The No. 1-ranked Lithonia boys may be without their best player for the next two weeks, but coach Wallace Corker sees that as an opportunity for the other players on the team to ramp up their games. The challenge starts Friday with a rematch against fellow Region 5 power Southwest DeKalb.
Lithonia (19-1) will be without leading scorer Eric Gaines, who will miss the next two weeks with an injury. Gaines, who has offers from a handful of teams including Georgetown and Washington State, averages 18.3 points and 5.1 assists.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 21-8 season and are one victory away from reaching the 20-win mark for the fourth time in five seasons. Lithonia’s only loss has come against Class AAAAAAA No. 1 Grayson. The Bulldogs beat Southwest DeKalb 62-54 on Dec. 6.
Lithonia has gotten a boost from Franklin Champion, a 6-foot-6 senior who transferred in from Arabia Mountain and averages 8.1 rebounds. Other top players include guard Javonte Jackson (who leads DeKalb County with 5.3 steals), Osiris Gaines, Broderick Jones (the UGA offensive line signee) and Christian Majors.
The Bulldogs allow only 41.9 points per game are again one of the top defensive teams in the state. Corker said this team is starting to live up to the program’s high standards. In recent games they have allowed 13 points in the first half against Miller Grove and 11 in the first half against Chamblee.
“It’s getting there,” he said. “We’re trying to get them to understand what to do and what not to do. The defense is getting better and it wouldn’t happen at a better time.”
Southwest DeKalb (11-8) has won three straight games and is tied for second place in the region at 4-2, two games behind Lithonia.
The Panthers are led by Ohio State signee Eugene Brown III, who averages 15.4 points and 7.9 rebounds. SWD gets strong work on the boards from Rion White (6.3 rebounds) and Jacorry Gist (6.0 rebounds) and floor play from Jarrett Walton.
In other important boys games scheduled this weekend:
Walnut Grove at Buford, Friday: No. 5 Walnut Grove has lost back-to-back games against Athens teams, most recently a two-point setback at home against Cedar Shoals. The Warriors will get no sympathy from Buford, who they beat by six points on Jan. 3. No. 9 Buford has won two straight and defeated Clarke Central by 14 on Tuesday night.
New Hampstead at Statesboro, Friday: No. 10 Statesboro brings a 14-game winning streak into the game and could add distance to its lead in Region 2 with a win. Zarion Griffin averages 21.2 points for the Blue Devils, who routed New Hampstead 85-40 on Jan. 3.
Eagle’s Landing at Dutchtown, Saturday: The biggest game on Saturday occurs in Region 4, where No. 2 Eagle’s Landing and No. 3 Dutchtown meet for the second time. Eagle’s Landing prevailed in the first meeting, 87-80 in overtime on Jan. 6 – a game that had to be reschedule when a storm knocked out power to the gymnasium. The Bulldogs wasted a 32-point effort from Cameron Bryant the first time around.
In top girls games this weekend;
Rome at Kell, Saturday: Kell could add further distance between itself and the rest of the league with a win. The No. 2 Longhorns (19-0, 10-0) have a two-game lead over second-place and No. 7-ranked Rome (15-4, 8-2) in Region 7. This is the first of two meetings between the two teams.
Eagle’s Landing at Jones County, Friday: These two Region 3 teams have been on a collision course. No. 8 Jones County has won seven straight and Eagle’s Landing has won five in a row. Jaleah Storr and Mariyah Fletcher lead the Golden Eagles. Jones County
Special games for MLK Day
Quite a few teams have games scheduled on Monday for the Martin Luther King Holiday.
One of the more ambitious events is being held at Maynard Jackson High School, where there will be nine boys games starting at 9 a.m. The lineup features: Hephzibah vs. Drew Charter, 9 a.m.; Washington vs. Campbell, 10:20 a.m.; Maynard Jackson vs. South Gwinnett, 11:40 a.m.; Jonesboro vs. Morgan County, 1 p.m.; Greater Atlanta Christian vs. Decatur, 2:30 p.m.; Shiloh vs. Eagle’s Landing, 3:40 p.m.; Langston Hughes vs. Archer, 5 p.m.; East Coweta vs. Tri-Cities, 6:20 p.m.; and Greenforest vs. Southwest DeKalb, 7:40 p.m.
Walnut Grove will play New Creation Christian Academy of McDonough at 2 p.m. at the North Oconee MLK Showcase.
At the MLK Showcase at Holy Innocents’, Dutchtown will play Trinity Christian and Riverwood will meet Peachtree Ridge.
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