Area Sports...

JANUARY 28, 2004

Commerce Wrestling Team Hopes To Take Healthy Squad To Area Duals
The Commerce wrestlers have been looking to hit a stride as the regular season winds down but the group hasn’t had luck on its side lately.
As many as seven wrestlers were out during the past week for various reasons which has obviously made it hard for the team to wrestle to its full potential.
“If we can get everybody healthy and quit being sick and hurt, then we might be half way decent,” Commerce wrestling coach Joe Hames said.
The banged-up team embarks on the area duals this Saturday at Social Circle at 9 a.m.
The top four teams from the duals will move on to the state duals, which is something that should be attainable for Commerce since just six of 13 area teams will be showing up at the event
Then again, that all depends on who on the team can make the trip for the Tigers.
“If we can get everybody healthy, then we’ve got a shot of going to state,” Hames said.
Commerce is coming off a 2-3 finish at the Dacula Duals where it beat Meadow Creek and another team at the event made up of “extras” since not enough full squads showed up at the meet. The team lost to Dacula, Redan and Eagles’ Landing. The team is now 5-6 on the year in duals action.
Hunter Glenn went 5-0 with two pins and three forfeits as did brother Taylor who had three wins and two forfeits. David Bray was 4-1 with two wins and two forfeits. Ben Wilson was 3-0 with two wins and one forfeit.
The team was missing a handful of wrestlers Saturday but Hames felt that those absences didn’t have a huge impact.
“In reality we did about as good as we could have done,”

Varsity girls beat Dawson Co.
Makes four wins in a row for Lady Leopards
The Banks County Lady Leopards defeated the Dawson County Lady Tigers at home Friday, 71-67.
The win against Dawson makes four wins in a row for the ladies, ranking them at the top of the sub-region. They have defeated Rabun, Union, Lumpkin and now Dawson counties over the past three weeks.
“Things have been picking up for us,” said Banks County Coach Jodie Watkins. “Confidence is up and the girls’ have realized they can win.”
The Lady Leopards will host the final home game of the regular season this Friday against Union County.
This Friday is also senior night at Banks County High School where all participating seniors will be recognized.
After hosting Union County, the Lady Leopards will travel to Dahlonega to take on Lumpkin County on Tuesday, Feb. 3, and to Winder to battle Appalachee Friday, Feb. 6, for their season ender.
The girls battled a tough Dawson County team Friday, although the scoreboard showed otherwise, with Banks outscoring Dawson by 20 or more points for most of the game.
The Lady Leopards started off with the first two points of the game and held Dawson to six in the first quarter while they earned 23. Nicole Powell forced several turnovers early in the game giving her team the advantage.
Banks County almost double their score in the second quarter bringing their lead to 45 over 16.
After halftime, Dawson County began to work on the gap and Banks County began to let their 20 point advantage dwindle away.
The team was without the ball handling skills of Nicole Powell, an injury to her left ankle put her on the bench early in the second half.
The fourth quarter changed the pace of the game and kept the packed Banks County gymnasium in their seats.
Dawson County came out and tied the score at 64 with a little over a minute left to play. Chastico Beasley answered with two points from the charity stripe, then Dawson answered with two more. Kayla Duncan put the ball up for two and Heather Beck added another one. Fouls left and right held the clock at 2.6 seconds when the game came down free throws and the Banks County Lady Leopards won out, 71-67.
Duncan led the team in scoring with 31 points. She is now only 32 points away from a career 1,000 points.
Kayla Parks put up 20 points for the team.
Beasley added six. Beck put up five. Mandy Slaton added four and Powell earned three.

Lady Dragons needing strong close to regular season
Brandy Corbett doesn’t mince words when talking about this time of year.
Her team is currently third in the sub-region and has three games left to make an upward move.
“This is by far the most critical stretch of the season for us,” the Lady Dragons head coach said. “You hope at this point that things are starting to come together.”
Simply put, the Lady Dragons have two huge sub-region games left against Lakeview (Tuesday) and Towns County (Feb.6) — both teams that are ahead of Jefferson in the 8-A North standings — and then a backyard brawl against 8-A South Commerce set for Saturday.
If Jefferson sweeps its last three games, they’ll secure a two-seed in the 8-A region tournament.
But if the team were to end up tied with second-place Lakeview and didn’t own the head-to-head advantage over the Lady Lions, it would need as many cross-over wins as possible.
That’s what makes Saturday’s Commerce game so large — if the natural rivalry weren’t already enough.
(For the rest of this story see this weeks Jackson Herald.)

