The Cedar Shoals basketball team is back in the spotlight.
Thanks to a senior-heavy team, the Jaguars are off to a 15-1 start, have won 10 in a row, and appear ready to return to a high level of competition. It was only three seasons ago that Cedar Shoals went 27-5 and reached the Class AAAAA final, losing to Buford.
That 2016-17 team had seven seniors. This year’s team has eight. And the experience is obvious after watching them play.
“They understand what you have to do,” Cedar Shoals coach L’Dreco Thomas said.
The Jaguars have endured a strenuous schedule. They’ve beaten Parkview, Cedar Grove, Valdosta and Kell in non-region games and won both their games in the Sunshine State Explosion tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cedar Shoals opened Region 8 competition by beating Loganville 72-49 and by hanging on to defeat rival Clarke Central.
One of those seniors responded to make a big play against Clarke Central. With the Jags trailing by a point, veteran Rickil Willingham stepped up to draw an offensive foul. The momentum shifted and Cedar Shoals was able to win. “That play probably won us the game,” Thomas said.
Cedar Shoals’ leading players are Quincy Canty and Tyler Johnson, a pair of seniors who have been in the program since the 10th grade.
Canty is a 6-foot-6 forward who averages 22 points and nine rebounds. He has received offers from UAB, Kennesaw State, St. Johns and Tennessee State. Canty has expanded on his skills as a big man to become a threat with a mid-range jumper and the 3-pointer. He has also become a better defensive player.
Johnson, a 6-1 guard, averages 20 points and seven rebounds. He has been offered by Kennesaw State. “He’s renaissance man,” Thomas said. “He does it all. I feel good when he’s on the court.” Johnson is a smart player and is able to create his own shot through sheer effort.
The other starters are Jamal McIntosh, Jalen Jackson and Kashik Brown.
“We had a good first half, now we’ll start playing teams that are more familiar with us,” Thomas said. “We’re not going to beat teams 20-30 points night-in and night-out. We’re going to focus on solidifying our position in the playoffs and we’ve got to be ready every night.”
That starts Tuesday when Cedar Shoals hosts defending state champion Buford at 7:30 p.m. The Wolves (12-4) are coming off a loss to Walnut Grove.
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