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FEBRUARY 12, 2003


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Staring at Goliath
The Lady Leopards may fall Wednesday night, but they’ll do so fighting the biggest cat in the land.
After winning a play-in game Monday, Banks County (9-15) was set to face Wesleyan in the region tournament Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Buford.
The game was to occur too late for this week’s edition of The Banks County News.
Dawson County and GAC both get to stay in the tournament for now, getting wins Tuesday night. Dawson beat Providence 50-46 while GAC got a 63-60 win over Union County.
The Lady Leopards made their way into the tourney with a 64-45 win over Lumpkin County in the play-in game, Banks’ third victory in a row.
“I asked the team to play their best basketball at the end,” coach Robert Sain said. “That’s exactly what they did. I’m tickled with them because that was our whole goal.”
Banks has also seen prolific performance lately from senior long-ball shooter Ashley Campbell. She missed five games mid-season with a shoulder injury and spent the next several trying to get back into the groove.
In her last two games, A. Campbell has posted 35 points and 11 three-pointers. She scored a season-high 20 points against Apalachee Friday night.
“She can knock a lot of shots when left open,” Sain said. “She has been an intricate part of being able to win.”
As the season progressed, opponents began keying in on top scorers Kayla Duncan and Ashley Freeman. Having A. Campbell healthy allowed her and Dana Garrish to pick up some of the load.
In the 64-45 win Monday, D. Garrish led the team with 16 points. A. Campbell put 15 on the board, coming off five long balls. K. Duncan was also in double digits with 10.
In the final game of the regular season, the Lady Leopards took a 61-40 senior night win.
A. Campbell lit it up with 20 points and six three pointers. K. Duncan added in 16.
Early last week the Lady Leopards downed Lumpkin 49-48. K. Duncan topped scoring with 15 points.
“Our schedlue was so top-loaded at the beginning it was hard to catch a breath,” Sain said. “Our subregion hasn’t been that terrible, if we’d only shot the ball well enough. Here lately, we have.”


Lady Panthers face win and they’re in scenario tonight for state berth
DESPITE ALL they have accomplished this year the Jackson County girls know that everything they have worked for this season comes down to a one game scenario tonight (Wednesday), with a chance to extend their year on the line.
A win against Rockdale County in their opening game of the Region 8-AAAA tournament at 6 p.m. in Covington and the team will claim a state playoff spot.
With the top four teams from each region making up the 32-team state tournament field, the Lady Panthers (16-9) must perform or what has been a very successful 2002-03 campaign will be over.
That said, if the squad’s last contest is any indication, Jackson County has the potential to do some serious damage this post season, as they showed last Friday against 8-AAAA North champion Clarke Central.
With a chance at claiming the subregion still mathematically alive, the Lady Panthers came out and played an inspired brand of basketball at The Pit, pummeling one of the better teams in Northeast Georgia 58-32.
A 25-6 second quarter run provided much of the distance between the two squads and enabled Jackson County to eventually avenge what they had perceived as an unlucky defeat at the hands of the Lady Gladiators on Jan. 21 in Athens.
It was that contest that allowed Clarke Central to take control of the top spot in the region, however Jackson County coach Chad Pittman was adamant that his team was every bit as talented as their Friday night foes.
Highlighting the victory in the regular season finale for the Lady Panthers was a career milestone for junior Nikki Sosebee. She scored her 1,000th career point at the free throw line with 2:40 to go in the game and received a standing ovation and the game ball during a stoppage in contest.
The win meant the Lady Panthers still had a shot at the subregion championship and the top seed from the North, however Clarke Central squeaked out a win over Habersham Central the following night to secure the title.
A balanced scoring attack proved to be extremely effective Friday night for Jackson County as four players reached double figures in scoring. Conversely, the Lady Panther defensive effort swarmed Clarke Central standout Tomika Gary, limiting her to just two points, and held the entire team without a player in double figures.
Point guard Ashley Rainwater was the main reason things became so lopsided in the second quarter as during that time she drained five 3-pointers on her way to an 18-point outing. Tosha Ransom and Cecilia Hill turned in solid games as well, posting 11 and 10 points respectively.
Vanna Cure and Felicia Towler each had nine points to lead the Lady Gladiators.
Tonight’s tip off against Rockdale County is set for 6 p.m. The Lady Panthers pummeled the Lady Bulldogs 66-47 in two teams only meeting this season on Dec. 10.


