It’s state basketball tournament time, and we’re giving you a quick snapshot look at all 23 Southern Crescent teams that will be starting postseason play this week. The Jonesboro Cardinals boys and girls squads, McIntosh Chiefs and Forest Park Lady Panthers probably give the four-county area the best opportunity at a state championship. But as you’ll read, there are several other teams that boast enough talent to where if the right players get hot at the right time, we could be telling Cinderella stories.
Check out our teams, divided into class. We’ll update day/time information that we don’t currently have for games as we get it. Please feel free to send updated information, scores, etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Tweet to us @crescent_buzz or text 678-334-6808.
Opponent: at Lowndes
Outlook: The Wildcats picked up some momentum after winning the Region 2-AAAAAA tournament with a 50-45 win over Newton. A win over Lowndes (10-14) is not out of the question. The rest of the bracket gets tougher, though.
Opponent: at No. 6 Brunswick, Wednesday 6:30 p.m.
Outlook: Stockbridge was a trendy pick by some to challenge McIntosh for the Region 4-AAAAA title. Despite Drew’s valiant effort against the No. 2 Chiefs, in retrospect, the Tigers’ talent probably would’ve matched up better with McIntosh. If the Tigers can play clean, turnover free basketball, and if Darius Alexander is on, watch out for a mild upset. The Tigers have the ability to give the Pirates a black eye.
Ranking: No. 2 in Class AAAAA
Opponent: vs. Camden County, Tuesday 6 p.m.
Outlook: I have never seen a guard in high school with the pinpoint shooting accuracy in the midst of a contested shot that Jordan Lyons has. His ability to take over a game alone should make McIntosh the odds-on favorite to win state.
MUNDY’S MILL TIGERS
Opponent: at Coffee, Wednesday 6 p.m.
Outlook: The Tigers get a tough draw with the Trojans (19-10) up in Douglas. But Jared Tate and Kaelon Harris are big, physical guard/forward combos who can draw matchup problems for most teams. The Tigers kept it close with McIntosh in the region semis. A Sweet 16 appearance is not out of the option.
Opponent: vs. Statesboro
Outlook: Don’t get it twisted. The 98-79 score against McIntosh isn’t indicative of how good the Titans played. Maleek Taylor and James Ruiz can score with anybody, and 6-foot-5 Bryson Duckworth gives the Titans an inside presence. In short, this team is solid, and if not for an otherworldly performance by McIntosh’s Jordan Lyons Saturday, who knows what could’ve happened.
HENRY COUNTY WARHAWKS
Opponent: at Liberty County
Outlook: The Warhawks are reeling a bit after losing three of its last five games by margins of 17, 27 and 14 points. Granted, those losses came against the upper echelon of Region 4-AAAA. Sharp shooter Peyton Brown has caught fire recently for the Warhawks behind the arc. He’ll need to be on in a major way to give the Hawks a chance against the Region 3-AAAA champs
SANDY CREEK PATRIOTS
Opponent: at St. Pius X, Wednesday 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: Any time you have a game changer-type player who can get hot and take over at a moment’s notice, a la McIntosh’s Jordan Lyons, you can become a dangerous team in a hurry. Such is the case with Sandy Creek which is arguably Fayette County’s second most talented team next to the Chiefs. And junior guard Christian Turner is the one who, when on, can transform the Patriots from simply an above average squad into one that no one with state championship aspirations wants to meet.
Ranking: No. 1
Opponent: vs. Thomson, Wednesday 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: You would think that most of Jonesboro’s opponents in Region 4-AAAA were really, really bad when you see the Cardinals’ margin of victory all season. Then you realize that there are two other 20-plus win teams in the region, plus a solid Henry County squad that won 11 region games, and you realize that, yeah, Jonesboro’s just that good. Shouldn’t get much pushback from Thomson Tuesday, but coach Dan Maehlman’s team has been bitten pretty extensively by the injury bug. Tracy Hector is nursing a couple of injures and freshman phenom Jamari Smith is out for the season. Something to watch as the tournament progresses.
MOUNT ZION BULLDOGS
Opponent: vs. New Hampstead
Outlook: If it weren’t for the juggernaut that is Jonesboro, the other Jonesboro school would’ve probably risen up to take the No. 1 seed out of Region 4-AAAA. Senior guard Ari Zorns and his 18.1 points and 5.6 assists per game makes this team go.
FAYETTE COUNTY TIGERS
Opponent: at No. 4 Lithonia, Wednesday 6:30 p.m.
Outlook: The senior trio of Kenny Lewis, Isaac Kellom and Jamon Bivens accounts for almost two-thirds of the Tigers’ offensive production. They get a tough draw in the first round, going to fourth-ranked Lithonia. Most likely a one-and-done, but don’t be surprised if the Tigers make it tight early. Coach Andre Flynn’s bunch hasn’t been blown out often this season.
Opponent: vs. Burke County Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: First-year coach Andy Harre has done wonders to turn around this team in just a season’s time. He has a young, athletic squad with a talented backcourt that will give Burke County fits. Don’t be surprised to see Griffin win in Waynesboro and steal another in the next round.
NORTH CLAYTON EAGLES
Opponent: at No. 1 Laney
Outlook: The Eagles boast one of Class AAA’s highest scorers in Reginald Scurry (18 points per game), and are riding the crest of momentum that comes with a solid region tournament showing. North Clayton’s two losses were by a combined 10 points against region runner-up Cedar Grove and Blessed Trinity. Top-ranked Laney will be tough to oust, especially at home.
Opponent: at Tift County, Wednesday 6 p.m.
