Recapping GHSA Elite Eight Day Two
The second set of quarterfinal games in the GHSA State Tournament took place on Wednesday night, and there were several more standout performances around the state. Our staff shares what you need to know from Wednesday night.
WOODWARD WINS IN “GAME OF THE YEAR”
Sandy Creek at Woodward Academy had everything you could ever ask for in a high school game. Let’s start with a sellout crowd that filled up Woodward Academy’s gym an hour early. How about a pair of five-star prospects matched up with each other with plenty of other talented players around them? There were coaches whose players fought to end very end for with great game plans. And several runs back and forth throughout the game with a last second basket deciding the game.
It was billed as one of the best games of the year and lived up to it in full. Woodward Academy won on a last-second lay up by Logan Stephens by a score 58-56. Woodward Academy’s five-star big man Walker Kessler, a North Carolina signee and McDonald’s All-American, had a monster game with 33 points and 13 rebounds along with a few blocks. He had a few powerful dunks late to keep Woodward in position to pull out the victory. Junior wing Will Richard chipped in with 8 points and 12 rebounds. Senior guards Emory Lanier, a Davidson signee and son of Georgia State head coach Rob Lanier, and Michael Whitmore’s stats won’t wow you, but their defense was terrific from start to finish.
For Sandy Creek, five-star junior forward Jabari Smith displayed exactly why he’s viewed as a top five prospect nationally in the 2021 class. He’s 6-foot-9 with legitimate guard skills and inside-outside game. He too recorded a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
North Carolina had an assistant coach in attendance to see Kessler, but it’s safe to say Smith also caught his attention. Woodward Academy will now face Denmark in the semifinals of the 4-A bracket on Friday afternoon at Fort Valley State.
GRAYSON WINS BIG OVER NORCROSS
In another highly anticipated game locally, Norcross traveled to Grayson for a showdown of Gwinnett County powerhouses. This one didn’t turn out as well as Sandy Creek/Woodward Academy as Grayson ran away with it by a score 65-27.
Senior guard Caleb Murphy, a South Florida signee and top 100 prospect in the 2020 class, led Grayson with 20 points playing against his former school. Senior wing Toneari Lane, a Winthrop signee, added 17 points. Senior point guard Deivon Smith, a Mississippi State signee and top 50 prospect in the 2020 class, wasn’t called upon to score but added 4 points, 7 assists and 9 rebounds.
Grayson advances for a rematch with McEachern on Saturday night at Buford Arena.
OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES FROM WEDNESDAY
· Cedar Shoals knocked off a talented Lithonia team 50-47. Lithonia senior guard Eric Gaines, a top 100 recruit nationally and 16-under MVP of the 2018 Battle For Georgia, scored 20 points in his final game. Recent USC-Aiken commits Tyler Johnson and Quincy Canty added 12 points and 11 points, respectively.
· Wheeler is back in the Final Four after knocking off Berkmar at home, 53-43. The Wildcats advance to get a rematch with Milton on Saturday afternoon at Buford in the 7-A bracket.
· Sharman White is back in the Final Four in his second year at Pace Academy with a 65-40 victory over Monroe Area. Junior wing Matthew Cleveland (Pictured), one of the most highly recruited prospects nationally in the 2021 class, recorded 20 points and 7 assists. Junior big man Cole Middleton controlled the paint with 8 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks.
· Kell advanced to the Final Four on Wednesday with a 57-45 victory on the road at Buford. Sophomore guard Scoot Henderson, a top 15 prospect nationally in the 2021 class, led the way with 14 points along with 4 rebounds and 3 assists.