The Westlake (GA) Lady Lions earned their 37th straight win and became the first team from Georgia- girls or boys, to win the GEICO Nationals.
Westlake (22-0) defeated Paul VI (11-1) 70-50 Saturday to claim the national championship. Taynia Latson led Westlake with 31 points while South Carolina commit Raven Johnson added 17 points, 7 rebound and 8 assists. Virginia Tech commit Brianna Turnage posted an 11-point 11-rebound double-double.
Paul VI won the previous meeting between the two teams last season 67-58.
Westlake and Johnson capped off an incredible 4-year run with an overall record of 112-4, three 30-plus wins seasons, 4 state titles (3 in class 7A and 1 in class 6A), 98-0 vs Georgia opponents, 14-4 vs non-Georgia opponents, two undefeated seasons (2018-19 and 2020-21) and a 20-game state tournament winning streak
Top-seeded Westlake defeated fourth-seeded Fremont (UT) 64-54 in the semifinals of the GEICO Nationals in Fort Meyers, Florida to extend its winning streak to 36 games. South Carolina commit Raven Johnson and Latson combined for 51 of Westlake’s 64 points in the victory. Johnson finished just shy of a triple-double with 25 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists and 7 steals while Taniya Latson finished with a game-high 26 points to go with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals.
Maggie Mendelson led Fremont (26-1) with 23 points and Emma Calvert posted a 13-point-10 rebound double-double.
Westlake (21-0) will face Paul VI in the championship game on Saturday at 10:30am. Paul IV defeated Lake Highland in the semifinals to advance to the championship game.
Westlake, making their second appearance in the event (they were invited last season however the event was not held due to the covid-19 pandemic), is the only girls team from Georgia to ever play in the event and became the first girls team from Georgia to win a game in the event. Westlake has won four consecutive state titles and are the reining 6A state champion in Georgia. Prior to this season Westlake won three consecutive title in class 7A, Georgia’s highest class.
Fifth-seeded IMG (FL) defeated sixth-seeded Milton (GA) 73-68 in the quarterfinals of the GEICO Nationals in Fort Meyers, Florida Thursday.
Ohio State commit Bruce Thornton tallied 18 points 6 rebounds and 9 assists for the Eagles. Kanaan Carlyle led all scorers with a game-high 22 points as Milton had four players score in double figures. Campbell University commit Broc Bidwell finished with 12 points and Kendall Campbell had 11. Thornton, Carlyle and Campbell are returning next season.
Milton, the reining 7A Georgia champions, had their 27-game winning streak snapped and finished the season 29-3. Milton was playing in the event for the first time in school history.
Jaden Bradley led IMG Academy with 20 points, Jarace Walker had 16 points and 7 rebounds while Mousa Diabete posted a 13-point 11-rebound double-double as IMG Academy advanced to the semifinals.
The reinging Georgia 2A champions, Pace Academy was also making thier first appearance and are the first private school from Georgia to play in the event. The ninth-seeded Knights (28-2) fell 84-77 to eighth-seeded Oak Hill Academy (VA) in the first round snapping their 28-game winning streak.
Florida State commit Matthew Cleveland of Pace Academy led all scorers with 30 points. Cleveland added 8 rebounds and three assists on 66% shooting from the field. Josh Reed tallied 21 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, while Cleveland State commit Cole Middleton had 16 points and 8 rebounds for Pace Academy.
Caleb Foster led Oak Hill with 22 points. A.J. Williams had 19 points and 7 assists, M.J. Rice tallied 18 points while Camyrn Carter posted a 16-point 10-rebound double-double for Oak Hill.
Pace Academy head coach Sharman White became the first coach in Georgia to take two different programs to the event and is the only coach from Georgia to ever win a game in the event.
In 2016 Miller Grove, under the direction of Sharman White, defeated Findlay Prep (NV) 67-65 in the quarterfinals before losing to Oak Hill Academy 47-46 in the semifinals. Miller Grove finished 31-3 that season.
Milton (0-1) and Pace Academy (0-1) joined Wheeler (0-1; first team ever from Georgia to play in the event) and Miller Grove (1-1) as the only boys teams to play in the GEICO Nationals, formerly called DICK’S Nationals.
Dutchtown high school in Hampton, Ga released a statement to parents announcing that head boys basketball coach Jordan Griffin would not be returning.
In two seasons Griffin went 51-12 overall, 8-1 in the state tournament and won the class 5A state championship during his first season in 2019-20.
