There’s never a bad night for basketball in Region 5, the toughest league in Class AAAAA, and the first weekend of the new year is no exception.
On the boys side, the league features Columbia, Lithonia, Miller Grove and Southwest DeKalb, four powers who could each be in the conversation when talk turns to potential state champions. Columbia has won five under coach Phil McCrary and Miller Grove has won seven.
“It’s a tough league, a very tough league, and anything can happen,” Lithonia coach Wallace Corker said at the DeKalb County preseason media gathering. “Every night you have to come to play. They’re all well-coached teams and every night you have to come prepared and hope for the best.”
Southwest DeKalb coach Eugene Brown said, “You just try to keep up with the Lithonias, Columbias and Miller Groves of the world. It’s not easy.”
All four powers have lost one region game. Columbia (8-4, 4-1) lost to Lithonia, Lithonia (14-2, 3-1) lost to Southwest DeKalb, Miller Grove (8-5, 3-1) lost to Columbia, and Southwest DeKalb (10-5, 3-1) lost to Columbia. Each of the losses were by two points.
Get the picture?
The schedule for this weekend is juicy: Friday – Columbia at Chamblee, Lithonia at Miller Grove, Southwest DeKalb at Arabia Mountain; Saturday – Columbia at Miller Grove; Lithonia at Riverwood, Southwest DeKalb at Spalding.
Columbia is playing a national schedule, with appearances at the MLK Classic in Tallahassee and the Alaska Airline Classic in Anchorage. The Eagles went 2-2 in the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tenn., and lost in the fifth-place game. Keondre Kennedy, a 6-5 senior forward, was named to the all-tournament team.
The other three big players compete in impactful tournaments, too. Miller Grove, Lithonia and Southwest DeKalb all played in the Tournament of Champions Holiday Classic at Wheeler.
Here are some other games to watch this weekend:
Woodland at Union Grove, Friday: Woodland (10-4) will try to shake off Union Grove (11-4) in the battle of contenders in Region 3. Curtis Purdue (14.8 points) is the offensive leader on the defensive-minded Wolves. Union Grove won the Tattnall Square Christmas Tournament and is riding a five-game winning streak. Wesley Simpson averages 13.8 and Alphonse Dutreuil and Justin Simpson each average 10 points.
McIntosh at Fayette County, Saturday: This game will determine the early leader in Region 3. Fayette County (10-5) is coming off a three-point loss to Evans in the final of the Augusta Monterrey Classic. The Tigers, a state semifinalist last spring, are led by Ricky Knight (15.7 points) and JeKobe Coleman (13.3 points). McIntosh (8-2) has a balanced attack led by Chaz Hardin (13.8 points).
Southwest DeKalb at Arabia Mountain, Friday: Arabia Mountain (11-1) is trying to wrest control of Region 5 away from Southwest DeKalb, which won the state title in 2016 and finished second last season. The Rams, under new coach Jerry Jackson, have most of the same cast returning. Southwest is 7-8 against a very difficult schedule and lost its two top players.
Villa Rica at Rome, Saturday: Villa Rica (10-0) will be tested by Rome (9-1), which took an eight-game winning streak into the weekend. Rome is led by Tamiya Griffin, who was MVP of the Rome Christmas Tournament. Taya Gibson and ReTavia Floyd have also played key roles for the Wolves. Villa Rica is led by versatile 6-foot-2 junior Deasia Merrill, a first-team all-state pick last season.