Posted: 9:55 am Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
10 best games this weekend: Wheeler’s boys play Alabama 5A champion at Norcross’ Hilton Invitational
By Todd Holcomb
Here is a look at the five best boys games and five best girls games this weekend in Class AAAAAA basketball.
The biggest event going on is the Hilton Invitational at Norcross. Check out the schedule at the bottom of this blog.
Best game overall is probably Wheeler’s meeting at the Hilton with Wenonah, a school out of Birmingham that won Alabama’s Class 5A championship in 2013. Wenonah’s best player is a point guard who plays his AAU ball with the Georgia Stars.
Read on …
Berkmar (15-4, 9-1) at Shiloh (11-6, 8-3) – Shiloh isn’t the same this season without Nate Mason and Trayvon Reed, all-state candidates who transferred out of state, but the Generals did beat first-place Berkmar of Region 8 by a count of 53-50 on Dec. 10. Josh Okogie, a 6-3 sophomore who is averaging 19 points per game, hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds to win that one. Berkmar is 8-0 since Christmas. Kiair Crouch, a 6-foot point guard who transferred from Columbia, is averaging 13.2 points and 4.8 assists. Tim Rowe, a 6-11 senior, is averaging 12.8 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Westlake (19-1, 4-0) at Douglas County (14-3, 3-2) – This might be the last real shot for anyone to knock off second-ranked Westlake before the region tournament or beyond. Westlake beat Douglas County, ranked 10th, 74-73 on Jan. 8. Westlake guard Raymond Saunders scored 24 points and made four 3-pointers in that victory. Dominic Joseph had 10 rebounds. Douglas County is balanced team. Its leading scorer, 6-4 senior power forward Justin Bridges, averages on 11.5 points per game and 4.2 rebounds. K’-Ja Johnson scored 20 points against Westlake but hasn’t played since.
Hillgrove (16-4, 10-2) at McEachern (16-3, 8-2) – Hillgrove, ranked seventh, is now the team to beat in Region 4, especially if the Hawks win this one. They beat McEachern 51-47 on Dec. 10. Hillgrove senior Kyle Castlin, a 6-3 forward who will play at Columbia, averages 21.9 points and 8.2 rebounds, but B.J. Brown scored 25 of his 27 points in the second half Tuesday in an impressive 64-45 victory over Marietta. Meanwhile, McEachern was upset by surging Pebblebrook 64-61 on Tuesday. The Indians need this one to have a shot at the No. 1 seed for the region tournament.
Brunswick (14-5, 4-2) at Tift County (17-2, 6-0) – A victory over Brunswick would give second-ranked Tift County a two-game sweep of both of its top rivals, Coffee being the other, and essentially lock up the No. 1 seed in the Region 1-AAAAAA tournament. With that goes an automatic berth into the state tournament. Tift has won nine straight games. State player of the year candidate Tadric Jackson is averaging 18.8 points for Tift.
Wheeler (15-4) vs. Wenonah, Ala. (20-5) - Wenonah is Alabama’s reigning Class 5A champion. This is the 5:30 p.m. game of the Hilton Invitational at Norcross. Note that Hillgrove plays Sparkman (No. 20 overall in Alabama) at 2:30 p.m., and Norcross plays Christ School (No. 60 in North Carolina) at 7 p.m. But this is the top game involving Georgia Class AAAAAA schools. Wenona is led by Alabama-signed point guard Justin Coleman, who averages 27.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He had a 53-point game this season. Coleman has played for the Georgia Stars AAU team, which also has had Tift County’s Tadric Jackson, GAC’s Isaiah Wilkins, Norcross’s Lorenzo Carter and Whitewater’s Phil Cofer at various times last year.
Brunswick (17-2, 6-1) at Colquitt County (14-3, 5-2) – These are the top two teams in Region 1.
Brunswick point guard Destiny Alston averages 19.3 points and a hard-to-believe 7.2 steals per game. She recently scored the 1,500th point of her career. Brunswick beat Colquitt 79-70 on Jan. 4 – when Colquitt County’s Makeba Ponder scored 45 points. That included seven 3-pointers. She also had eight rebounds and four steals. Ponder has committed to Georgia State.
Westlake (15-4, 3-1) at Douglas County (15-2, 4-1) – Region 3 has a a really nice three-team race going on. The third team is Hughes (17-2, 3-1). Each of the contenders is 1-1 against the other two. Douglas County gets to play both at home, so probably has the edge here. Douglas plays Hughes on Jan. 31. Douglas County’s top four players are underclassmen, including junior Maya Benham, a Louisville commitment who averages 15.3 points and 4.9 rebounds. She scored 19 the first time these two teams played. Douglas County won 60-57.
Hillgrove (17-2, 10-1) at McEachern (14-2, 9-0) – McEachern is ranked No. 1. Hillgrove is No. 4. But they were much further apart on Dec. 10, when McEachern won 71-34 in a Region 4 game. Hillgrove never scored more than nine points in any quarter. McEachern’s Caliya Robinson had 15 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots. She’s a 6-3 junior who makes it harder on Hillgrove’s Mackenzie Engram, the 6-2 Georgia signee who doesn’t have the same talent around her as McEachern does.
Duluth (12-8, 8-3) at North Gwinnett (10-9, 6-6) – North Gwinnett, the 2013 state runner-up, has been a disappointment, but it’s not over yet. Baylee Rexing, an Ole Miss signee, was lost to the season with an ACL injury, and Stephanie Amichia (signed with LSU) and junior Alyssa Munlyn, a junior averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds, have missed significant time for various reasons, as well. Duluth beat North 58-41 in December.
Etowah (9-9, 6-2) at Roswell (12-7, 7-1) – Roswell guard Andreona Keys, who has signed with Purdue, is winding down a fine career, averaging 22.2 points and 6.5 rebounds as a senior. Nikki Cwalina, a 6-1 center and another senior, is averaging 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds. Roswell plays Etowah on Saturday and Jan. 31. Etowah, under long-time coach Bob Westbrook, is an up-and-coming team with juniors Tori Janas (16.3 ppg) and 6-4 post Shakyna Payne (12.4 ppg 11.8 rpg).
FYI, this is the schedule for the Hilton Invitational on Saturday at Norcross –
Hillgrove vs Sparkman (AL)
St. Francis vs Providence (NC)
Wheeler vs Wenonah (AL)
Norcross vs Christ School (NC)
Greater Atlanta Christian vs Winston Salem Prep (NC)