Tourney Time
Scoring eight points in the second half of your regular season finale isn’t exactly the best way to build momentum heading into the postseason.
But that’s the baggage that the Commerce girls’ basketball team carried into today’s (Wednesday) Region 8-A tournament opener with two-seed Towns County, hitting just one field goal over the final two quarters of its 66-29 Friday night loss to the south subregion’s top team, Social Circle.
Still, despite recent struggles, a first-round upset win over Towns County (12-11), which has already downed the Lady Tigers on two occasions, would assure the girls’ program its first state tournament berth since 2000-2001 when it made it to the “big dance” and went on to the elite eight.
The state tournament takes the top four teams from each region.
The Lady Tigers would play the winner of Rabun Gap and Social Circle Friday at 7 p.m. with a win over Towns.
Postseason victories weren’t foremost on the mind of Commerce girls’ head coach Don Watkins, however, after Friday night’s contest as the veteran coach said his team is running out of time to remedy a string of reoccurring problems that’s plagued his team.
Offense was, of course, at the forefront of these concerns as the team hit just 20 percent of its shots from the floor in the loss to Social Circle.
What made the loss all the more frustrating was that Commerce played a pair of solid quarters against perhaps 8-A’s best team, trailing by single digits late in the first half, before going into intermission down by 10 and unraveling in the second half.
However, it took the Lady Tigers nearly four minutes to score in the second half as Lauren Lance notched the team’s only field goal of the half at the 4:06 mark in the third quarter to cut the Lady Red Skins’ large lead to 15 points.
Commerce only netted one free throw the rest of the quarter as it trailed 48-24 heading into the final quarter. and was then outscored 18-5 over the final eight minutes of the game.
Social Circle got over a third of its offense from area standout Shekiya Tarpkins who had 24 points while Commerce didn’t have a scorer reach double figures as Lance and Stephanie Rainwater both led the team with eight points.
The Lady Tigers looked like they might give the 18-5 Social Circle outfit a run for its money early on as Whitney Brown connected with a three-pointer at the 2:04 mark in the first quarter to cut the Lady Redskin’s edge to 14-10.
Brown then hit another three-pointer with 5:06 left in the second quarter to cut the lead to six and momentarily give her team momentum before Social Circle closed the half out with an 8-4 run.
COMMERCE 52, RABUN GAP 30
Bringing up three players from the junior varsity, Commerce was able to get 12 different players minutes in a 52-30 rout of Rabun Gap last Tuesday.
Mashenta Hester led the team with 15 points, Jennifer Pope added a career-high 14 and Stephanie Rainwater had 10.
Mary Beth Howington led the team under the boards with nine rebounds.
Commerce led modestly after a quarter, 19-9, before blowing the game wide-open in the second, outscoring the Lady Eagles 21-0 to take a 40-9 halftime advantage which allowed the Lady Tigers to empty its bench in the second half.
Commerce had a solid shooting night from beyond the arc, hitting five-of-12 three’s, good for a 42 percent clip.


Dragons outdual state’s best
Jefferson head wrestling coach Doug Thurmond has concerns that many of the state’s wrestling programs only wish they had — he has to keep his team focused despite their remarkable success.
Last Saturday the team added to that scenario by winning their second-straight Class A state duals title in impressive fashion.
A 57-15 win over No. 2 Bremen in the tournament’s finals secured the crown and solidified what many in the state already knew, that the best team in Class A was undoubtedly from Jefferson.
In what was about as team-oriented a win as is possible in this day and age, 22 Dragon wrestlers in 14 different weight classes competed during the day-long tournament, also helping earn a 58-9 semifinal win over No. 3 Landmark Christian, as well as an 84-0 demolishing of Heard County.
With Dragon depth and talent rarely leaving a mistake to be found Saturday, the team did nothing but further add to their swagger heading into this weekend’s traditional state area qualifying at Social Circle.
But before they began worrying about defending their traditional title, however, celebration was in order following the dual meet.
“Our kids just really did well,” Thurmond said after his team’s championship run. “At any time they could have lost focus, especially when they had to face (Bremen and Landmark Christian several times this season), but they held it together. It’s hard to beat those guys over and over.”
Overall the team is 42-1 in dual meet competition. The three wins Saturday capped off a splendid year of dual meet competition for the Dragons, who ended the 2002-03 season with a 21-0 record. In addition, the team lost just once last season, going 21-1, with the only loss coming to then No. 2 in Class AAAAA — Parkview.
Those winning matches Saturday included a slew of varsity veterans, as well as some eight junior varsity team members that Thurmond stated he wanted to give some state competition experience.
Seniors Hunter Garner, Jeremiah Wilson, Scott Nix, Jeremy Smith, and Nathaniel Wilson all set the tone for the Dragons by winning matches, while a host of underclassmen also delivered stellar performances.
Other victors included: Caleb Beckwith, Cory Mack, Enrique Zavaletta, Seth Potts, Jason Fields, Forrest Garner, Daniel Love, Jake Gurley, Hunter Glenn, Will Roper, Nark Newton, Britt Cantrell, Jessie Fowler, Taylor Glenn, Justin Mize, Chris Berbessi and Seth Love.


