Area Sports...

JANUARY 14, 2004

CHS Hoops Teams Both Go ...
Boys Rattle Off A Trio Of Close Victories; Move to 4-7
If winning cures all ills then Commerce got a needed triple shot of the antibiotic this past week with three-straight triumphs.
But head coach Rex Gregg said it’s still going to take more than what his team showed in the trio of victories if its to maintain its winning ways.
“We’re tickled pink that we’ve won three in a row, but we’ve still got a ways to go,” the coach said. “We’ve still got to find a way to shoot the ball better and take care of the ball better.”
Still, the team did both those tasks well enough this past week to revive a season that had gotten off to a 1-7 start.
The Tigers ended a three-game losing streak with a sub-region win over Athens Christian (69-62) last Tuesday and then posted weekend wins over sub-region foe Prince Avenue (49-46) and Tallulah Falls (38-32), which is on the other side of the region.
Commerce, which won only two games all of last year, stood at 2-0 in 8-A South play with its wins over the Eagles and Wolverines, making it the only unbeaten team in the sub-region as of Monday. (The team played Athens Academy Tuesday night but those results weren’t available.)
Gregg pointed particularly to the team’s savvy in its win over Prince Avenue where the Tigers prevailed thanks to some late heroics from Tyson Randolph and Casha Daniels. The win also snapped a two-game losing streak to the Wolverines which swept Commerce last year, beating the Tigers by
37 points in one of those contests.
“Friday, we played a smart team-game,” he said. “We did the things that we needed to do.”
With the Prince Avenue win, Gregg said his team now has had two model performances this year to look toward as an example of its potential — the other being it’s 68-53 victory over Dawson County back on Dec. 29.
The key, he said, is duplicating those two efforts every night. The coach feels his group has had somewhat of a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ persona this winter as it has struggled for consistent play thus far this season.
“If we can keep all our games at that level, then we’ll be able to stay with anyone we play,” Gregg said.
Commerce will see if it’s up to that task as tough contests with Social Circle, a veteran-laden Lakeview team and what Gregg called a “huge” Towns County team await.
One problem keeping the group from consistent play each night is a lack of depth. With just seven players that play consistently, Gregg said his team’s shortage in numbers has left it drained by the end of a week, pointing out that his group was winded by the second half of Saturday night’s 38-32 win over Tallulah Falls where the team was outscored 17-0 in the third quarter but rebounded in the final period.
“We were give-out, we were tired,” he said.
The team hopes to shore up some of its depth problems with the possible return of senior post player Brandon Smallwood back this week. Smallwood has missed the past six games due to an injury.
CHS 38,
In what Gregg called a “frustrating” night, Commerce survived being outscored 17-0 in the third quarter to pick up its third straight win Saturday, topping Tallulah Falls by six points.
The Tigers, which trailed 30-24 in the third quarter after leading by as much as 13 in the first half, rebounded from their third quarter slumber to outscore Tallulah Falls 14-2 in the final period in securing a come-from-behind win.
“We’ll take ‘em anyway we can get them after last year,” Gregg said, referring to his team’s two-win season.
Randolph scored 10 of his team-leading 17 points in the fourth quarter, including two three-pointers.
Daniels threw in 14, 12 of those coming in the first quarter.
CHS 49,
Commerce redeemed itself for a pair of losses to Prince Avenue last year with a 49-46 win over the Wolverines Friday night thanks to a series of big plays by Randolph and Daniels in the waning moments.
A basket by Randolph with 1:09 left gave the Tigers a 45-44 lead and Daniels followed by hitting both ends of a one-and-one 38 seconds later to up the Tigers’ edge to 47-44 with 31 seconds remaining.
Perhaps Daniels’ biggest play of the night, though, came when he drew a charge with just 4.5 seconds left and Commerce clinging to a 47-36 lead.
The huge change-of-possession opened the door for Randolph, who had 24 points on the night, to seal the win with a pair of free throws with only 2.6 remaining.
Chris Morris’s desperation three pointer for Prince Avenue fell short as time expired.
The Tigers, which trailed 37-36 heading into the final quarter, beat the Wolverines on nearly every front in the nip-and-tuck contest, out-shooting them from the floor (40.4 percent to 38.6 percent) and the three-point line (46.7 percent to 27.8 percent) and out-rebounding them 34-24.
Randolph had a huge evening with a double-double. His night included six three-pointers, 10 rebounds and four assists.
CHS 69, ACS 62
A late surge lifted Commerce to a win in its sub-region opener as it outscored Athens Christian 21-10 in the fourth quarter to claim a 69-62 victory last Tuesday night.
The Tigers got over three-quarters of its offense from Randolph (25 points) and Jordan who (20 points) combined for 45 points.
Randolph also had 12 boards.
Daniels had a solid floor game, scoring nine points, hitting 5-of-7 free throws, grabbing seven boards, handing out four assists and getting three steals.
Commerce, which trailed 34-33 at the half and 52-48 after the third, shot 40.4 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Eagles 39-30.

