Stephenson teams trek to great white north

Many basketball teams from Georgia, particularly in and around Atlanta, have gone south to Florida for basketball tournaments and showcase events.

Stephenson basketball player Zuri Colbert snagged this fish during the team’s trip to Alaska. (photo courtesy of Dennis Watkins)

Stephenson’s boys and girls teams went the other direction, both traveling to Wasilla, Alaska, for the Doc Larson Holiday Classic.

Wasilla, about 40 miles north of Anchorage, is home to Sarah Palin. Stephenson girls coach Dennis Watkins said the team didn’t see her, but the Jaguars and Lady Jaguars did work in tourist activities between games, including an ice fishing excursion in 11-degree weather.

“It was something different,” Watkins said. “Normally in the past we had been going to Myrtle Beach and Charleston. We just wanted something different and the opportunity presented itself and we made it happen.”

The Stephenson girls dropped their opener to Anchorage-Dimond, but rebounded with wins over host Wasilla and Granite Falls (Washington).

The Jaguar girls played short-handed – four players did not make the trip – giving Watkins a chance to see expanded minutes from players with limited roles. One, Zuri Colbert, posted a double-double (more than 10 points and more than 10 rebounds) in one game and earned a shot at more playing time as the season progresses.

The Stephenson boys won one of their three games.

FROM HUNTER TO HUNTED: The Carver-Columbus girls rolled to 13-0 with three wins in the Shaw Christmas Tournament and garnered the No. 1 spot in the AJC Class AAAA girls rankings.

The Tigers, who play this weekend at the BallN-Prep event in Alabaster, Alabama, are adjusting to being the team all their opponents circle on the schedule.

“I try to tell the girls that people see where you’re ranked, and everybody’s going to be gunning to beat you,” said Carver coach Anson Hundley, whose club fell one point short in the state title game last spring. “We have to work extremely hard to stay where we’re at. Last year we didn’t start the season off as a No. 1 team, we kind of worked our way there. It’s a different challenge.”

NO ICE FISHING HERE:
The Dutchtown and Spalding girls teams are both opting for warmer climes for their holiday trips. Dutchtown’s Bulldogs, ranked No. 2 in Class AAAAA, and Spalding’s Jaguars, No. 3 in AAAA, are both headed to the Holiday Classic of the Palm Beaches in Palm Beach, Florida.

Dutchtown (12-1) has won 11 straight since dropping its second game to Lovett on Nov. 21. The Bulldogs are averaging more rebounds (38.5) and points allowed (36.7). Junior India Bellamy averages 14.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game for the Bulldogs and senior Jordan Maney is averaging 10.8 points. (Stats according to MaxPreps).

Meanwhile, Spalding (10-1) has won 10 straight since a season-opening loss to McEachern (currently No. 5 in AAAAAAA). The school from Griffin opens play in the National Championship Division of the Palm Beach event tonight against Palm Beach Gardens High School, one of three host schools for the event.

The Jaguars are led in scoring by a pair of underclassmen, freshman Corriana Evans (12.8 points per game) and sophomore Kierstyn Milner (10 points per game). Like Dutchtown, Spalding gets it done with defense; they’re holding opponents to 38 points per contest.

UNSELFISH, YET LARCENOUS: Conventional wisdom holds that an optimal steals-to-turnovers ratio is 2 to 1 or better. The Westlake girls, No. 1 in Class AAAAAAA, aren’t doing that – the Lions are averaging 15.1 assists and 15.3 turnovers – but they’re balancing the equation with 16.1 steals per game, led by freshman Raven Johnson, who is averaging 4.6 assists and 3.7 steals.

SPEAKING OF THIEVERY: Arabia Mountain, which closed its pre-New Year’s slate with 10 straight wins, has three players averaging three steals per game or more – Alina Shoemake (4.7) Iyanna McMillan (4.0) and Kennedi Manning (3.0) – part of a team average of 19.1.

RANKED FIELD: The Deep South Classic, which starts today at Brookwood in Snellville, features three girls teams ranked by the AJC – Holy Innocents’ (No. 1 in Class A Private), Nortview (No. 5 in Class AAAAAA) and Cherokee No. 6 in Class AAAAAAA).


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