Class 5A blog: Locust Grove, SWD and a look at the Sweet 16

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When the playoffs began, Locust Grove was the No. 6 seed in Region 4. Today the Wildcats are in the Sweet 16. Not bad for a program making its first appearance in the state tournament.

Coach Noah Harrell’s team survived a frantic final minute of its first-round game and defeated Warner Robins 59-57 on the road.

“We feel like we’ve been knocking on the door and all the hard work finally paid off,” said Harrell, who joined the program five years ago after taking two teams to the state tournament while he was at Salem. “I want to thank everyone for the support and love shown toward my guys over these past couple of weeks. Our guys are hungry and ready to keep this going.”

Harrel said the No. 6 seed was a bit misleading “Really all the teams from No. 3 to No. 7 were close,” he said. In the region tournament, Locust Grove beat third-seeded Woodland 60-59, lost to defending state champion Dutchtown 73-68 in the region semifinals and defeated Union Grove 59-48 in the consolation game.

A trip to Warner Robins, one of the traditional Middle Georgia powers, is not an easy task. But Locust Grove took solace knowing it had hung tough with Dutchtown twice and Eagle’s Landing once, losing those three by five points or less.

Warner Robins tried to neutralize all-region Geo Strachan, who still finished with seven points and five rebounds. But David Laurent continued his stellar postseason play by posting 27 points and seven rebounds. Laurent had 19 points and 12 rebounds against Woodland and 23 points and 12 rebounds against Dutchtown in the region tournament.

Locust Grove also got 12 points from Josh Richardson, 10 of them in the fourth quarter when the Wildcats erased a seven-point deficit. Kyler Akins finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Wildcats will play No. 3-ranked Tri-Cities on Friday at 6 p.m.

About that Southwest DeKalb girls win

The score of the Southwest DeKalb win over Walnut Grove was certainly eye-catching. The 77-3 victory – not a typographical error -- was also a record-setting occasion.

Walnut Grove made only 1 of 28 from the field, that a 3-pointer n the first quarter, and Southwest was ahead 51-3 at halftime. SWD emptied its bench early but the young Warriors were defenseless against the Panthers’ quickness and attacking style.

According to basketball historian Becky Taylor, creator of the Georgia High School Basketball Project, the three points is a record for fewest points scored in a state playoff game. The previous record was seven set by Richmond Hill in 2019 set in a 59-7 loss to Forest Park.

The 74-point margin of victory is a girls record. It surpassed the 68-point margin set in 1979 when Lowndes beat Johnson Savannah 98-30. The overall tournament record was 86 points when Carver-Atlanta beat the George boys 141-55 in 1969.

First-round boys upsets: The only ranked team that lost in the first round was No. 10 Cass, which lost 72-67 to Villa Rica. Kannon Roberts scored 17 – including five 3-pointers – and Nych Mainor scored 14 for Villa Rica. … Two No. 4 seeds won their opener. Jonesboro, the fourth seed from Region 3, beat Regin 2 champion Harris County 48-43. Chapel Hill, the fourth seed from Region 6, knocked off Region 7 champion Calhoun 56-36.

First-round girls upsets: None. Every team seeded first or second in their region advanced, as did all state-ranked teams.

Best second-round boys games: There are two second-round games that match a pair of ranked teams. No. 7 Jonesboro (17-6) plays at No. 8 Dutchtown (21-7) and No. 5 Woodward Academy (17-6) travels to No. 4 Veterans (22-0). Top-ranked St. Pius (23-3) hosts rival Blessed Trinity (19-8) in a rematch of a regular-season game won 50-44 by St. Pius.

Best second-round girls games: Plenty to choose from, with four Sweet 16 matchups featuring a pair of ranked teams. The best could be No. 3 Cass (25-1) at No. 5 Southwest DeKalb (20-6), with No. 6 Maynard Jackson (19-4) at Loganville (25-3), No. 7 St. Pius (19-2) at No. 8 Hiram (18-4), and No. 2 Forest Park (20-5) at No. 9 Warner Robins (21-3) all compelling.

Second-round girls schedule: Friday – Cass at Southwest DeKalb, 6 p.m.; Coffee at Woodward Academy, 5:30; Maynard Jackson at Loganville, 6:30 p.m.; Eagle’s Landing at Griffin, 6 p.m.; Greenbrier at New Manchester, 6 p.m. Saturday – McIntosh at Dutchtown, 3 p.m.; St. Pius at Hiram, 3 p.m.; Forest Park at Warner Robins, 5 p.m.;

Second round boys schedule: Friday - Locust Grove at Tri-Cities, 6 p.m. Saturday – Blessed Trinity at St. Pius, 6 p.m.; Villa Rica at Clarke Central, TBA; Jonesboro at Dutchtown, 6 p.m.; Chapel Hill at Lithonia, TBA; Woodward Academy at Veterans, 5 p.m.; Forest Park at Eagle’s Landing, TBA; Decatur at New Manchester, 5 p.m.

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