In the covid-affected 2020-21 season, Griffin led Dutchtown to a 23-8 mark and class 5A semifinal appearance. Griffin’s sub-varsity programs combined for a 25-0 mark between the JV (17-0) and 9th grade (8-0) teams this past season.
Griffin, a Memphis, TN native, came to Dutchtown after holding assistant coaching positions both in college (Columbus State and UT- Chattanooga) and high school in Tennessee (Red Bank HS) and Arizona (Red Mountain HS) respectively. Dutchtown was his first head coaching position at either level.
The 2020-21 high school basketball season in Georgia is almost two weeks old and we are getting to see how different this season is. Covid-19 is very real and despite it we as a country and basketball community must do everything we can to move forward and playing basketball and being in the gym helps.
Please wash your hands, wear your mask, respect the social distance seating/configurations in gyms, expect the unexpected with game postponements and rescheduling. Understand in the GHSA, they left it up to each county and school district in regards to their teams playing and restrictions put in place. This needs to be noted because its different and everyone is dealing with different restrictions. These restrictions are being considered this year in the Hillsman Heavy Top 10 GA.
Teams from the GHSA, GISA, GICAA and GAPPS are considered for the Hillsman Heavy Top 10 GA all season.
The Hillsman Heavy Top 10 GA will be released on Tuesdays again this season, is in its fourth season and is also available via the Georgia Hoop Circle.
As a reminder the Hillsman Heavy Top 10 GA is ranked using the follow criteria; OVERALL performance, Team Chemistry, Coaching, Scheduling (OOS is HEAVILY considered) and Schedule for talent. Many counties and school districts have restricted travel out-of-state and in-state in some cases, this is HIGHLY taken into consideration for the 2020-21 season, however scheduling still holds HEAVY WEIGHT. When we load and unload the bus and plane with these 10 teams these are the teams that we can take anywhere as they are the best 10 in Georgia.
1) Wheeler (1-0)
Coach: Larry Thompson
Key Players: Kaleb Washington, Jahiem Hudson, Max Harris
Notable Games: McEachern (W), Sandy Creek, Pebblebrook, Grayson, Kell (2x region foe), South Cobb (2x region foe), Milton
2) Grayson (5-1)
Coach: Geoffrey Pierce
Key Players: Ian Schieffelin, Chauncy Wiggins, Tyrese Elliott
Notable Games: St. Francis (W), North Gwinnett (W), Wasatch Academy (UT) (L), Milton, Kell, Wheeler, Dorman (SC), Newton (2x region foe)
3) Pebblebrook (5-1)
Coach: George Washington
Key Players: Danny Stubbs Jr, Aaron Reddish, Jamaal Clyce
Notable Games: Fayette County (W), Carmel Christian (NC) (W), Wasatch Academy (UT) (L), Newton (W), Kell, South Cobb, Wheeler, McEachern (2x region foe), East Coweta (2x region foe), Douglas County
The high school football season, as are most things, is different in 2020. It’s different for us as well as we have not provided any scores or notes outside of our twitter feed. So with that said here is a look around high school football from the Friday 10/16/2020 that we covered.
Camden County (4-3) scored a touchdown on the final play of the game to avoid a shutout on the road at Warner Robins. The Demons handed the Wildcats their worst loss under head coach Bob Sphire 43-7 and snapped Camden County’s four-game winning streak. Warner Robins (5-1) has scored 40 or more points in four of their five victories this season.
After two weeks off the Cedar Shoals Jaguars (1-3) got into the win column for the first time this season defeating Madison County (1-5) 23-7. Ja Colbert rushed for two touchdowns in the win for Cedar Shoals.
Eastside led by 10 points in the fourth quarter but needed a desperation 50-yard field goals attempt in the closing seconds to try and get the win. The field goal was no good giving Clarke Central the 35-34 come-from-behind win. AJ Jewell caught a touchdown pass for Clarke Central and after an Eastside field goal, Felix Braddy rushed for the go-ahead touchdown with less than four minutes to play for the Gladiators.
Chamblee (2-0) scored three touchdowns by all three teams in a 21-10 win over North Deklab county rival Dunwoody (0-3). Dietrich Shugars intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown, Curt McCorvey rushed for a touchdown and Jameel Avery returned a kickoff for a touchdown for Chamblee.
