Class 5A blog: Athletic Eagle’s Landing continues to roll

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The Eagle’s Landing boys have been one of the state’s most consistently strong programs during the 10 years that coach Elliott Montgomery has been at the helm. This year is no exception. The No. 2-ranked Eagles are 22-1 and among a handful of teams that might just have the combination of skill and experience to be considered a championship contender.

Eagle’s Landing won the state championship in 2013, beating Columbia in the title game to finish 23-4. Since then there have been seven 21-plus win seasons over the next eight years. Last year the Eagle’s went 25-4 and lost to Clarke Central in the second round. This year’s team is hungry to return to the title chase.

“We’ve had some good teams and we’ve been blessed to have this group,” Montgomery said. “This group is young (four seniors returned) and they’re a lot of fun to be around. I usually get pretty serious, but sometimes they make me laugh, so you have to enjoy it.

“One thing that COVID has taught us, is life is short and you’ve got to enjoy it while you can.”

The Eagle’s are an athletic team with the ability to attack the basket. They are fundamentally sound and don’t shy away from the difficult tasks.

“We play good defense and we play hard,” Montgomery said. “Their effort is outstanding. Each one of those kids gives 110 percent every day.”

The team is paced by a pair of underclassmen: 6-foot-5 junior A.J. Barnes and 6-2 sophomore David Thomas.

Barnes has the ability fire from outside, but really thrives when taking the ball to the basket and finishing at the rim. He’s good defender who isn’t shy about fighting for rebounds.

“He’s our x-factor,” Montgomery said. “He can play in the middle. He can play point guard. He can play anywhere. And he shoots it good, so he’s a matchup probable for most team.”

Thomas is a superb shooter, particularly of the 3-pointer, but is hardly a one-dimensional player.

“He’s a scorer,” Montgomery said. “He’s a much better defender and he works hard.”

Senior guard Jaylon Hand is a smooth operator who is a good 3-point shooter and has the experience to keep things calm on the floor. Senior Jay’Dan Jackson is one of those undersized guards (5-foot-8) that coaches love; he’s tough and can do a lot of things that confound the opposition.

Others include junior Fabian Desilva, another 5-10 guard who can finish at the rim; Jordan Fordyce, who just returned from an injury and should be a factor in the playoffs; and junior Amari Jackson, a football prospect who Montgomery said “has been asked to guard everybody.”

“Right now I’d say we’ve got to play better defense and be more patient in our offensive sets,” Montgomery said. “Our defense has been good, but it’s got to get better.”

Eagle’s Landing won the Region 4 championship and will host Union Grove in the semifinal round. Barring an upset, the Eagle’s could be heading for a rematch with rival No. 8-ranked Dutchtown in the region final. Eagle’s Landing won both meetings – 61-58 and 75-71.

The Eagles have been tested by a tough schedule that has included Class 4A No. 7 Luella, Class A Private No. 4 Greenforest, Meadowcreek, East Coweta, Class 3A No. 1 Sandy Creek, Wayne County and Class 4A No. 3 Monroe. Their only loss came against Tift County, the No. 1 team from Region 1-7A.

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