Miller Grove laid 101 points on Cedar Shoals in the first round of the 2011 state tournament the last time these teams met. That meeting was the first state tournament game for the Jaguars under head coach L’Dreco Thomas. Including that lost Thomas has posted a 10-4 record in the state tournament which includes back-to-back semifinal losses the previous two seasons.
Enter the 2017 semifinals where the two teams will meet again in an official game (the teams have played against each other in summer ball the last couple of summers) since the 2011 state tournament.
Miller Grove (21-8) is under the direction of first-year head coach Rasual Chester after 7-time state champ head coach Sharman White left for an assistant position at Georgia State University. The Wolverines have continued to pick up momentum after a slow start this season with a heavy national schedule in place. Five of the Wolverines eight losses were to non-Georgia teams while the in-state losses were to McEachern (7A semifinalist), Wheeler (7A quarterfinalist) and region foe Columbia (5A Sweet 16).
Senior Nequante Hardy leads Miller Grove in scoring at just under 20 points per game while junior Kevin Paige leads the team in rebound with 7.7 per game.
Chester has weathered the storm of following in the shoes of White by noting his faith and belief in his team and the foundation laid by White. The task is tall as Miller Grove is searching for title number eight and are in the semifinals for the ninth time in ten seasons.
Cedar Shoals (26-4) is looking to get over the hump that is the semifinals. In their previous two semifinals games the Jaguars have loss by a combined three points.
Phlandrous Fleming (Charleston Southern) is the unsung leader and go-to-guy for the Jaguars. Fleming leads the team in scoring and rebounding at 20.1 and 7.2 respectively.
“He’s the most unselfish player I’ve every seen,” Thomas said earlier this season. “He does it all, there’s nothing he can’t do.”
Stavion Stevenson and Snipe Hall provide much of the help for the Jaguars. Stevenson averages 10.2 points and 5.8 rebounds while manning the post and stepping out for the soft lefty jumper when needed. Snipe Hall is averaging 11.4 points and 4.1 rebounds while providing athleticism, timely shooting and another person the defense must account for.
A.J Jones, Damarrea Lowe and Jai’Vanni McDavid have been solid for the Jaguars in their respective roles this season. Lowe began the season coming off the bench but entered the starting line up in late December. Lowe is the floor general at the point guard spot and is dropping off 4.7 dimes per game. Jones continues to be a threat from long distance shooting the three-ball at a 41 percent clip . McDavid (6.8pts 3.3reb 2.2stl) started earlier in the season but now comes of the bench does whatever is asked without question.
Two programs, Cedar Shoals older than Miller Grove, each are looking to make history, the Jaguars are back where they’ve been before but can they come through? Miller Grove is still a game away from getting back to where they expect to be regardless of who is the bench boss.
Both are familiar with the gym and the rims at Columbus State University, they tip at 4pm today.