'09 champs continue chase for another state title

The holiday tournaments are complete and the season has turned toward region play. It's time to check in on last year's boys state champions as they tune up to defend their titles.

The defending champs

-- Wheeler (Class AAAAA): The Wildcats are ranked No. 5 with an 11-3 record, but only one of the losses came against a Georgia team (No. 3-ranked Centennial). Memphis signee Jelan Kendrick, a transfer from Westlake, is rated by Rivals.com and Scout.com as the No. 8 player in the nation. Wheeler's most difficult task might be working its way through Region 6-AAAAA, which includes Centennial, No. 1 Milton and No. 4 Walton.

-- Miller Grove (Class AAAA): The Wolverines' No. 3 ranking is more indicative of their talent than their 7-6 record. They have lost close games against No.2 Tucker and Class AAAAA No. 1 Milton and lost three times in national holiday tournaments. Senior Donte Williams and sophomore Tony Parker are capable of double figures in scoring and rebounding every night, and junior Henry Brooks is a double-figure scorer who already is drawing a lot of college attention. Miller Grove hosts No. 6 Chamblee tonight.

-- South Atlanta (Class AAA): The Hornets lost Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech) and Andre Malone (Auburn), among others, off last year's team, but this year's squad hasn't missed a beat. South Atlanta is 11-1 and ranked No. 1, suffering its first loss last week against Central Park Christian of Alabama. Junior center Nick Jacobs and junior forward Dominique McKoy are drawing considerable interest from SEC and ACC schools.

-- Dublin (Class AA): The No. 10-ranked Fighting Irish are 10-2, having lost 77-52 to Class A No. 2 Wilkinson County and 72-66 to Class AA No. 8 Vidalia. The rematch with Vidalia on Jan. 19 will go a long way in determining the Region 3-AA /Div. B champion. Senior center Tawaski King averages 14.9 points and 8.4 rebounds, leading the team in both categories. Dublin played just two of its first 10 games at home.

-- Whitefield Academy (Class A): The Wolfpack is 11-1 and ranked No. 1 heading into this weekend's games. The only loss came against Huffman of Alabama, 52-49 on Dec. 18. Whitefield Academy won four games to earn the championship at the Dothan, Ala., Eagle Christmas Tournament. Kennard Backman, who made first-team all-state in football, was the tournament MVP.

Last year's runner-ups

-- Milton (AAAAA): The Eagles are ranked No. 1 and have lost just once, to Winter Park, Fla. Milton beat No. 4 Walton 74-54 on Tuesday with its star player, Julian Royal, on the bench with an injury.

-- Tucker (AAAA): The second-ranked Tigers won their division in the DeKalb County Holiday Basketball Tournament by beating Lakeside 79-72. The Tigers have lost to McIntosh and Columbia.

-- Westover (AAA): The undefeated Patriots are ranked second behind South Atlanta. Their 61-58 victory against Perry on Tuesday was their closest game of the season.

-- Blessed Trinity (AA): The fifth-ranked Titans have lost to GAC (the No. 1 team in AA), and Class AAAAA Mill Creek and Central Gwinnett.

-- Turner County (A): The Rebels are 4-5 and the only 2009 runner-up that is not ranked.

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