North Gwinnett (5-2) won its second straight game since a two-game losing streak by shutting out Mill Creek in a northern Gwinnett county rivalry 31-0. Brett Carter and Ashton Wood each had a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown for the North Gwinnett Bulldogs
Vanguard improved to 3-0 with a 33-7 win over county and city rival North Marion (0-4). Mykell Randall returned a kickoff for a touchdown and rushed for a touchdown while Alex Law passed for a touchdown for Vanguard.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1-0) won it’s first game of the season with a come-from-behind 25-13 over TRU Prep (3-0). St. Thomas trailed 13-6 in the second quarter and outscored TRU 19-0 the rest of the game. Zion Turner passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another in the St. Thomas Aquinas victory. Brandon Inniss caught a pair of touchdowns for TRU Prep
West Orange (3-1) upset Apopka (3-2) 15-14 in overtime. West Orange wide receiver Matt McDoom rushed for a touchdown then connected with quarterback Tyler Huff for a successful two-point conversion in OT for the West Orange victory. Huff passed for a touchdown also West Orange. Apopka’s Jaquan Lowman did not play due to injury.
The Georgia Express 2024 (11-12) program ended their first travel ball season winning three of their last four games, which included a season high three-game win streak. The Express dropped their travel season finale 56-55 to the Atlanta Knights on Sunday bringing their inaugural season record to 11-12, a game under .500 while playing a mix of games at and above their 2024 age group.
“Consistency, as is the case with any basketball team and players, is important and that’s a part of growth and development, something that is at the foundation of this program,” head coach John Green said. “As a staff we were not so much concerned with our record as we were with the overall growth and development. We did not reveal the season record to the guys until our first off season workout earlier this week. After going through a full season the guys now realize what they have to do as a team and as individuals to become better and ready for next travel season.”
Over the final weekend of the travel calendar the Express 2024 defeated the Southeast Atlanta Orangeman 48-39 and Game Elite 51-32. “Those two games and really the Game Elite game were the best we played all season and the guys saw what they really can do. Now we dropped that last one which we should have won but again the guys saw what needs to be done to get better and play at the level we are expecting in this program,” Green added.
The Express 2024’s foundation season had many high and low marks as the programs approach to the season and the growth and development is measured differently than most. Green- a noted trainer, nutritionist and former professional basketball player internationally over 13 years following collegiate ball at Northeastern, ran a hybrid college/pro-style program which included extensive practices and training mixed with mental building practices and shootarounds including the use of a shot clock, film sessions and scrimmages against the older Georgia Express Basketball Club LLC. On any given practice the Express 2024 squad would scrimmage against recruiting prospects Shaqir O’Neal, Chris Reddick, Jalen Preister, Wes Roberson, Ethan Wyatt, Graham Nies and Cameron Knox.
Close games always tell you about a team. The Express 2024 went 3-4 in games decided by five points or less and of those they went 2-2 in games decided by one point. There were blowout losses as the Express 2024 loss seven games by more than ten points while winning four games by ten or more points. Based in Georgia, the Express 2024 went 2-4 against non-Georgia (out-of-state) teams. The programs first win out-of-state also was its first win against an out-of-state team in a 57-56 win over Pro One Select White (Huntsville, AL) at the Hoop Seen Bama Jam in Hoover, AL.
“We were not able to play in as many events as we wanted due to the pandemic, which all travel teams were affected by but the games and wins over non-Georgia teams were important as another basis for our program foundation is to be able to play whoever from wherever whenever as we move forward,” Green said.
Evan Taylor (15.1 pts 4.4 reb 3.5 ast 2.5 turnovers, led team in three-pointers made with 25 in 13 games) and Zaid Fisher (13.2 pts 2.8 reb 1.8 ast 2.2 turnovers in 17 games) led the scoring attack for an Express 2024 team that also had Cam Robinson (10.9 pts 7 reb 3 ast 5.3 stl 1.8 turnovers in 14 games) and Joe Riddick (10.1 pts 3.9 reb 2 ast 1 stl 1.93 turnovers in 22 games) finish in double figures scoring. Robinson led the team in steals with a whopping 5.3 average by having five games with more than 5 steals and two games with nine steals.
Taylor-also a football player, looks to run the point and improve his off ball skills in the offseason. Taylor is a gifted scorer that has no issue looking to pass and is the on-floor leader of the team. Taylor scored a season and program-high 24 points in a 73-59 loss to RIP City (TN) only to follow it up with a 23-point output the next game against Team Ratliff (Alpharetta, GA)
Fisher knows he can score and led the team in scoring in five of their last eight games including a season-high 23 points in a win against Team Impact. How he adjusts to good defenses, reading defenses and locking up on defense will be the strong points this offseason.
Reddick just shows up and plays ball. Reddick can shoot, pass and rebound all in timely fashion. His defensive work this offseason to go along with his natural IQ of the game will only add to his versatility.
