Whether regular season or exhibition, teams coached by Kendrick’s Sterling Hicks are known for their defense.
Utilizing the same pressure defense Hicks’ Lady Cherokees teams have become known for, the Georgia girls All-Stars rolled to a 72-62 victory over Alabama in the fifth annual Herbert Greene All-Star Classic on Saturday at the Lumpkin Center.
The team forced a handful of turnovers in the backcourt resulting in easy baskets en route to a 26-8 run to open the second half, turning a tie game momentarily into a runaway.
The Alabama All-Stars closed the gap late, cutting the lead to nine. By then, however, there wasn’t enough time on the clock.
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Shaunice Bennett (Hardaway) led the charge out of the break, knocking down a couple of baskets to ignite her team offensively.
“It was my last game in Columbus, so I wanted to go hard,” said Bennett, who was named the game’s most outstanding player. “It’s cool to be named (most outstanding player) with so many great players.”
She scored nine points in the game. Amber Keith (Hardaway) led the Georgia team with 12 points, followed by 11 from Tynish Mitchell.
Mitchell knocked down 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions later in the second half to give Georgia an 18-point lead, its biggest of the night.
It was Alabama that had come out of the gate early, holding a four-point lead late in the first half. A late basket by Bennett and a steal and score by Alexcia McNeal, however, tied the game going into the break.
Juel Beasley (Central) led all scorers with 20 points in Alabama’s losing effort. DaKijah Freeman (Beauregard) added 11 and Destiny Savage (Opelika) had 10 for Alabama.
The event on the court was only part of the story as a number of fans turned out to watch the game. Event officials didn’t have exact attendance information available, but they said it was by far the best attendance in the five years the event has been held.
The Lumpkin Center on Columbus State’s campus seats 2,500 in the lower bowl area, and a large majority of the seats were filled during both boys and girls games.
Georgia boys roll past Alabama
The Georgia boys All-Stars put a stamp on the game with just under two minutes left when Spencer’s Sean Buffen lobbed an alley-oop to Shaw’s Cedarius Brantley for a dunk.
The dunk put them ahead by 12, and they went on to defeat Alabama 81-71.
Buffen led the way offensively for Georgia, scoring 12 points on the way to being named the game’s most valuable player. After the game, Buffen said he was just happy for the opportunity to showcase his ability after the work he put in this season.
“I’m just thankful,” he said about being named MVP. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work all year.”
Buffen said he plans to play at the next level, but is undecided. He said Saturday was a good chance to show college scouts he could play at the next level.
Hardaway’s Cedric Jackson led the team with 14 points and Carver’s Ramon Turner added 10.
Jimmy Wilson (Smiths Station) led the Alabama squad with 13 points.
Alabama All-Stars take 2 of 3 in dunk, shootout
All-Stars from Georgia followed their win in the girls game with another victory in the girls 3-point competition.
Alabama took the boys shootout and dunk competitions, however.
Central sharpshooter Ronnie Battle knocked down 12 3-pointers in one minute in the opening boys round to advance to the finals, where he faced Carver’s Robert Colon. Colon hit 13 both in the opening round and the finals, but Battled notched 15 to take the boys title.
Opelika’s Trey Purter won the dunk competition by fan vote over Shaw’s Brandon Jackson, though Jackson’s first dunk was a crowd favorite. Jackson bounced the ball off the backboard, dunked and did a dance once his feet were back on the ground.
Purter barely made it out of the opening round, putting in a reverse slam with one second left on the clock. He made the most of his second dunk for the win.
Hardaway’s McNeal won on the girls side, knocking down four in a row to defeat Mitchell.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.
Saturday at The Lumpkin Center
Alabama girls 27 35—62
Georgia girls 27 45—72
Beasley 20, Freeman 11, Savage 10, Swift 6, Cox 3, Hopwood 3, Champion 2, Floyd 1.
Keith 12, Mitchell 11, Bennett 9, Burgos 7, Porter 7, White 7, McNeal 5, Fields 4, Keo. Harris 4, Key. Harris 2, Feaster 2, Merritt 2, Gottfried 2.
Saturday at The Lumpkin Center
Alabama boys 33 38—71
Georgia boys 39 42—81
Wilson 13, Purter 9, Presley 8, Swann 8, Walker 6, Ferguson 5, Barringer 4, Maddox 4, Foreman 4, Speake 2, Battle 2, Lamb 2, Porter 2.
C. Jackson 14, Buffen 12, Turner 10, Brantley 7, Corprew 6, B. Jackson 6, Billingsley 5, Bradford 4, Duncan 2, Stevens 2, Lewis 2, Floyd 2, Beverly 2