Another year in the books
With two more wins than it had last season and a year’s worth of AAAA battles under its belt, the Raiders’ inaugural season in a new classification came to a close Tuesday night with a 47-40 loss to Rockdale County.
The loss to the Bulldogs followed a 93-74 setback in the regular season finale against Habersham County.
“We hate for it to be over, but I’m pleased with what the guys gave us this year...They’re great guys. And I told them that after the game.”
After winning a total of 10 games the two previous season, Crouse pointed to several small, but steady strides made in the program’s first year in a new classification.
“We won seven games, we won a Christmas tournament, we beat Winder-Barrow twice, we beat Rockdale once, so I was pleased with some things,” he said.
With a season of experience in 8-AAAA paired with the success of the boys’ program at the sub-varsity level, the coach sees the potential for brighter days for the program in 2003-2004.
“We’ve been in the region this year and understand what it’s like and that should be an advantage for us next year,” he said.
While the team will lose its leading scorer Orlando Lattimore as well as seniors Trey McCay and Stephon White, Crouse said graduation won’t hit his program as much as other schools in the region, another factor he thinks will play in the Raiders’ favor.
The coach pointed out that his team played some squads that boasted 70-80 percent seniors.
While Crouse said the region will surely boast its share of stalwarts next year, he embraces the task of trying to build a program in a region the caliber of 8-AAAA which boasts two top 10 teams in the state.
The coach said the team simply has to keep believing and competing.
“These guys have it in themselves to keep fighting,” he said. “We’ve got to have the confidence coming into the game. Let’s have the confidence that we can step on the court and play with anyone.”
Paired with a positive mental perspective, Crouse stressed that the team can’t afford to put the basketball down in the off-season months.
“Our guys have to go into springs sports and keep competing, but we can’t afford to put the basketball down,” he said. “We got a group that’s already told me they want to come here in the mornings and shoot and you love that as a coach when kids take it upon themselves to try to get better.”
ROCKDALE COUNTY 47, MADISON COUNTY 40
Drawing a first round team they had already beaten, Madison County’s hopes of advancing to the second round of region tournament play were dashed in a seven-point loss to Rockdale County.
“They had a tough night,” he said. “They had a lot of confidence going in and we thought we had a game plan that could disrupt what they were trying to do.”
Crouse said the loss was hard to swallow, but was satisfied his team let everything on the court.
“It was a disappointing game,” Crouse said. “But we came to play.”
The Raiders started out strong, taking a 19-11 lead midway through the second quarter.
The turning point of the game, however, would come after intermission as Madison County was outscored 11-3 in the third quarter.
Crouse said his team had a hard time handling the Bulldogs’ stifling half-court pressure.
“They don’t press, they just really get after you with their half court defense.”
Down by 10, the Raiders rallied late to come within striking distance but the team was forced to foul down the stretch and Rockdale County converted at the free throw line.
The Raiders got 19 points from Tobias Gantt and 10 from Orlando Lattimore in his last game in a Madison County uniform.
HABERSHAM 93, MADISON COUNTY 74
Habersham Central pulled ahead early, 10-1. But the visiting Raiders kept the score somewhat close for most of the first half, trailing by six after one and eight after the second period. Raider leading score Orlando Lattimore, who finished with 22 points, nailed a three-pointer as time expired in the first half to cut the deficit to single digits.
But Madison County, which struggled all night from the free throw line, could not keep Habersham’s scorers in check, as the blue and orange Raiders scored 20 or more points in each quarter, coasting to a 19-point win.
COACH THANKS TEAM’S SUPPORTERS
Crouse said he’d like to thank all the support his program received from the community and local media this past season.
The coach said he hopes fans will continue to fill seats in the gym in the future.
“These kids need more of that,” he said. “Not only in basketball, but across the board in all sports.
CROUSE ANNOUNCES SUMMER YOUTH CAMP
Crouse said that the dates for the Raider basketball program’s youth camp will be June 2-4 for children from second to eighth grades.


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