By James Butler
When one team in the Southern Crescent is a two-time defending state champion and has one of the top players in the country in its fold, it is not hard to assume that team would start off any ranking of the area’s boys basketball teams on top. While this is true, that team (Jonesboro) has some competition for the top spot as the Southern Crescent looks to produce multiple teams this year who are capable of winning a state title. Just how does the rest of the playoff hopefuls in the area look heading into the second half of the season? Here is how the Top 10 looks to this point of the season in this the first Southern Crescent Boys Basketball Top 10 of 2016.
The two-time defending Class AAAA State Champions have played more of a national schedule this year. On the season Jonesboro has only three losses and had a chance to win each of them down the stretch with the exception of its 124-93 loss to the No. 1 team in California and the country, Chino Hills. Cardinal star guard James “MJ” Walker (pictured) has upped his scoring average to nearly 24 points per game and Jonesboro has gotten increased production from Eric Lovett, Jamari Smith, and Tariq Jenkins.
While the Chiefs did not win a state title last year, they finished the season with just one loss. They already have two losses, to Douglas County and McEachern, this year, but the 2015-16 McIntosh team looks to be the best team in the school’s history. Point guard Will Washington is playing the best basketball of his life and his backcourt mate Jordan Lyons is as capable as ever of scoring the ball. Add to them the interior presence of Dishon Lowery and Chase Walter, and now add swingman Isaac Kellum, who just became eligible, and McIntosh is a solid No. 2.
3. Eagle’s Landing
Eagle’s Landing only loss thus far this season was a 75-61 home defeat at the hands of Jonesboro. It is definitely no shame in that as last season Jonesboro beat Eagle’s Landing by nearly 30 points. Senior guard Jordan Lewis has been a catalyst for the Eagles.
4. Sandy Creek
Midway through the season the Patriots seem to be settling in under new head coach Anthony McKissic. Forward Evan Jester and guard AJ Freeman have complemented the Patriots prolific tandem of Elias Harden and Christian Turner. Losses to McIntosh and a couple of national teams have shown Sandy Creek the level it needs to play at to make a run at a state title.
Drew is another team with just one loss as the Titans fell by 22 points to McIntosh in early December. Drew has several close wins and has shown the ability and toughness to pull out such games. Helping the Titans is the scoring that guard James Ruiz has provided as he’s been one of the state’s most unstoppable players this season.
6. Fayette County
Fayette County has once again reloaded as forward Noah Gurley, guard Jaylon Cheffin, and guard Phillip Young are playing well. Despite a narrow region-opening loss to Carrollton on Tuesday, an earlier win over Henry County and a decent showing against Eagle’s Landing has the Tigers right outside the top five.
The Wildcats have been one of the pleasant surprises this season. Whitewater also sports a win over Henry County and are continuing to grow under head coach Fred West’s system. There is a real chance for them to make noise in Region 5-AAAA.
8. North Clayton
While they may not have the prettiest won-loss record of the teams in the Top 10, the Eagles have played some quality teams. Recent losses to Tucker, Lithonia, and Region 4-AAA mate South Atlanta should not have them discouraged. Junior 6-foot-8 forward Ahsan Asadullah has come into his own and is leading the Eagles in scoring.
Stockbridge boasts wins over Dutchtown, Mundy’s Mill and Henry County. The Tigers also have a 64-61 loss to Drew and another competitive loss at Woodland. They look to be a factor down the stretch in Region 4-AAAAA
10. Mundy’s Mill
Of the teams vying for the last spot, Mundy’s Mill seems to be the most deserving. Mundy’s Mill has played some good teams like McIntosh, Lagrange, Upson-Lee and Stockbridge relatively close. Mundy’s Mill also dropped a game to Morrow due to forfeit and has beaten the teams they were expected to beat.