Robinson-also a football player, just showed up and made play after play with his most pronounced statements on the defensive end. Never too high or too low Robinson just made plays-did we say that already? He will look to improve on his perimeter shooting and refine all aspects of his game during the offseason.
Zamrion Ruff, who was away from the team during the summer portion of the season with family out-of-state, provided the needed depth in height upfront. In his six games played Ruff posted averages of 8 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1.7 turnovers. Ruff had three games with 10 or more rebounds including a 16-point 11-rebound double-double in the season finale loss to the Knights. Ruff will look to be the teams leader while getting more comfortable with the game of basketball this offseason as he continues to learn the game of basketball and how he can impact it.
Here is a look at how the rest of the Express 2024 roster did this season and what they will aim to improve on during the travel ball offseason.
Rodney Harris (3.5 pts 6.5 reb 2.7 ast 2stl 1.15 blk 3.08 turnovers in 22 games played) had three games with double-digit rebounds including a 10-point 12-rebound double-double in a 56-55 win over GSW Black 2024 in the Junior Battler for Georgia. Harris showed more confidence in his mid-range jumper as the season went along and will continue to bring his aggressive nature while refining his raw edges during the offseason.
Jackson Tookes (4.6 pts 4.1 reb 0.9 ast 0.8 stl 1.45 turnovers in 18 games played), the youngest of the bunch as a 2025 player, had a season-high 13 points to go with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals in his best game of the year in a 69-65 loss to the Orangemen. As the season went along Tookes became more vocal and made it known he is well deserving of his spot on an older team. Tookes will continue to allow the game to come to him while refining the things he does well that show up in the box score quietly but with more noise in the offseason.
Dylan Johnson (6.2 pts 1.5 reb 2.06 ast 1.1 stl 3.0 turnovers in 21 games played) had a season-high 16 points in a win over the Atlanta Bulls. Johnson was second on the team in made three-pointers behind Evan Taylor. Johnson’s knack for hitting the three ball and the ability to get to the hoop proved vital in many games. He will look to lock up on defense and continue to improve his floor general skills in the offseason.
Ryland Hunley (4.1 pts 1.1 reb 0.98 ast 0.47 stl 3.5 turnovers in 20 games) scored a season-high 11 points twice this season. Hunley, a gritty and grimy guard, played his best ball after returning from an injury that cost him three games. A Tennessee product, Hunley will look to continue to shoot the ball well while learning how to run an offense under pressure during the offseason.
Austin Hillsman (1.91 pts 1.9 reb 0.87 ast 0.63 stl 0.71 turnovers in 23 games played) played in all 23 games. Hillsman scored a season-high 8 points in a 48-39 win over the Orangemen. Hillsman, known for his vocal leadership and non-box score effect on the game, scored in the final four games of the season by showing more aggression as the season closed. Conditioning and refinement of skills to go with his already high IQ of the game will make for a big jump in development come the spring.
Elijah Harrison (2025) played in two games this season as he was away from the team with family for the bulk of the season. He practiced very well and will look to acclimate further with the team during the offseason with sights on a lead guard spot come the spring.
For a first-year independent travel program the bar has been set and the Express know the best is yet to come if that bar is to be raised. The offseason will provide plenty of “how bad do you want it” opportunities.
“As an organization, we could not be happier with the season our 2024 team put together. Despite being forced to navigate the challenges of the national pandemic and limited practice time, we saw continuous improvement from start to finish,” President and Director of Operations Ford McMurty said when reached for comment. “That’s a real credit to coach John Green and his staff. The future is bright for this group.”
As the offseason work begins the 2024 Georgia Express will live by the, “Built. Different. Period.” motto it broke out before their first-ever out-of-state tournament at Bama Jam.
“We know what we have to do to get better, now it is time to go do it. How bad do you want it in the fourth quarter, we are going to get and be ready for that as individuals, a team and as a program,” Green firmly stated.
The Clarke Central Gladiators needed all 48 minutes in the 2020 season opener against crosstown rival Cedar Shoals on Friday Night.
The two teams were meeting to open the season for the first time since 2011 and for the first time in recent years are not in the same classification and region this season.
Even a great defense will wear down and that happened to the Jaguars in the closing moments of the fourth quarter. Cedar Shoals had stopped Clarke Central in the red zone with an interception and a turnover on downs earlier in the game. Clarke Central scored earlier in the fourth quarter in the red zone on a 22-yard field goal from Walker Bradberry.
