A-Private Boys: #1 St. Francis vs. #2 Greenforest Christian

Photo by Ty Freeman


Region 6, 28-3

Like Greenforest, St. Francis is also seeking its second boys basketball state championship in school history. Last year’s Class A-Private triumph was its first, and it did not come easily. The Knights edged Holy Innocents’ 72-70 in the quarterfinals and held off Whitefield Academy 65-60 in the championship. St. Francis has been far more dominant this season, both in the regular season and the playoffs. Head coach Drew Catlett’s team has three losses on its resume, but one was to Miller Grove and the other two came at prestigious tournaments in Florida (including a 62-59 setback against national powerhouse Montverde Academy 11 at the famous City of Palms Classic in Ft. Myers). Since St. Francis won at Whitefield 68-63 on Jan. 16, no 12 opponent has come within 22 points. That stretch includes two rematches against Whitefield, which the Knights dominated 78-52 on Feb. 14 and 63-40 in last weekend’s state semifinals. Ranked No. 1, St. Francis blasted Lakeview Academy 103-59 in the opening round before cruising past Aquinas 86-57 in the quarterfinals. As those results suggest, St. Francis is an offensive juggernaut that has eclipsed the century mark twice this season and has put up at least 80 points on 13 other occasions. The Knights are led by Florida State signee Malik Beasley, who was named the Region 6-A Player of the Year. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard poured in 30 points in the region final against Whitefield and scored 35 in the quarterfinal drubbing of Aquinas. Xavier signee Kaiser Gates can also take over games. The 6-foot-8 power forward did just about everything against Aquinas with 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Kobi Simmons runs the offense as a physical, athletic point guard that can both score and distribute. The 6-foot-5 junior already has offers from Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas and North Carolina, among many other schools.



Region 5, 27-1

It will be a showdown between the two most recent Class A-Private state champions when Greenforest Christian goes up against St. Francis. Greenforest captured its first title in 2013 and is back in the championship game after getting bounced out of quarterfinal action in last year’s tournament. The Eagles’ trek through the 2015 bracket started in routine fashion, with blowouts of Southwest Atlanta Christian (103-31) and Stratford Academy (63-23). A semifinal tilt against Athens Christian, however, came down to the final seconds. Greenforest trailed 21-10 after one quarter and did not regain a lead until John Ogwuche hit a three-pointer as the buzzer signaled the end of quarter three. Ogwuche later hit the second of two free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining to help his team pull out a 57-56 thriller. In addition to Ogwuche’s heroics, the Eagles got 18 points from Justin Ravenel and 14 from Justin Forrest. Forrest, the son of former Georgia Tech star James Forrest, drained eight three-pointers for a game-high 24 points in the quarterfinal win over Stratford. Just how good is head coach Nick Lagroone’s squad? Well, its only loss came in 75-72 fashion to Pebblebrook back on Dec. 13. Pebblebrook is a powerhouse that will battle Wheeler for the title in the state’s highest classification. Since their narrow setback against such stiff com- 12 petition, the Eagles have reeled off 22 consecutive wins. A suffocating defense has led the way. Greenforest has allowed more than 70 points only one other time (71 to Landmark Christian on Jan. 23) and no other opponent has reached the 60-point mark in any contest. It is not hard to figure out why Greenforest is so tough defensively. 23 More than half of its roster registers at 6-foot-6 or taller and the three starters on its front line stand at 7-foot-1 (sophomore center Ikey Obiagu), 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-9.

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