Defending champion No. 3 Liberty County (8-5) will have a new look moving into region play after losing a top player from last season’s state-championship team. Richard LeCounte, who only played in one game this season, enrolled early at the University of Georgia for football and will leave Hinesville after the New Year.
“Last year was a great year, but we have to move forward and make sure we stay together as a team this year to make sure the result is the same as last year,” said Liberty coach Julian Stokes.
Junior Will Richardson has led the Panthers in scoring in the first 12 games with 31.3 points per game. His offensive performance helped fill the void left by LeCounte and the six games Liberty played without Auburn commitment Davion Mitchell, who suffered a broken bone in his foot.
“For the most part we had the same team come back, but the big piece missing was Richard,” said Stokes. “It’s hard to replace guys like that. But a lot of the other kids have stepped up to fill that role. Will Richardson has really stepped up. He is being a lot more aggressive. He is still playing his game, but he is taking his game to a whole different level.”
Liberty is ranked No. 3 behind top-ranked Westside-Macon and No. 2 Greater Atlanta Christian (9-2).
— No. 1 Westside-Macon (6-2) defeated Spain Park (Ala.) 80-74 in its first game at the Tournament of Champions at Wheeler High School. Trey Foster led Westside with 21 points, and 5-star prospect Khavon Moore added 17. The Seminoles are trying to get past the loss of Xavier commitment Kentrevious Jones, who transferred to a Connecticut prep school after one game. Jones’ second transfer — he played for Central-Macon last season — actually gives a better opportunity for Moore to showcase his talents. Moore has averaged 20.3 points per game through seven games. Foster is the next leading scorer, averaging 11.3 points per game.
— In the latest rankings, Cedar Grove (5-4) fell from No. 3 to No. 10 after losing to Holy Innocents’ and Buford at the War Eagle Classic. The Saints are missing 6-foot-8 Jelani Woods, who enrolled early at Oklahoma State.
— No. 5 Pace Academy (3-5) fell one spot after it failed to win at the City of Palms tournament in Fort Myers, Fla. The Knights are led by 6-foot-10 Duke commitment Wendell Carter, who is the No. 1 prospect in the state and No. 4 prospect nationally.
1. Westside-Macon (6-2)
2. Greater Atlanta Christian (9-2)
3. Liberty County (8-5)
4. Central-Macon (8-1)
5. Pace Academy (3-5)
6. Morgan County (6-2)
7. Calhoun (9-0)
8. Islands (7-3)
9. Johnson-Savannah (8-3)
10. Cedar Grove (5-4)
The battle at the top of the rankings has been interesting to say the least. No. 1-ranked Beach (11-1) and No. 2 Johnson-Savannah (12-1) have both suffered one loss to the other. The two programs will play again on Jan. 27, when Beach travels to Johnson.
On Dec. 13 Johnson defeated Beach 45-42 when Sy’Marieona Williams hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer. The Lady Bulldogs did not wait long for revenge. It came in the Memorial Health Holiday Classic a few days later when Beach took over the No. 1 spot with a 62-56 overtime victory.
Beach is led in scoring by Judasia Hills, who averages 12.9 points per game. Madison Evans is the next leading scorer with 12.1 points and 1.7 assists per game.
Johnson is paced by Alexis Pierce, who averages 17.8 points and 2.8 assists per game. Olivia Owens is the next leading scorer, with 15.2 points and 1.3 assists per game.
— Third-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian has three players averaging double figures. Junior Robyn Benton leads all scorers with 15.1 points per game. Tamiah Lewis is averaging 13.4 points per game. Taylor Sutton is averaging 12.1 points and 4.4 assists per game.
1. Beach (11-1)
2. Johnson-Savannah (12-1)
3. Greater Atlanta Christian (10-4)
4. Ringgold (10-2)
5. Hart County (10-1)
6. Monroe (8-1)
7. Redan (8-2)
8. Calhoun (11-3)
9. Franklin County (8-2)
10. Haralson County (8-3)