Banks County Leopards defeat Rabun County Wildcats, 86-65
The Banks County Leopards basketball team beat the Rabun County Wildcats, 86-65, at home last Friday.
The Leopards take on Lumpkin County at home this Friday and host a re-match against Dawson County next Friday, Jan. 23.
The Banks County Leopards had their highest scoring game of the season Friday against Rabun County. Even scoring throughout the game totaled the Leopards to victory.
Seth McCoy, Banks County’s #10, started the game by earning the first six points of the game. The first shot he took was a reverse layup, assisted by #23, Tra Smith.
Rabun answered the lead and tied the game at 13 with less than four minutes left in the first quarter. Then Matt Dale, #20, hit three back-to-back three-pointers and put some big numbers on the board for Banks County.
The second half started with another good three-point shot, this time from Tony Bedford.
Banks eased the lead out to 31-25 with five minutes left in the second. Rabun closed in and brought the lead down to eight by the end of the second quarter.
Reggie Smith and Dale added eight each in the third quarter and yet another three-pointer came from Dale in the fourth, pushing the lead to 68-50.
“Our intensity level was where it needs to be,” Banks County Coach Mike Ruth said. “We came out strong and played with a lot of heart.”
Defensively, the team forced 27 turnovers and scored several points from stolen balls.
“They started adjusting to our press, so we changed it,” Ruth said.
Dale led the scoring with 24 points for Banks, including four three-pointers
R. Smith also put up double-digits with 18 and recorded 18 rebounds as well.
Kyle Roberts and McCoy both added 14. McCoy was 100 percent from the charity strip, which accounts for four of his total points.
Roberts led the team in rebounds with 19, 13 of which were defensive boards. He also had five blocked shots.
Bedford added six to the score, including one three-pointer. Jazz Hulsey put up four. Alex Cruce, T. Smith and Justin Crocker each added two.
The Banks County Leopards fell to Dawson County on Tuesday, 64-55.
Ruth said the problem was defense.
“We weren’t aggressive defensively,” Ruth said. “We weren’t putting pressure on the guards and we gave them a lot of easy entry passes.”
Two big shooters from Dawson County scored the majority of the points and the team was 23 for 34 at the stripe.
In comparison, Banks was 8 for 15 from the line and top scorer R. Smith had his first game where he didn’t shoot double digits.
“Our best offensive is our defense,” Ruth said. “We just couldn’t make anything happen defensively and it cost us the game.”
Leading the scoring for that game were McCoy and Roberts who put up 14 each.
Dale contributed 13.
Jacob Williams put up seven and was two-for-two from the stripe. R. Smith earned four and Hulsey added three.

