Miller Grove reaches 6-AAAA final with win over Lakeside

A defending state champion known for defense will take it personally if it gives up 90 points in a game, especially if one player goes for 35.

Determined not to let it happen again, Miller Grove defeated Lakeside-DeKalb 77-61 on Friday night to reach the Region 6-AAAA boys basketball final at Marist. Lakeside star Sheldon Strickland, who scored 35 when Miller Grove defeated Lakeside 100-90 earlier this season, was limited to 12 points, only two in the second half.

“Great players you have to guard before they get the ball,’’ Miller Grove coach Sharman White said. “We wanted him to work for everything. We threw an extra guy at him and gave him some space to keep him out of the lane because we knew he could cause some trouble for our big guys causing fouls.’’

Henry Brooks scored 17 points, and Donte Williams and Adarius Fulton had 14 apiece for Miller Grove, which has won 16 consecutive and stands 21-6, with most of its losses to out-of-state teams.

Miller Grove sits behind only No. 1 Rockdale County (25-1) in the rankings, but most in the biased gym at Marist on Friday felt Miller Grove should be called the favorite for the state tournament, which begins Feb. 26.

Region 6-AAAAA has produced the champion in each of the past three seasons.

“They’re absolutely the team to beat,’’ said Lakeside coach Larry Pierce. “They’re the best team in the best region. That speaks for itself. They do so many things well. They can shoot and take it inside and handle the ball.’’

The 2009 team was guard-oriented with Mfon Udofia, now a Georgia Tech freshman, as its leader. This team is noted more for its inside game.

Williams, who scored 14 points Friday, is a 6-foot-9 post player who is rated among the top 20 senior prospects in Georgia. Junior Henry Brooks, a 6-7 forward, has SEC and ACC offers. He scored 17.

“We’ve got some athletic bigs," White said. "But a lot of guys underestimate our guard play now, but they’re just as good [as last season] because they’ve been practicing and playing with Mfon for three or four years, and some of that rubbed off on them.’’

The guards came with pressure Friday. Trailing 34-33 at halftime, Miller Grove allowed only one field goal in the third quarter until Strickland made a steal and a layup with 1:22 left in the period. By then, it was 57-45. Miller Grove also held Lakeside (17-7) without a field goal for a six-minute stretch in the fourth quarter.

The only big concern now is a toe and ankle injury that kept 6-9 forward Tony Parker out of the game. His status for the state tournament is undetermined.

Otherwise, Miller Grove is on schedule. The region final is Monday against the winner of Friday’s late game between Marist and Chamblee.

‘’There’s a certain type of walk you have to have to win a state tournament,’’ White said. “We’re getting it.’'