham Central trailed by four after three quarters but controlled the majority of the final quarter until Ledford’s late go-ahead basket.
A major difference in the game came at crunch time at the line. Trailing late, Madison County was forced to foul Habersham, but the visitors hit only 2-of-6 from the line in the final minute of the game.
Another major factor in the win came from beyond the arc where Madison County hit six three’s while Habersham hit just one.
Ledford led the team with 13 points while Bentle added 12.
Under the boards, McDonald had nine rebounds and Taylor Sapp had five as the two accounted for the bulk of Madison County’s rebounding.

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