Area Sports...

JANUARY 21, 2004

Wanted: Scoring Consistency
Tigers Search For Ways To Boost Scoring
The way Commerce Tiger basketball coach Rex Gregg sees it, the Tigers can beat most of the teams on their schedule if they show some scoring consistency.
That’s a big “if” for the 5-9 Tigers, who at 3-1 as of the weekend were on top of 8-A South, particularly after the Tigers dropped two of three games in the past week.
They fell 60-42 to Athens Academy Tuesday, Jan. 13, beat Social Circle Friday in Commerce, 54-45, and were out-shot Saturday in Commerce, 63-47, at the hands of Lakeview Academy. The Athens Academy and Social Circle games were both subregion contests.
The Tigers’ main problem is shooting; the ball just won’t go through the hoop.
“We missed a lot of easy shots. We missed four within three feet of the basket Saturday night,” said Gregg. “We’re not a team that can afford to do that. We’re shooting better than last year and playing hard. The effort I can’t fault, but we’ve got to shoot better and cut down on turnovers. The press really bothers us.”
Gregg would like to see his five starters all bring their A game at the same time.
“On Friday, Caleb (Jordan) couldn’t make a shot. Saturday, he had a great shooting game. For us to win, he’s got to score. We got only nine out of (Tyson) Randolph Saturday after he scored 33 on Friday. (Nick) Slayton’s got to score, (Brandon) Smallwood’s got to do his thing and Casha (Daniels) needs to get nine or 10,” he said. “I’d like to have one night like Lakeview had – it didn’t make a difference who chunked it up, it went in.”
More consistency will be needed to keep the Tigers in one of the top two positions in the subregion prior to the 8-A tournament. On the North side, Jefferson is dominant, followed by Towns County and Lakeview.
“I think we can beat Lakeview. We didn’t shoot good and they shot the lights out. They put on a clinic,” Gregg said. “We’ve got to have some players stepping up.”
The Spartans led 19-10 after one quarter and never gave up the lead. Randolph paced the Tigers with 21 points, but Slayton’s seven was next highest. Randolph’s four rebounds was also high for the Tigers.
It was not an artistic game, with plenty of effort but little in the way of results for the first quarter, which ended with the Tigers on top 9-7. They extended the lead to 24-21 at the half and put the game on ice with a 15-7 run in the third quarter.
Randolph dominated the game with 33 points, including four of nine attempts from three-point range. Smallwood added eight and Daniels six. Randolph also grabbed 12 rebounds.
Lakeview had the hot hand all night and started the game with a 14-6 first-quarter lead. The Tigers struggled to a 27-21 half-time deficit, but Lakeview pulled away in the final two periods.
Jordan was high for the Tigers with 18, Slayton contributed 12, Randolph nine and Daniels eight. Randolph pulled down seven rebounds.
But poor shooting doomed the Tigers. They connected but 39.6 percent of shots from the floor, compared to 51.1 percent for Lakeview, and 10 more trips to the charity stripe helped Lakeview keep its lead.

Grapplers defeat Richmond Co., almost top Washington-Wilkes
The Banks County Mat Leopards defeated Richmond County 42-22, but fell to Washington-Wilkes, 36-39, in Friday’s match.
The team will host Hart and White Counties Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
Last week, Banks County wrestlers traveled to the Washington-Wilkes Recreational Department to battle the host team and grapplers from Richmond County.
John Wray, a sophomore who currently holds the best record for Banks County, won his match by a pin and earned the team 6 points.
Most wrestlers earned points for their team in the match, they include: Tim Meeks, Blake Baxley, Jeremy Angel, Dustin McDuffie, Jake Payne, Cory Schmid, Bart Taylor, Saul McCoy, Jason O’Kelly and John Salzman.
Banks County battled Washington-Wilkes after the Richmond County match.
The grapplers were shy three points and were defeated by Washington-Wilkes, but not after earning some serious points for pins. Three mat Leopards pinned their opponent in less than a minute. All three added six points to the score in doing so.
Tyler Smallwood, a freshman who wrestled at 186 lbs., pinned his opponent in 23.3 seconds.
Salzman, a senior who wrestled in the 140 lb. weight class, pinned his Washington-Wilkes opponent in 55.5 seconds.
Schmid, a sophomore who wrestled in the 145 lb. weight class, pinned his opponent in 21.8 seconds.

No. 5 Dragons still perfect in region this year
The Jefferson boys’ basketball team is threatening to run the table on the rest of Region 8-A.
Tuesday night the No. 5 Dragons (15-4, 5-0 in 8-A North) won for the 11th time in as many region games. Their 53-37 victory over Lakeview Academy in Gainesville was the eighth-straight win overall, dating back to Jan. 2. Although they do have six region games remaining on their schedule, the Dragons are threatening to finish the regular season undefeated in Region 8-A play. Arguably their toughest contests left — against Athens Academy, Lakeview once again, and Towns County — are all at home in the remaining weeks, beginning with the Spartans on Friday.
Duran Rakestraw led the way for the Dragons on Tuesday, scoring a game-high 17 points while senior Jarvis Hunter added 12.
The game was the third of what head coach Bolling DuBose said was an important five-game stretch starting last week.
Saturday saw Jefferson, coming off an important win at Towns County on Friday, avoid any let-downs against Prince Avenue. The Dragons took care of the ball en route to a 66-42 win over the Wolverines at home. The prior night’s contest was as tough as the Dragons have seen in region play this year, as they survived against Towns County 86-77.
Leading up to the game against the Indians, DuBose stated that he wanted his squad to play well against a tough, physical team and that’s exactly what his team did.
“I thought our kids responded extremely well; it was a big win for us,” DuBose said. “It was just what we needed and it was usually what you get up there. I though Towns (County) played well too, it was a real physical game and I thought we needed that.”
Unlike most of their contests this season the Dragons had to battle adversity against the Indians. Hunter got into foul trouble early and picked up his third foul early in the second quarter. Though Hunter sat for the rest of the half, Jefferson still managed a two-point lead at the break. Towns County made a run in the third quarter though, jumping out to a 57-55 advantage heading into the fourth period.
From there on the Jefferson depth started to show.
While the Indians focused on sophomore Duran Rakestraw who had 21 points in the first three quarters, as well as Hunter, freshman Jarail Rakestraw took over.
On four consecutive possessions the guard netted nearly identically 3-pointers to enable Jefferson to surge ahead.
“That turned the game around,” DuBose explained. “It really changed the momentum.”
From then on out the Dragons hit their free throws to seal the win. They were 17-of-19 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.
Four players reached double-figures in scoring for Jefferson including Hunter’s 27 and Duran Rakestraw’s 21. Tierre Shields and Jarail Rakestraw finished with 16 apiece.
“We did what we wanted to do which was pressure them the whole game and it finally worked for us in the second half when they started to turn the ball over,” DuBose said. “And I thought in the fourth quarter we played extremely well.”
During that final period the Dragons outscored the Indians 31-20.

