Class A Blog: A look at some of the top teams as basketball goes full throttle

ajc.com

Now that the extended football season has ended, and student athletes are back in school after the holiday break, basketball season gets into full swing as teams begin region play this week. Many teams have not played a ton of games, as COVID-19 has made early-season and holiday tournaments scarce.

Here’s a look at the top teams thus far in the 2020-2021 season:

BOYS

Private

Galloway: The Scots are one of just a few undefeated teams (7-0), after bowing out to eventual state champion St. Francis in the second round of last season’s state playoffs. They are led by junior guard Anthony Arrington, who is averaging 27 points and 11 rebounds a game.

Greenforest: The Eagles, last season’s runners-up, are 2-2 with both wins coming over big-time programs –Tri-Cities, the 2019 Class 6A champions, and Norcross from Class 7A. They are led by 6-foot-5 senior forward Jaylen Johnson.

Mount Pisgah: The Patriots advanced to the semifinals last season before falling to eventual champion St. Francis. This season they are 8-5 but undefeated against teams from Class A, including a 68-61 win over St. Francis last month. They are led by the senior duo of guard JoJo Peterson and center Nate Gordon.

Providence Christian: With seven seniors on the roster, led by 6-7 forward Elijah Williams, the Storm is poised to make a deep run in the state playoffs, after an early second round exit last season. Providence is 13-3 with the only losses coming to Buford, ranked No. 10 in Class 6A, Hart County, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A, and Montgomery Bell Academy, one of the top private programs in Tennessee.

St. Francis: The two-time defending state champs have gotten off to a rather rocky start at just 4-3, but look to get things rolling. The Knights are led by 6-8 senior forward Kai Simmons and 6-6 senior guard Jusaun Holt, an Alabama commit who is averaging 20 points and eight rebounds a game.

Public

Drew Charter: After exiting the state playoffs early last season, the Eagles appear to be on a mission in 2021. The are 10-0 thus far winning games by an average score of 91-50.

Dublin: The Irish have moved into Class A and have already established themselves as one of the teams to beat. They are off to a blistering 12-1 start with the only loss coming at the hands of Class 4A No. 2 Baldwin (57-49) last month. Dublin is led by senior guard Tyquan Davis, who is stuffing the stat sheet averaging 19 points, five assists, six rebounds and two steals a game.

Hancock Central: The defending state champs will get their season underway this week. The Bulldogs finished 28-3 last season en route to their first state title since 2008, but lost several seniors to graduation. However, last year’s leading scorer at 16 points per game, 6-1 guard Leroy Wilson, returns for his senior year.

Lanier County: After dropping their first two games of the season to Class AA No. 6 Thomasville and Class 7A Tift County, the Bulldogs have won eight in a row.

Towns County: Towns County was bounced out of the state playoffs in the first round last season. But this season a veteran roster, where 13 of the 16 players are either juniors or seniors, has the team off to a 6-1 start with the only loss coming to Class 7A Collins Hill.

GIRLS

Private

Eagles Landing Christian Academy: Now that Weronkia Hipp has moved on to Clemson, senior guard Jalisa Dunlap has stepped into the leadership role for the Chargers, who were knocked out of last year’s state playoffs in the quarterfinals by eventual champion Holy Innocents. ELCA is undefeated (8-0) thus far, including a one-point win over fellow title contender Hebron Christian, 51-50, last month.

Hebron Christian: The Lions fell to eventual champion Holy Innocents in the semifinals last season, but could be the team to beat this year after getting off to an 11-2 start. Led by legendary head coach Jan Azar, who won 13 state titles in 20 seasons at Wesleyan, before moving over to Hebron last season, the Lions have one of the state’s most talented rosters, featuring a quartet of seniors – guards Nicole Azar, Carly Fahey and Carly Heidger, and forward Malia Fisher.

Holy Innocents: The two-time defending state champs are 2-3 as head coach Nicole Dixon put together a brutal non-region schedule. The losses have come at the hands of rival St. Francis, Class 6A No. 4 Kell and No. 5 Langston Hughes. Junior guard Rachel Suttle is back to lead the charge for a three-peat.

Mount Paran: A state quarterfinalist last season, the Eagles are looking to make an even deeper run this year. They are off to a 12-2 start with the only losses coming last month to Class 7A No. 9 Brookwood and Class 5A No. 3 Woodward Academy.

St. Francis: The Knights have advanced to at least the state semifinals in each of the last eight seasons, including an appearance in last season’s finals. They look on their way to making another deep run this season, as senior guard Mia Moore, a Mississippi State commit, has them off to a 8-1 start with the only loss coming to Class 7A Collins Hill.

Public

Calhoun County: After advancing to the semifinals last season, the Cougars are primed to make another deep run, led by senior forward Takia Davis, who has committed to USC-Upstate. Calhoun County is 3-1 with the only loss coming to Class 2A No. 1 Early County.

Clinch County: Senior guard Angel McRae hopes to lead the Panthers on another deep run in the state playoffs, as they advanced to the quarterfinals last season.

Greenville: The 2018 state champs are looking for a return to the championship round this season, led by senior guards Jabrica Leslie, averaging 25 points and eight rebounds, and Shabrica Lewis, 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and six steals per game.

Lake Oconee Academy: The Titans hope to continue the young program’s progress, after making the state playoffs in 2019 and advancing to the second round last season. LOA is led by senior guard Destiny McClendon, averaging 23 points, four rebounds and three assists per game, and senior forward Piper Bosart, averaging 11 points and eight rebounds per game.

Turner County: The Rebels went 31-0 in 2016 as they captured the program’s first and only state title. Last season they advanced to the semifinals, and at 7-0 this season, they are on their way to replicating that undefeated mark, led by three players averaging 20 points per game – seniors Yakia Temple and Jaylasia Office, and sophomore Tykhia Burgess.