Next five games crucial for Jefferson boys
It’s a pretty good sign when the biggest complaint a coach has about his team is that they are winning by too much. Such is the case with head coach Bolling DuBose and his No. 8 ranked Jefferson boys.
Tuesday night’s 70-37 drubbing of Tallulah Falls was yet another example of, get this, the type of thing his team needs to do without. Well, not really, but sort of.
The blowout manner in which the Dragons (12-4, 3-0 in Region 8-A North) are squashing their opponents this season is somewhat of a concern for DuBose, who’s afraid his squad is not getting enough tight games that call for crucial plays down the stretch when the pressure is on.
Then again, things could be worse. They are, after all, in the midst of a five game winning streak that has helped them remain 8-0 against other Class A schools this season.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be winning by as many points as we are,” DuBose said. “But that’s what bothers me, that we haven’t been in many close games. It would really help us to be in a close game and have to make some plays down the stretch to win.”
With the blowout victories this season has also come respect around the state.
After entering the season out of the top 10, Monday’s latest coaches’ poll somehow had the Dragons at No. 8 in Class A despite being ranked fourth last week and having not lost a game since Dec. 30. Despite that odd voting pattern by the coaches in this week’s poll, the fact remains that Jefferson is among the better squads in Georgia this season.
Ironically enough, the team just ahead of the Dragons at No. 7, St. Francis, is a team Jefferson defeated earlier this season.
In all, the latest poll results show just how relatively trivial the top 10 rankings can be, according to DuBose.
“It’s nice to be ranked and I think the kids get a kick out of it, but it’s like I tell them all the time, that stuff’s going to take care of itself in the state tournament. It’s nice to be ranked, but I don’t know how much it really means,” DuBose explained.
One thing that does matter to the Dragon head man is continuing to grow as a team — something that his squad can go a long way toward doing starting Friday when they host Towns County in the first of a crucial five-game stretch.
With a talented front court and plenty of experience that includes a lineup missing just one player from last season, the Indians will be just one of a handful of interesting match ups awaiting Jefferson in the next 10 days.
With Prince Avenue and Lakeview Academy following on Saturday and Tuesday respectively, plus a meeting with Athens Academy on Jan. 23, that means Jefferson will take on four-straight teams that love to slow the tempo of the game down, and who pride themselves on neutralizing transition opportunities for their opponent.
“It’s similar to last year,” DuBose said of the Indians. “They have a distinct size advantage and we’ve got a distinct quickness advantage.
“I think the key is we’re going to have to press them the whole ball game and force them into turnovers. We don’t want to let them get into a half court game.”
A season ago the Dragons won going away by 25 points at home against Towns County, but to traveled to Hiawassee for a return meeting and were defeated.
The five-game stretch will then conclude on Jan. 24 against No. 7 Johnson (Gainesville) one of the better Class AAA teams in the state.