Raiders break 10-win mark,
...more accomplishments in store for 2004?
MCHS downs Winder, Oglethorpe, Hab. Central on the road
At least one barrier has now been shattered, the 10-win mark that has eluded the varsity Raiders on the hardwood since the 1996-97 season.
So, what’s next?
More victory celebrations, perhaps a postseason run for glory?
Of course, any reasonable person will caution others not to jump the gun. Don’t forget, there are six games left in the regular season, including showdowns with Clarke Central and a dominant Cedar Shoals team.
But, no doubt, the 2003-2004 Raiders have been sharp so far and optimism surrounding the squad is evident.
The Raiders pummeled the 10-win barrier over the past week, moving to 12-5 (3-2 in the sub-region), a .706 winning percentage, with two weekend wins, a 62-48 drubbing of Winder Friday, and a 54-46 victory over Oglethorpe County Saturday, followed by a 65-41 win over Habersham Central Tuesday night. (See next week’s Journal for details of that game.)
Raider head coach Steve Crouse said his team is showing a winning attitude.
“Our guys are playing really hard,” said Crouse. “I’m proud of every one of these guys. They have been going hard in practice and in games. There are different ones stepping up each night. Micah Sales had a big night (25 points) against Winder, then Josh Booker had 18 (against Oglethorpe). It’s nice to have different guys who can step up for you.”
The coach said good defense was key in the Friday and Saturday road wins.
“This was two nights in a row that we held our opponents under 50 points,” said Crouse, who added that both Winder and Oglethorpe are good teams.
The coach said he believes his team can be competitive with each squad left on its schedule.
“We have five sub-region games and I feel good about all of them,” said Crouse. “I think we can compete with all of the teams in the sub-region.”

Lady Panthers rout Clarke, remain tied for first place
It appears the Jackson County girls are beginning to peak at the right time of year, head coach Chad Pittman just hopes it’s not too soon.
Tuesday night the Lady Panthers manhandled rival Clarke Central 55-27 at The Pit, and in so doing captured their fifth consecutive victory. Jackson County, now ranked No. 13 in the latest Class AAAA coaches’ poll, has not lost since a Jan. 9 defeat at Habersham Central. The hot streak comes at an opportune time, as region play is slowly winding down and seedings for the Region 8-AAAA tournament are beginning to take shape.
“I felt like tonight the difference came with four minutes left before the half, and then the first three minutes of the second half,” Pittman said following the win.
During those first moments of the third quarter, Pittman’s team came out hard and made a quick 8-0 run to increase what was already a 28-14 lead at the half.
From there it was smooth sailing past a poor shooting Lady Glad squad that struggled to find any rhythm offensively.
Jackson County’s defensive pressure was a big reason Clarke Central struggled though.
For the game the Lady Glads’ highest scoring quarter was an eight-point second period.
“Our defense was solid and we did a good job on the glass,” Pittman said. “And that run to start the second half was huge.”
Nikki Sosebee led all scorers in the contest with 21 points. She was aided by Tynishia Berry and Tosha Ransom who poured in 12 apiece.
What had been a 16-14 game in the second was turned into a 12-point Lady Panther lead by the break. From there the second half was simply a matter of remaining focused and putting away an outmatched opponent, Pittman said.
Perhaps the only bad news Jackson County received on the night came in the form of the potential loss of low post player Cece Hill. Hill went down at the 7:04 mark of the first quarter with a knee injury and d
id not return. Her status for Friday, or for that matter the rest of the season, is questionable, Pittman said late Tuesday night.
The win was the second time in as games that Jackson County knocked off a rival foe from Athens. Friday night the Lady Panthers took care of Cedar Shoals 59-53 on the road. The pair of wins means that Jackson County is tied with Habersham Central for first place in the subregion, both teams are 4-1. However, the Lady Raiders do have the tie-break advantage.
“I thought mentally we were really focused for both games (against Clarke Central and Cedar Shoals),” Pittman said. “We did a good job of contesting shots on defense and we executed on offense.”
That said, Pittman stressed the importance of the next week to his team following Tuesday’s win. With a road meeting with a dangerous Winder-Barrow squad on Friday, followed by a game against arguably the most talented team in the region, No. 5 Newton, on Saturday the Lady Panthers certainly have their work cut out for them.
And if that weren’t enough, Tuesday’s showdown with Habersham Central at home could be for first place in the subregion.

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