Class AAAA blog: Quarterfinals primer

Americus-Sumter trailed two-time defending state champion Upson-Lee by double-digit points on three separate occasions during their battle in the Sweet 16, but the Panthers were eventually able to take a 56-53 lead with 1:41 left and go on to dethrone the Knights and close out a 59-53 victory. Americus-Sumter’s 6-foot-8 forward Joshua Lusane finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Panthers.

The absence of two-time defending state champion Upson-Lee will not make the left side of the bracket any easier. Americus-Sumter is playing outstanding basketball and so is the Panthers next opponent, St. Pius—and Thomson and Sandy Creek on the lower half.

St. Pius scored a 63-50 win over Marist in the second round. St. Pius opened the game on a 10-0 run and was able to hold off a second-half push by the visiting War Eagles to return to the Elite 8. The Golden Lions took a 34-24 lead at the half and a 54-41 lead into the final frame. Marist was able to make it a 56-50 game before the Golden Lions closed out the game with five unanswered points. St. Pius has made it to back-to-back finals and has outscored its two playoff opponents by 20.5 ppg entering their showdown with Americus-Sumter.

Sandy Creek scored a 69-53 win over Blessed Trinity in the second round to set up their matchup with Thomson and notch its 16th-straight victory. Blessed Trinity made it a 51-48 game with 3:21 left before the Patriots responded with an 18-5 run to close out the victory. T.J. Bickerstaff led Sandy Creek with 27 points, four rebounds, five assists and five steals. Keith Williams (14) and Julian Anderson (13) also finished in double.

Across the bracket, Denmark will host Woodward Academy and Cartersville will travel to Carver-Columbus. Denmark, a first-year program, outpaced Stephens County 9-4 in overtime to score a 63-58 victory in the second round. Three-star wide receiver and Arkansas-commit Ze’Vian Capers paced the Danes with 16 points to go with his 12 rebounds and Sutton Smith also had 16 points. Teammate Adonnis Eastson-Tolbert finished with 15 points and also added 12 boards to notch his double-double.

Top-seed Woodward Academy had to survive another close call in the second round after having to rally back from Westover’s 17-point lead in the first round. Tied 68-68 with 2.9 seconds left, Woodward Academy sophomore Logan Stephens was sent to the foul line where he would net all three attempts to provide the winning margin.

Cartersville looked outstanding in the second round and dominated West Hall 83-55 and Carver-Columbus scored a 76-49 win over Howard. Nine different Cartersville players scored points in the Purple Hurricanes’ victory. Isaac Gridley led the way with 24, Perignon Dyer added 19 and Micah Tart finished with 11 points. As for the Tigers, AJ Watts finished with a game-high 21 points and Jalen King notched 14 points to go with 12 rebounds for Carver-Columbus. Devin Flowers also added 11 points and Ke’von Taylor netted nine points to go with his game-high 12 assists.