Area Sports...

MARCH 3, 2004

Boys’ Track Team Sees A Jump In Numbers This Spring
A new track season will mean new faces for the Commerce track program.
Though the girls’ numbers have remained relatively the same from last season with five participants, the boys’ number is more than double what it was last spring with 20 members.
With most of that number on the boys’ side being freshmen and sophomores, head coach Terry Canup hopes the increase in participation can be a building block.
“It will allow us to enter more events and do things that we haven’t been able to do in the past. And if they stick with it, hopefully this can be the start of the growth of the program and it will pay off in the future.”
As for the experienced runners on the boys’ side, thrower Tommy Eason and distance runner Gary Saxon are the boys’ team’s leaders and state hopefuls.
Eason qualified for state last year in the shot put, finishing 11th in Class A after placing second in the area. He’ll throw the shot put and discus this season.
Gary Saxon finished third a year ago in the 1,600-meters and fourth in the 3,200 meters.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to qualify some more people for state,” Canup said. “We’ve got some fine distance run-ning schools in our region but if Gary works hard, he’ll have a chance to go. Tommy Eason, if he has a good senior year, should go. I’d be disappointed if he didn’t.”
Senior sprinter Johnathan Goodner is the squad’s other experienced runner abut after that, the rest of the team is rather green.
“Everyone else is kind of young — freshman and sophomores who haven’t run much,” Canup said.
Experience on the girls’ side will come from Stephanie Rainwater, who will be the team’s leader, running the mile and two-mile events. She has an outside shot at qualifying for state but as Canup pointed out, the competition the region in distance running for girls is stacked given the tradition of the 8-A private schools.
Other members of the girls’ team are Mary Beth Howington and Whitney Canup, who will throw the shot put and the discus, Denea Grant and Angelica Mathis who will be sprinters.
As for preseason practice, Canup said the teams have practiced almost everyday whether it be outdoors or indoors during inclement weather days and has shown a willingness to work.
“The kids are working hard,” Canup said. “They’re fun to coach. They have a good attitude. I couldn’t ask them to do anymore. That will payoff.”
The teams will have eight regular season meets this season, including larger ones like the Cedar Shoals Invitational (Mar. 30) and the Northeast Georgia Showcase (Apr. 2) at Franklin County.
The girls’ region meet is Apr. 24 and 26 at Jefferson. The boys’ region meet is May 1 and 3 at Jefferson.

Diamond Leopards open with a win
The Banks County Diamond Leopards won their first game of the season Monday night against Commerce, 6-2.
The team will take on Commerce again Wednesday, March 3, at Commerce this time. Then they will travel to Flowery Branch High School on Saturday to participate in a tournament. They play Chestatee at 12:30 p.m. and Flowery Branch at 3 p.m. Also part of the tournament, which stretches into next week, Banks will battle West Hall on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. and take on Johnson Thursday at 7 p.m.
The Diamond Leopards opened the 2004 season with a win at home Monday against rival Commerce.
Commerce opened the first inning with two runs, which were the result of a home run hit by Casha Daniels. Banks went out in the first, 1-2-3, with successful Commerce plays at the bag. Then Commerce was shut out of the second with two strike-outs and a foul out to the first baseman.
The second for Banks didn’t hold any runs, but Haynes and Bradley Angel stole a couple of bases. The Leopards earned three in the third. Alex Cruce hit one deep in right field and sent Tyson Baxter home. A perfect bunt by Justin Crocker followed with a hit by Ramon Vasquez, sent Crocker and Cruce home, bringing Banks to the lead, 3-2.
The Leopards brought the total to six in the bottom of the sixth. Vasquez started the inning with a home run. Scroggs was walked and then J.T. Elrod hit a double. Baxter was walked and the bases were loaded. A hit by Jacob Williams sent two in before Baxter was thrown out at third.

Just out of reach
Jefferson state tourney run ends at Elite Eight
Rome — For two-and-a-half games the Cinderella slipper fit nicely on the foot of the Jefferson girls’ basketball team, but this past Monday their run through the Class A state tournament eventually came to an end.
In a tale of two halves, the Lady Dragons (19-12) forced plenty of turnovers early which led to points and were up three at the half, but Twiggs County (20-11) came out in the remaining two periods and rallied for a 59-51 win.
The victory sent the Lady Cobras into the state semifinals where they will meet No. 5 Savannah Country Day today at 4 p.m. in Macon. For Jefferson, it ended a successful season that not many in the state thought the Lady Dragons would have this year.
Despite the loss, Lady Dragon head coach Brandy Corbett could not have been more proud of her squad’s march through the postseason.
“I really think we had an excellent season,” the second-year coach said. “There are 65 girls basketball teams in Class A and we reduced ourselves down to the final eight.”
Ranked No. 11 in the final Class A regular season poll, Jefferson knocked off the state’s No. 3 team, Gordon Lee, two days prior in the state sectionals thanks to a solid final quarter.
Monday though, it was Twiggs County that played well down the stretch, as they secured their first trip to the Final Four thanks to a spirited second half comeback.
Mateasder Cooper led all scorers with 25 points and had 55 points in her two sectional games in Rome for the Lady Cobras. Angelica Basley added 12 and Kiera Barnes finished with 11 in the victory.
Senior Kenyotta Beasley led Jefferson with 12 points. Shenita Moon and Shalita Brooks tossed in 11 each in the loss, but the Lady Dragons could not contain the Twiggs County shooting in the second half. Aside from Cooper, a transfer from Winder-Barrow, and Basley, the Lady Cobras three other starters had combined for just four points in the first three periods of play. But the difference in the fourth period was that trio, which accounted for a combined 14 points.
Jefferson led by five early on and was up 25-22 at the half. The margin was increased to 30-24 early in the third, but then the Lady Cobras began to get hot.
Cooper’s seven points in the quarter led her squad back and her final field goal of the period gave Twiggs County its first lead of the game, 33-32 at the 2:20 mark. The margin was 35-34 entering the fourth.
A quick 7-2 Twiggs spurt provided some breathing room, as they went up 48-40 with 3:52 remaining. Jefferson responded with senior Taryn Gurley sinking three-straight free throws during an 8-2 Jefferson run to The Lady Dragons would get no closer than that the rest of the way, however, as Twiggs County’s role came alive.
“Our game plan going into the game was to run the brake as much as possible and try and wear them down because their coach did not make a sub,” Corbett said.
Moon got into foul trouble with more than five minutes to go in the third quarter though, and Jefferson’s strategy had to change. From there the game turned in Twiggs County’s favor, as a five-point lead turned into a one-point deficit for the Lady Dragons.
“She’s just what drives us, she’s the glue that binds us together and when she had to go out with her fourth foul, I just think that was a critical point in the game,” Corbett explained.