The drought is over
MCHS boys’ beat Jackson Co. for first time since 1998, continue sub-region slate this week
It’s a safe bet that December 11, 1998, wasn’t registering in anyone’s minds as the Raiders walked triumphantly off the court as 60-54 victors Tuesday night.
But if you dust off the record books, that’s the date that Madison County last enjoyed similar satisfaction over its border-rivals to the west as the Raiders finally halted a 10-game losing streak to the Panthers.
While the historical footnote was nice, the win, more importantly, broke Madison County into the sub-region win column.
With the six-point victory, the Raiders moved to 1-2 in Region 8-AAAA North play and upped their overall record to 9-5, putting the program just one win away from reaching double figures in the victory column for the first time since the 1996-1997 season.
The Raiders will have three chances to add to the win total this week and move above .500 in sub-region play as they face 8-AAAA North foes Winder-Barrow (Friday) and Habersham Central (Tuesday) while also going outside the region to square off with Oglethorpe County (Saturday).
If last year is any indicator, the Raiders’ Friday contest with the Bulldoggs should be well worth the five-dollar voucher.
Madison County had a pair of cardiac finishes against Winder-Barrow in 2003 winning 61-60 in the first meeting thanks to a buzzer-beater by Josh Booker and taking the second contest in overtime as the Raiders now shoot for their third-straight win over the Bulldoggs.
While the Raiders have the Winder-Barrow series going the way it wants it, it will look to reverse its fortunes against Habersham Central which downed Madison County twice last season, including a 93-74 whipping in February.
However, Habersham lost key personnel from a year ago and have suffered through a 1-12 season thus far, losing by 70 to Cedar Shoals over the weekend and falling 84-83 in over time to Winder-Barrow Tuesday night.
Sandwiched between those two divisional tests is a rematch with Oglethorpe County Saturday in Lexington at Independence Hall. The two teams provided drama the last time they stepped on the court with the Raiders holding on for a 56-55 win in Danielsville after they forced a Patriot miss on a short-range jumper as time expired.
Madison County picked up its first home win since that Dec. 19 nail-bitter with Oglethorpe with another close win Tuesday night against Jackson County. The Raiders took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter and held on for a six-point win.
Madison County — which trailed 13-12 after a quarter and 24-19 at intermission — received an offensive boost from three scores registering in double figures.
Marcus Shivers led the team with a season-high 14 points while Josh Booker threw in 13 and Tibias Gannett added 10.
In winning, the Raiders were able to over weather an offensive assault from 6’8” Panther center Clay Scott who accounted for over half his team’s offense with a 28-point outing.
With 60 points against Jackson County, Madison County increased its offensive output substantially from its close 45-36 loss to Clarke Central Friday night.
The Raiders’ didn’t crumble under the Gladiators’ athleticism and defensive pressure in the low scoring battle, never trailing by double figures and facing just a five-point deficit with under two minutes left in the ball game.
Clarke Central sealed the win at the free throw line though, hitting 4-of-6 from the charity stripe in the last 1:29 to hand Madison County its second straight sub-region loss.
The Raiders were unable capitalize at the free throw line through out the game, missing 10 free throws in the second half and finishing 6-of-14 at the line for the evening.
Madison County had just one scorer in double digits with Russ Drake getting 12.

Plenty of balance
Spread out scoring attack continues to pace Lady Panthers
The Jackson County girls are preparing for perhaps their most important stretch of games this season coming up in the next week.
After holding off Madison County on Tuesday night 60-54, the Lady Panthers are now 2-1 in Region 8-A North, with arguably their two toughest sub-region opponents coming up.
Cedar Shoals hosts the Lady Panthers on Friday followed by an equally important game at The Pit against Clarke Central on Tuesday. The two Athens schools are among the more athletic and deep squads in Region 8-A, and each will provide a similiar type challenge, according to head coach Chad Pittman.
“They’re both going to be very athletic and they’re going to pressure you a lot,” Pittman explained. “Really, these next two games are big for us sub-region wise.”
Tuesday night’s performance against the Lady Raiders was a gritty effort in what was mostly a sluggishly played contest. Both teams started slowly offensively, combining for just 15 total points in the first quarter.
The second and third periods for Jackson County earned them the win however, as they outscored the home side 24-14 during those 16 minutes of play.
A late comeback attempt by Madison County was held off however by the Lady Panthers to earn the win. After Jackson County led by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter the Lady Raiders cut the margin to 40-33 with 1:58 remaining. That was the closest they would get the remainder of the game however.
Jackson County’s Nikki Sosebee sank four clutch free-throws in the later stages of the game to help seal the win for her team. She finished with 10 points on the night. Post player Tosha Ransom led the Lady Panthers with 11 points in the game, however both teams struggled to find any rhythm on offense.
“We’ve got to find some people who are going to be consistent for 32 minutes,” Pittman said of his squad’s needs in their next two games. “We’ve got to be mentally focused and handle the pressure against (Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central).
One thing that has been consistent for the most part for Pittman’s squad this season is the way they have spread the ball around on offense. Entering this weekend’s game the Lady Panthers have three players averaging double figures. Leading scorer Sosebee (17 ppg.) continues to eat up opposing defenses both inside and outside with her versatility. In the paint the Lady Panthers have been able to get solid production out of Ransom (12.4 ppg.) as well as Cece Hill (10.3 ppg.). All three will be needed should the Lady Panthers hope to knock off the No. 4 Lady Jaguars and the always highly regarded Lady Gladiators.

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