Stephenson’s move down from the highest classification is likely to make DeKalb County’s already-dominant contingent in Class AAAAA even stronger this season.
The No. 2-ranked Stephenson girls opened the season 5-0, including a 43-40 victory over defending state champion Miller Grove, before suffering a 53-48 loss to Tucker last week. Stephenson won the Morrow Thanksgiving Tournament with victories against Dutchtown (81-60), Drew (69-28) and Fayette County (70-49). Kaliyah Mitchell, an honorable mention all-state player in the highest classification last season, has been leading the way. She averaged 23.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.3 steals, 3.8 assists and 2.0 blocks in the first four games.
The Jaguars boys team, which reached the second round of the state tournament last season despite a 9-21 record, was ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll this season. Stephenson opened the new season 2-1, with its only loss a 64-42 setback to Miller Grove.
DeKalb County teams have won past seven boys state championship in the second-highest classification. DeKalb schools (including private school St. Pius) have won seven of the past nine girls titles in the classification.
*Bouncing back: Miller Grove, which won the past four Class AAAA boys titles, was upset by McEachern 63-62 in its opener but has responded with four consecutive victories. The Wolverines won a close one against Archer on Saturday. Miller Grove trailed by 17 in the second quarter but won 72-70 on James Walker’s inside shot at the buzzer. The Miller Grove girls team, which also won the AAAA title last season, is 2-2.
*Off to Florida State: One of the state’s top college prospects this year is Jones County’s Jarquez Smith, who signed with Florida State in November. The 6-foot-9 forward is a consensus top 100 player and ranked as high as No. 63 nationally by CBSSports.com. As a junior, Smith averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Greyhounds. Through two games this season, he is averaging 10.5 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. In a scrimmage against Putnam County the day before he signed with the Seminoles, Smith scored 40 points and had 16 rebounds, six blocks and three steals.
*Worth noting: Sprayberry’s Neena Carter scored 34 points in her team’s 63-57 victory over River Ridge on Saturday. Aysia Grimsley added 19, giving the two players 84 percent of the team’s points. The Sprayberry boys won 60-46 behind 26 points from Armel Potter. … The Cedar Shoals girls team, which went 20-6 last season, is off to another hot start at 5-0 going into Tuesday night’s game at Morgan County. The Jaguars boys are 2-3, but two of the losses came against Florida teams.