Jefferson 63, No. 3 Gordon Lee 57
The Lady Dragons — Class A state champions in 2001 and the Class A state runner-up in 2002 — returned to the stellar state tournament form last Saturday and held off a fourth-quarter rally by the Lady Trojans (23-7).
Gordon Lee led 41-36 with 1:01 to go in the third quarter, but the Lady Dragons scored 15 of the next 17 points to go up 51-43 with 5:53 to go in the game. Gordon Lee would rally and have two chances to tie the game, but the Lady Dragons held on for the victory.
Shenita Moon finished with a career high 31 points, 19 of which came in the second half. She was also 11-of-12 from the free throw line, part of a 20 for 23 night from the charity stripe for Jefferson.
“They didn’t have anyone that could defend (Moon) and they played man on us all night — I was shocked,” Corbett said.
Ashlan Clarkson’s 23 points paced Gordon Lee, but the Lady Dragon defensive effort confused the Lady Trojans.
“Jefferson changed to a gimmick defense and we got timid,” said Gordon Lee coach Lester Gaylon. “We weren’t sure whether to shoot the ball or pass. While we were timid, they were knocking down outside shots and that let them get back into the game. Jefferson hit their shots in the fourth quarter and answered us whenever we’d come up with a rally.”

04 Diamond Panthers short on experience
Jackson County will once again have a young team on the diamond this spring. After a 3-20 season last year that saw a youth-laden squad field just one senior, this season ‘s team will only have two. A new crop of five juniors that are without varsity experience, as well as five sophomores means the Panthers will be especially young once again in 2004.
Tuesday that apparent youth was evident as the squad opened the season on the road against a solid Buford squad and fell 16-1 in three innings.
Sophomore Bryan Williams started for Jackson County and got the loss. Mitchell Vandiver went 1-for-1 and was the lone Panther with a hit.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do before we play again March 12,” first-year Jackson County head coach Scott Roberts said following the loss. “The challenge right now for this program is to get these kids to believe and get better at the basics.”
Seniors Matt Myers and Ricky Price will be called on to lead this season, according to Roberts. Myers will see time at shortstop and pitcher, while Price will likely play right field and pitch some.
Roberts estimated that some six players will take to the mound to pitch this season. Other returners expected to play significant roles for Jackson County this season include sophomore catcher Robert McVay, who started last season, as well as junior Jeremy Browning (right field, first base) and Williams (pitcher, first base).
With 10 days until their next game Roberts said that he hopes the Panthers can take the following days to work on fundamentals and begin to come together as a unit. So far limited practice time has hampered their efforts and the relative inexperience overall of the squad showed up Tuesday, according to Roberts.
“We’ve got a good idea of what we need to work on, but (this) was a good measuring stick for us,” Roberts said. “We’ve really only had about two weeks of practice time and the weather really hasn’t been that cooperative.”

MCHS golfers prep for Apple Mountain Invitational after snow wipes out Thursday match
It might feel like spring, but winter weather has already wiped out a Madison County golf match.
The team was slated to play defending Class A champion Athens Academy this past Thursday before snow blanketed Northeast Georgia.
Since the Raider golfers’ next match won’t be until this Saturday at Habersham Central’s invitational tournament at Apple Mountain, the team will be looking for a productive week of practice as it only has one match so far under its belt this season.
“We should (have a good week of practice) as long as it doesn’t rain,” Madison County head coach Chris Smith said.
Smith reported that the team looked pretty good yesterday in practice with two rounds in the 30’s and all other rounds in the 40’s.
The Raiders’ will use the practice time to prepare for a host of solid golf teams at the Apple Mountain Invitational.
Among the 20-squad field will be, of course, host and region favorite this year Habersham Central, South Forsyth, South Georgia power Eagle’s Landing, Gainesville, Cartersville, Heritage, St. Pious and Greater Atlanta Christian.
While the name of the course sounds like it would have imposing terrain, Smith doesn’t think the Apple Mountain layout will give his team as much trouble as some he’s seen.
“It’s not really steep. It’s not as bad as Cateechee,” he said.
The course didn’t give Seth McCain trouble last year as he shot a 71 tying Habersham Central’s current number one man, Michael Gordy, for second place. Both finished one-stroke behind Habersham’s Major Manning, last year’s state champion, who’s now graduated.
Both McCain and Gordy should be among the favorites for low medalist honors this year.
After the Apple Mountain Invitational, the team will head to Hard Labor Creek — a state park course — to take on a solid Class AA squad in Morgan County Monday.

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