Banks County's Sawyer Pace dribbles the ball during the Leopards' 71-51 win over Oglethorpe County Saturday (Jan. 25). Pace scored a team-high 22 points including five 3-pointers. 

With the No. 1 seed in Region 8-AA still within reach, the Banks County boys' basketball team rebounded nicely from upset losses to Putnam and Rabun counties with three-straight region wins last week. 

The Leopards defeated Oglethorpe County, 71-51 (Jan. 25); Elbert County, 54-51 (Jan. 24); and Monticello, 50-42 (Jan. 21). 

"Proud of how everybody played (Saturday)," head coach Mike Cleveland said. "Thought we played hard (Saturday)." 

In the Leopards' win over Oglethorpe County, the team gathered 56 rebounds (24 offense, 32 defense). 

Scoring baskets was also on full display. Sawyer Pace dropped a team-high 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He made five 3-pointers. 

Carl Cleveland had 18 points and 23 rebounds. Cleveland shot 50 percent from the field. Dakota Orr added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Pierce Martin had nine points (all 3-pointers) and 10 rebounds. 

"I thought we did a good job of moving the ball around (Carl) and then finding spots," the coach said. "Was really pleased with the ball movement tonight.

"I thought we did a good job and took open shots. If (Oglethorpe) is willing to give open shots, Sawyer got hot right there and they kept giving them to him. I was sure they were going to take them away, but he got one late, right there, wide open. Good job by Sawyer."

Cleveland said his team had to adjust to how teams are approaching his team as the season has gone along. 

"There are going to be some nights where we're going to have to grind it out ... the guys bought in to that," he said. "I thought it was a good win at Elbert (Friday). Elbert is super athletic, and they can beat people. 

"It felt good to get home (Saturday), shoot the ball well, play more of our old style, I guess you could say. I thought we did a good job of moving it today." 

The Leopards led from the opening tip vs. Oglethorpe County and never looked back. After the first quarter, the team led 19-10, and it could've been more, but Orr's near-full-court heave went through the hoop but was deemed he released the shot after the buzzer. 

Pace started the second on fire, making three-straight 3-pointers and helped build the lead to 28-11. The Leopards led 36-19 at intermission. 

In the third quarter, Cleveland scored six points and helped the team build a 20-point lead entering the fourth quarter, 53-33. 

The fourth quarter had a slow start as the Patriots cut the lead to 11 points, 55-44, but a 3-pointer from Martin at the 4:04 mark helped springboard the Leopards to offensive production to close the game out. Five Leopards made baskets in the final frame. 

At Elbert County, Cleveland recorded 22 points, 12 rebounds. The Leopards grabbed 46 rebounds in the win. Pierce Martin added 10 points and nine rebounds. 

Banks County led 16-14 after the first quarter. Then, the Leopards took over in the second quarter, building a 30-18 lead by halftime. 

The third quarter, though, belonged to Elbert County. The game was tied 41-41 entering the fourth quarter. Banks County held on in the final frame to win by three points. 

At Monticello, Cleveland had 22 points and 12 boards. Garrett Presley had nine points. 

The game was tied 23-23 at halftime. The Leopards took control, however, in the third quarter and led 33-28 going into the fourth quarter. 

The Leopards dropped 17 points in the fourth quarter and won the game by eight points. 


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