High school basketball recap: A handful of talented teams remain in the Bi-City area

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerFebruary 24, 2013 

Four girls teams entered on Friday, and two remained when the night was done.

The boys suffered greater losses when half the teams in Class AA and more met their demise in second-round games on Saturday.

None of the teams should finish with any shame, however, as some of the opponents were among the most talented teams in the state.

Here’s a look at the weekend’s action.

Recap: On Friday, four girls teams played and two survived to play again on Tuesday.

Hardaway and Kendrick defeated Evans and Greater Atlanta Christian (no small task), respectively, while Brookstone and Calvary Christian saw their seasons come to an end.

Before I move on to the boys, I’d like to talk about the girls winners.

I didn’t have the pleasure of covering the Hardaway game, but from following Tweets throughout the game, it appeared to be a solid contest. After a less-than-stellar win in the first round, the Lady Hawks seemed to put things back together for a victory against a very difficult opponent.

Hardaway used a mixture of defense and an impressive performance from Alexcia McNeal to seal the victory.

I did, thankfully, have the fortune of covering the Kendrick game. What a treat it was.

There are Tweets from myself (@leprepsports) and another member of the Bi-City media that described the action in three words at nearly the exact time: “What a game.”

The Lady Cherokees hung on for a 61-59 win over the always dangerous GAC girls, who missed a shot from half court as the buzzer sound. The ball had the right distance, but was just slightly to the left of the basket. I think every heart in the gym stopped for a minute when the ball was heaved.

The fact is, hearts were on edge the entire game. One Kendrick supporter jokingly asked for his blood pressure medicine in the hallway after the game. The game never had a deficit bigger than five points the entire game.

It was an incredible display of how basketball is supposed to be played at the state level. Hats off to GAC for an incredible contest, and a round of applause for Kendrick for pulling out the victory.

Did I mention that win protected Kendrick’s perfect record, now 29-0?

Alright, your turn guys.

The boys teams didn’t fair quite as well on Saturday as the majority of teams remaining in the Bi-City saw their seasons come to an end.

Carver lost a close contest to Johnson-Savannah, Shaw fell to Marist, Spencer to GAC, Kendrick to Model and Calvary Christian to Westminster.

But there is still hope for the area.

Jordan trounced visiting Dade County, Northside survived Richmond Hill and Manchester eeked out a three-point win against Calhoun.

Each of those three teams is talented enough to continue their run on Wednesday.

What it means: It means, while the teams are starting to dwindle, there is some good basketball yet to be played.

The Hardaway girls have a very tough test with highly-touted Forest Park nest. But do we doubt the Lady Hawks after an impressive win over Evans?

Kendrick appears to be in as good a shape as ever, having defeated arguably its biggest contender in the bracket in GAC. Lady Cherokees coach Sterling Hicks, of course, will tell his team not to overlook three-seed Lovett despite is spotty record. Lovett, after all, did play GAC to a five-point loss in the region tournament (and held it to just 38 points).

On the boys side, Jordan is playing at such a high level that it is hard to imagine in faltering in the quarterfinals. It could, of course, but it has a great combination of shooters, runners and interior presence. The Red Jackets appear to be in a good position.

Northside will have its hands full with Jenkins-Savannah in the next round, but the Patriots, too, are playing great basketball right now.

Manchester gets GAC, which defeated Spencer on Saturday, in the quarterfinals.

What we learned: I learned a couple of things at the two games I covered this weekend.

First, the Kendrick girls can, in fact, trade punches.

All season, the Lady Cherokees ran away from opponents, piling up wins by 30 and 40 points on a regular basis. Hicks made it clear on multiple occasions that his team isn’t running up the score in those games, it is remaining competitive for 32 minutes so that when it got into a close, late-game situation, it would know how to handle it.

We can officially say Kendrick has been tested, and it passed with flying colors.

Alright, the Lady Cherokees made some mistakes late, sure. They missed a couple free throws, and they made a couple turnovers. But at the end of the day, they did everything they needed to do to win against one of the best teams in the state.

Those who wondered whether they could handle the pressure can rest easy. Kendrick is the real deal.

I also learned from Jordan that it is going to be a very difficult team to match going forward.

Despite reaching the semifinals last season, I feel like the Red Jackets have flown somewhat under the radar this season. Perhaps that’s my fault, but they’ve caught my attention now.

They know how to run when the situation calls for it, pressuring the ball and getting the ball to the basket. They also know how to slow it down and run a half-court offense when less urgency is needed. They’re very good on the offensive glass and they have players that can penetrate or shoot from 15-plus feet.

Best of the day: If you’ll allow me, I’d like to recognize a handful of players.

First, Jordan’s Jamar Sheppard was as prolific as ever on the offensive end, getting a lot of buckets near the basket, including a handful on putbacks. In all, he tallied 31 points to lead his team to the win.

Kahlia Lawrence led the way for the Kendrick girls, dropping 30 points. Forget the 30 points, though. It was her 9-of-9 performance from the charity stripe that was most important. She knocked down two clutch free throws late with her team trailing to help push them to a 61-59 victory.

Alexcia McNeal had 24 to lead Hardaway to an impressive win, and Christian Bradford had the high-score for the weekend, dropping 35 points in a losing effort.

Quotable:

“We’re experienced now. We know what it’s like, and we’re ready for it.” –Jordan’s Jamar Sheppard on the rest of the playoffs

Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports for live updates from games, thoughts and predictions. Come back to the Valley Preps Blog for recaps and previews throughout the playoffs.

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