Outlook: In girls basketball, when you have a dominant post player, your team can be hard to stop. Such is the case with Lovejoy and its 6-foot-2 junior Devona Stell. Stell’s good for a double-double per game, and in addition to her 14 boards per contest, she’s swatting 3.1 shots each time out. Stell needs players like fellow senior Mariah Gray and sophomore Amber Thornton to help out in the scoring department in order to give the Lady Wildcats a chance.
Opponent: at No.1 Brunswick, Wednesday 5 p.m.
Outlook: While the McIntosh girls will no doubt be rooting on its undefeated boys team throughout the tournament, the Lady Chiefs will have to get past its own undefeated foe in 27-0 and top-ranked Brunswick if it wants to advance to the next round. Senior Cassidy Williams can get hot and score on anyone in the state. But she can’t do it alone. McIntosh will have to overcome a stifling Brunswick defense to have a shot at advancement.
Ranking: No. 8
Opponent: vs. Coffee County, Tuesday 6 p.m.
Outlook: After overcoming devastating injuries to key scorers to win a third straight region championship, the Lady Panthers are hoping that several emerging players will continue to play big in the absence Christal Williams, the team’s leading scorer (17 points per game) before going down with a torn ACL. Stephenson transfer Kerry Watson, junior Tamecia Blue and senior post players Breasia McElrath and Kanisha Tharpe are a handful who have stepped up in the second half of the season. Also junior Alexis High has been lethal from behind the arc in the last 10 games. Forest Park is one of Class AAAAA’s best defensive teams.
Opponent: at No. 3 Effingham County
Outlook: On paper the Lady Bulldogs seem to be just as talented as many of the teams in their initial state tournament bracket. Some had Dutchtown as a trendy pick to challenge Forest Park for Region 4-AAAAA supremacy. That didn’t happen, but Dutchtown seems to be peaking at the right time, winning four of its last five. Janessa Murphy is one of the Southern Crescent’s best all-around guards. Cierra Lowe is a tough, heady court general from the point guard position and there is size with Tierra Scott and Kamera Harris down low. A win at Effingham County would not be considered a huge update.
Ranking: No. 10
Opponent: vs. South Effingham, Tuesday 5 p.m.
Outlook: The Lady Wolfpack lost a chance to dethrone 3-time Region 4-AAAAA champ Forest Park, but they didn’t lose their confidence. Coach Ashley Maddox said he’s confident his team is ready to try and match its 2013-14 Final Four appearance. Everybody knows about sophomore Vanessa Blagmon (14.5 points per game) and junior Zaundra Stevens (13.3 points per game). But the play of a couple of wildcards in Kayla Mitchell and Joslyn Jones will likely determine how far the Pack progresses. South Effingham (24-5) will provide a stiff challenge.
Opponent: vs. Arabia Mountain, Tuesday 6 p.m.
Outlook: All region performers Kayla Smith (first team), Whitney Williams (second team) and Christa Jones (honorable mention) will be a tough matchup for an Arabia Mountain squad making its first ever state tournament appearance. The Tigers’ home crowd will give them life, and Fayette could be setting up for a two or three game run at least in the tournament. The Lady Tigers had won five straight before running up against Carrollton in the region tournament.
Opponent: at Burke County
Outlook: The Lady Hawks had won 14 of its last 16 games before crossing over to other side of Region 4-AAAA against the likes of No. 9 Griffin and Mount Zion in the Region 4-AAAA tournament. Henry County has enjoyed good balance throughout its first 20-win season since the 2009-10 campaign. They get a tough bracket draw though, starting with the Lady Bears of Burke County.
Ranking: No. 1 in Class AAAA
Opponent: vs. New Hampstead, Wednesday 6 p.m.
Outlook: Quick, name the times when a No. 1 girls basketball team’s performance goes under the radar. Give up? Okay, here’s the answer: It’s when your school’s No. 1 boys basketball team becomes a national power. The Jonesboro boys may get most of the headlines, but the Lady Cardinals have been just as dominant. The Cardinals experienced some heartbreak last season by coming up short of the postseason. It seems like that placed a chip firmly on the team’s collective shoulders. Sadiaa Mumford and Michaelle Smith are both giving the Lady Cardinals 15 points per game. Except Smith has added 15.5 boards per contest to her scoring. Jonesboro will likely have to beat out No. 2 Buford in the quarterfinals to get to the state title game.
Opponent: at Wayne County
Outlook: Junior Tiesha Juhan’s 23 point-per-game scoring tendencies will be on display, and Juhan’s teammate Fredeja Ransom give the Lady Bulldogs a formidable one-two punch combination. Mount Zion drew a tough road challenge in the first round, and would face the winner of Redan-Carrollton in the next if they get past Wayne County.
Opponent: at No.8 Marist, Tuesday 6 p.m.
Outlook: The Lady Wildcats may not have one of the best teams in Class AAAA, but they do have one of the best players in Region 5-AAAA Player of the Year Jada Coggins. If Whitewater will have any chance against the eighth-ranked War Eagles.
Ranking: No. 9
Opponent: vs. Thomson, Tuesday 6 p.m.
Outlook: Watch Griffin sophomore Deja Puckett play, and three things will immediately come to your mind in this order: 1.) Wow, she’s tall. 2.) Wow, she’s good. 3.) Wow, she’s just a sophomore? The future is bright for Griffin girls basketball, including the near future with the Lady Bears’ first round opponent. It is doubtful that Thomson will have any answer for Puckett. But even if they find one, it may only just open up a door for senior two-guard Shacoria Jones to flex her scoring muscles. Depending on how the brackets fall, Griffin could find themselves in an Elite Eight situation, easily.