Tied 3-3 Cedar Shoals looked like it had taken a 6-3 lead on another Will Fang field goal only to have the points taken off the board due to a penalty. The ensuing field goal attempt was well short and Clarke Central took over.
Moments later the Gladiators scored the games only touchdown on a Will Richardson 15-yard run for a 10-3 lead with just over three minutes remaining . The touchdown was set up by a 70-yard pass play from Will Robinson to Nono Mack on the first play after the missed field goal.
Cedar Shoals went three-and-out on its next possession yet still had a chance after punting. Richardson fumbled on second down however the Jaguars could not recover it. Clarke Central picked up a first down on third down then ran out the clock with a couple of kneels downs after that.
Richardson finished with 105 yards rushing and a touchdown for Clarke Central (1-0). Jerdavian Colbert finished with 130 yards rushing for Cedar Shoals (0-1).
The Georgia Express 2024 squad just needed something to rinse away their poorest display of the season in a 33-point loss in their last game a week ago at the Junior Battle For Georgia vs Tri City Elite.
The elixir came against Team Impact over the weekend in the Express’ lone game of the weekend. Team Impact entered the gym knowing the Express were coming off a bad loss and had sights of getting revenge from a 60-53 loss in July to the Express. The game was scheduled for a 10am tip at the request of the Georgia Express as early morning tips have been shaky for the Express this season, again another point towards growth and development.
During a nip and tuck first quarter Ryland Hunley (11 points) hit a soft jumper in the lane to give the Express a 12-10 lead with 1:22 remaining, then Hunley beat the first quarter horn with a layup to cap a 7-0 Express run to close the quarter, the Express led the rest of the way.
Joe Reddick (8 points) hit a jumper with just over two minutes to go in the third quarter to give the Express their largest lead of the game 47-30 and never allowed the Impact to get closer than ten points in the 56-44 victory.
The Express used pressure defense the majority of the game to collect 17 steals while forcing 22 turnovers led by Cam Robinson’s (8 points, 11 rebounds) seven steals and five steals from Rodney Harris. Zayd Fisher led the team in scoring for the fifth consecutive game finishing with a team-high 23 points.
“We knew we had to work on some things, we had a good week of practice and met with the guys individually about our expectations of them and their continued growth and development. We did not have a tournament this weekend so it was good to get this game and win it against a good team that came in wanting to beat us,” head coach John Green said.
The AAU season is winding down as far as tournaments events are concerned yet the Express still have two weekends available for tournaments. Their next event is to be determined.
The Georgia Express 2024 squad finished third in their pool with a 1-2 record and missed out on the bracket portion of an event for the second straight event at the Junior Battle For Georgia at Lake Point over the weekend.
Task with playing in what wound up being the most competitive pool of the event, the Express, like the other three pool teams, entered the final game of pool play on Sunday 1-1 and the table set. The top team from each pool advanced to bracket play meaning the Express needed win and help-as did everyone else. The Express needed to defeat Tri-City Elite and get a GSW Black 2024 win over Future and win the point differential to earn the top spot out of their pool.
Tri-City Elite entered the game coming off of a 71-70 lost to GSW Black 2024-a team the Express beat earlier (more on that later). Trailing 6-5 early Tri-City Elite used a quick 8-0 run to go up 13-6 to steal the current momentum and took the heart of the Express by finishing the half outscoring the Express 37-12 and never trailed again winning 76-43.
“We knew they were going to come out with a chip on their shoulders and we didn’t handle it well at all and displayed our poorest effort of the season,” head coach John Green said. “This comes down to how bad do you want it and we will address that in practice this week, this loss is on everybody.” Green concluded. The 33-point loss was the worst of the season and in program history.
Entering the event the Georgia Express put the focus of getting off to a better start in events. Growth and development were shown in that area as the Express won their opening game of the event.
Rodney Harris had his best game of the season finishing with his first double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds including the game-winning free throws with 6.2 seconds remaining as the Express overcame an eight-point deficit to defeat GSW Black 2024 56-55. Zayd Fisher led the Express with 19 points while Joe Riddick tallied eight point and Zamarrion Ruff finished with 6 points 10 rebounds and a block in his season debut.
“Everybody was happy that Rodney was able to step up and hit those free throws and it was great to see the guys dig down and pull out that win,” Green said.
Long runs-giving them up, has been an issue for the Express this season. In their second game against Future it was a long run that opened up the game. Tied 10-all in the first half the Future pulled away with a 16-2 run over the next few minutes and never allowed the Express to get closer than seven points the rest of the game in a 66-52 Future win.
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