On to the Duals
8-AAAA Area duals ahead for Jackson County grapplers
The Jackson County Panther wrestling team is headed to area duals Saturday, which will be hosted by Clarke Central.
“I expect several of our wrestlers to do fairly well this weekend,” said Jackson County Coach Roger Powers. “I don’t expect us to place very high as a team, but I think we have four or five wrestlers that will make it to state this year.”
The Mat Panthers head into the duals with a season record of 13-8, including Tuesday’s losses to Eastside and Cedar Shoals. After Saturday they have one more area dual match at Johnson before state tournaments begin.
The team hosted Eastside and Cedar Shoals Tuesday night.
Jackson County vs. Eastside
and Cedar Shoals
Jackson fell to both. Eastside defeated the grapplers, 60-19, and Cedar Shoals earned 12 more than Jackson, 42-30.
“We can’t seem to shake injuries and sickness this year,” said Powers. “We gave up four or five weight classes last night due to injuries, sickness and circumstance. We
Thurmond said the state duals will feature who he considers to be the best Class A team in the state — Bremen, ranked second behind Jefferson in this week’s poll.
“They should probably be ranked number one in the state,” he said. “They’ve got nine seniors. So they’re pretty good.”
The Dragons go into the postseason with plenty of momentum, fresh off a domination of a 32-team field in the Indian Classic hosted by Vidalia High School this past weekend.
Jefferson racked up 284 points to out-distance second-place North Gwinnett by 102 points.
“It went great for us,” Thurmond said. “It was a 32-team tournament and they did really well. I was really proud of them.”
Morgan County, ranked second in AA , finished third with 180 points, and West Laurens, ranked third in AAA, placed fourth with 178 points.
Individually, Jefferson boasted a first place finish, six runners-up, three third-place finishers, a fourth-place finisher and a fifth-place wrestler.
Forrest Garner took the top spot in the 160-lb. class while Britt Cantrell (135), J.J. Brueshaber (145), Daniel Love (171), Jake Gurley (189), Marc Baskett (215) and Seth Love (275) all placed second in their respective weight classes.
Finishing third were Caleb Beckwith (103), Kyle Baird (112) and Enrique Zavaleta (119)
Jason Fields (152) finished forth while Jose Zavaleta (125) placed fifth.

‘Building for region’
MCHS makes statement in huge win over Heritage Saturday
It began with a solid start with two tournament titles before the New Year. Then came the 10-win plateau.
But now, as the season matures and hits its later stages, the Madison County boys’ basketball team (13-7, 3-4) looks poised to evolve from a group that’s already proved it’s a good team — after years of struggles — to one that could be one of the region’s top dogs come tournament time.
“We’re building for region,” Raider head coach Steve Crouse said Monday. “... But we want to go beyond that.”
That, of course, would mean qualifying for the state tournament for the first time in seven years.
And they presented some pretty compelling evidence this past week in being a team that could do just that.
In the program’s biggest wins on the hard floor in years, the Raiders knocked off 8-AAAA South sub-region leading Heritage, 52-50, in Danielsville.
And then, if there’s such a thing as an impressive 14-point loss, it came Tuesday night in the Raiders’ 83-69 setback to fourth-ranked Cedar Shoals where — led by Tobias Gantt’s 31 points — they were ahead after a quarter and trailed the Jaguars by just nine mid-way through the fourth quarter (see next week’s paper for details).
Even with the loss, Madison County has won 10 of its last 14 games since a 74-45 loss to Loganville back on Dec. 9 and continues to pick up momentum as it heads toward the region tournament.
And it’s gained another thing that’s a vital ingredient in the postseason — confidence.
“I think the guys started realizing that they were a good team and capable of playing anyone,” Crouse said.
His team’s huge Saturday win over Heritage was a testament to that as it fell down by seven points in the third quarter but never lost its composure as it pulled ahead late in the fourth quarter. The Raiders didn’t lose their cool down the stretch either when the Patriots tied the game at 50 with just 19 seconds left.
Madison County pulled out the win as time ticked down when Russ Drake tipped in a Josh Booker miss with six seconds left to put the Raiders up by a bucket.
“Russ is around the basket a lot,” Crouse said. “He battles and he gets rebounds.”
Madison County could have then fouled and put Heritage at the free throw line — denying the Patriots a chance to win the game with a three-pointer and assuring the Raiders no worse than overtime — but Crouse put his trust in his defense.
The strategy worked.
The Patriots misfired on their final shot and the Raiders had themselves another close victory.
“I had confidence in our guys. I knew if they (Heritage) were going to get a three off, it wouldn’t be their best look,” Crouse said.
With Saturday’s win, Madison County has now won eight of 10 contests this year decided by 10 points or less.
“If the game is going to be close, I have a lot of confidence that our guys are going to pull it out,” Crouse said.
Part of what helped lift the Raiders to their 13th win of the year was its poise from the free throw line, especially late. In fact, Madison County hit 11-of-12 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter in the victory. Booker was 6-for-6 on the night at the line.
“That’s just mental toughness on the guys’ part,” Crouse said.
The Raiders were also able to control the tempo of the contest.
In a quarter where the score more resembled an inning of baseball, Madison County led 4-3 after the first period.
“Most people see that and think it’s a boring game,” Crouse said, “but I see that and I say, hey, I like that score.”
He felt the same at the half when his team trailed only 19-14.
“I told the guys, hey, this is still your game,” he said.
In all, it was another solid defensive effort for Crouse’s team in holding an opponent 50 points or less for the 12th time this season.
The team has only lost one time this year when it holds an opponent to that total or under it.
“When our guys play great defense, they’re competitive with anyone they play,” Crouse said.
While is team is playing good basketball now, Crouse warns that the season is still at a critical point.
Madison County sits in third place in the 8-AAAA North sub-region and needs to win its last three games (Winder-Barrow, Jackson County and Habersham Central) to finish that way. Of course, if it does that and Clarke Central slips up, the Raiders might have an opportunity for the second spot.
But Crouse isn’t worried about anyone else right now.
“We’re in third place right now. We’ve got to take care of business to maintain that.”
On a broader scale, with the team six games over the .500 mark and holding its own against the region powers, Crouse said the program is where he hoped it would be when he and assistant coach Tim Drake sat down four years ago and started this rebuilding process.
“This is where we wanted to be,” he said.

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