By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Perhaps the most anticipated game of the year thus far will go down Friday when the No. 2 St. Francis girls (15-2) travel to No. 1 Wesleyan (13-2). Neither team has lost to a team in Georgia this season.
While it should be a test for Wesleyan, which is seeking its fourth consecutive state title, the game is much bigger for St. Francis. The Knights have never beaten the Wolves and have lost the last three game against them by an average of 23 points.
“For us this is a championship game,” said standout senior forward Keyona Hayes.
The Knights warmed up with an 83-27 blowout of Pinecrest Academy on Tuesday. Sophomore center Brittany Outlaw had 19 points and 11 rebounds while junior guard Nigia Greene led all scorers with 20 points. The transfer from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy says she is not “The Answer” to beating Wesleyan, which is led by four NCAA Division I signees — Wesleyan’s Missy Byrd, Kaetlyn Causwell, Jordan Frazier and Holli Wilkins.
“I’m not here to beat [Wesleyan],” Greene said. “I think I make this team, which was already a very good team, better.”
In other girls news … Darlington continues to roll. The Tigers (17-2) have ridden their defense to the No. 5 ranking, yielding an average of just 35 points per game. In Tuesday’s 61-24 win over Trion, the Bulldogs failed to score 10 points in any of the game’s four quarters. Junior forward Terar Stewart led Darlington with 18 points. … According to GeorgiaPrepCountry.com, Pace Academy senior guard Morgan Batey is Class A’s leading scorer and rebounder at 22 points and 13 rebounds per game. She also leads the state in three point percentage at 37 percent. Claxton senior point guard Shameekia Murray is the state’s assists leader at more than five per contest for the 10-4 Tigers.
Calhoun County senior guard Vincent Powell leads all classifications in scoring at 28 points per game, according to GeorgiaPrepCountry.com. Athens Academy freshman Eric Williams leads Class A in assists at nearly five per game, and also leads in three-point percentage at 42 percent. Turner County forward Demarcus Daniels leads Class A in rebounds and blocks with 13 and 5 per game, respectively, for the No. 4 ranked Rebels.
Here are a couple of can’t-miss games taking place in January.
Taylor Count at Greenville, Saturday (6 p.m.). The No. 7 Vikings are representing the tradition of Taylor County basketball well this season having lost only one time thus far, by two points to Class AAA Rutland. They’ll get a stern test when they travel to Greenville to face the Patriots (12-2) who are led by one of the state’s most dynamic duos, senior forward Mykeshia Darden and sophomore guard Kiyanna Johnson.
Strong Rock Christian at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, Jan. 27 (6 p.m.). Lengendary head coach A.C. McCullers, who won state titles back in the 1980s at Morrow, is quietly building the program at two-year old Strong Rock in Locust Grove. The Patriots are 9-2 thus far. They’ll get a chance to see how good they really are when they ride north to Atlanta to face the No. 3-ranked Warriors, led by Brandi Wilkey, Alexis Carter and Shavontae Naylor.
Mt. Paran Christian at North Cobb Christian, Jan. 27 (7:30 p.m.). In the battle of Eagles, Mt. Paran nearly pulled the upset over top-ranked North Cobb Christian back on Jan. 3, losing 59-51 at home. Now Scott Varner’s club will try to get the job done on the road this time. NCC is led by seniors Corey Harris and Dauson Womack.
Lanier County at Wilcox County, Jan. 27 (7:30 p.m.). The Bulldogs, ranked No. 3 and leading Sub region 2B, have already beaten the top team from the other side of the league, Turner County (52-43), on Jan. 4. Now they will travel to No. 8 Wilcox (9-3) to face the team that trails Turner County by one game in the subregion standings. Turner County defeated Wilcox County, 52-51, on Jan. 7. Lanier is led by the three-headed senior monster 6-foot-7 center Junior Gnonkonde, 6-foot-5 forward Emmanuel Ezoua and 6-foot-4 guard Malik Kone.