Friday hoops preview: Fourth-ranked Pius to host No. 3 Lithonia

Photo by Ty Freeman

No. 3 Lithonia (20-1, 15-0) @ No. 4 St. Pius (19-3, 13-2)

The biggest matchup of the night comes from Region 6-AAAA where the red hot Bulldogs, who have won 20 straight games after dropping their season opener, hit the road against the Golden Lions who have reeled off 10 straight wins. Lithonia dropped St. Pius 55-41 in its first meeting this season. Guards Tyheem Freeman and Rodney Chatman head up the Bulldog offense. Kesean Warren and Stephen Dunn also factor in to Lithonia’s success. St. Pius gets the job done with a solid defense and an unselfish offense. Christian Merrill and Derek Rufolo bring strong play on the perimeter while Kerney Lane is effective on both sides on the ball inside.

No. 1 Wheeler (20-2, 13-0) @ Walton (10-12, 6-8)

Wheeler, Region 5-AAAAAA’s frontrunner, has not lost a game against an instate opponent all season. Five-star prospect Jaylen Brown is still undecided on where he will play at the next level. The consensus No. 2 ranked player in the nation was selected to represent the East in this year’s upcoming McDonald’s All-American game. Brown along with guard Shembari Phillips (Tennessee-commit) make the Wildcats one of the most talented teams in the nation, which has been proven by their No. 10 ranking nationally by MaxPreps. Walton has solid size up front and will lean on seniors Nick Wells and Josh McGrath to score inside on the Wildcats. Walton fell 97-61 in the two schools only meeting this season.

No. 1 St. Francis (18-3, 8-0) @ King’s Ridge Christian (9-14, 4-6)

Class A’s No. 1 ranked Knights hit the road in Region 6 actions and bring with them possibly the most talented team in the state. Senior Malik Beasley has committed to Florida State and is averaging a team-leading 22.3 points and 7.5 rebounds. Fellow senior Kaiser Gates is heading to Xavier. The 6-foot-8 forward averages 12.9 points and 7.5 rebounds. Five-star junior Kobi Simmons is undecided, but might be the best of the bunch averaging 20.7 points and 4.1 assists. King’s Ridge is young and relies on two freshmen and three sophomores. Jack Armstrong is the team’s lone senior. The Knights won by 46 in their first meeting.

Druid Hills (10-14, 4-8) @ No. 1 Miller Grove (20-3, 12-0)

Region 6-AAAAA features No. 1 Miller Grove looking for their seventh straight title, hosting the Druid Hill Red Devils. Alterique Gilbert leads the Class AAAAA’s favorite to win it all, averaging over 17 points a game while flirting with triple-doubles on a nightly basis racking up assists, steals, and rebounds. Lamont West gives the Wolverines a strong post presence averaging 17 points per game. Gamaun Boykin and Aidan Saunders also find themselves stuffing stat sheets while Raylon Richardson protects the paint. Returning starters Terrance Rose, Cameron Stokes, and Jordan Foote are all sophomores for Druid Hills. Desham During is the lone returning senior starter. Miller Grove rolled 81-29 in their previous matchup.

Mill Creek (14-8, 6-5) @ No. 5 Norcross (19-3, 10-1)

Mill Creek, who is in a tie with Peachtree Ridge, will look to shake up Region 7-AAAAAA even more if they can knock off No. 5 Norcross. So far this season, Region 7 has been an absolute dog fight with no games coming easy. In a non-region meeting between the two schools in the Tabo Tip-Off Tournament, the Blue Devils drilled the Hawks 97-64. But when the two teams played again, this time with the region standings on the line, Norcross only eked out an 87-84 victory. The Blue Devils boast one of the largest lineups in the state and are led by big men Ricky Madison and Rayshaun Hammonds.  Madison, a High Point-commit, is the Blue Devil’s number one scoring and rebounding threat. Tim Cameron and Devin Huffman are both guards that will play at the next level. Mill Creek is led by a balanced scoring attack. Sha Powell, Charles Botchway, Scotty Chadwick, Miles Riley, and Davion Clark can all finish in double figues any given night.

Cherokee (14-8, 8-5) @ Pope (18-3, 11-2)

The Warriors, coming off a big win over Milton, visit The Pound in Region 5-AAAAAA play. Cherokee receives their scoring from the perimeter led by Jovan Morris, a three-point threat. 1,000 point scorer, Jeremiah Gill, is steady up top and is flanked by fellow senior guard Willie McClure. Pope’s attack is paced by heady GCSU-commit Chase Hutchins. Tyler Borko and Garrick DeBowles also are key cogs as senior leaders for the Greyhounds. Pope picked up a 52-46 victory at Cherokee in their previous matchup.

No. 8 Collins Hill (17-5, 7-4) @ Duluth (16-6, 7-4)

The winner of this Region 7-AAAAAA game will hold sole possession of second place heading into the final week of the season. The Eagles have stumbled of late, dropping three of their past five games including a one point loss in overtime to North Gwinnett on Tuesday. Guard Devin Watson leads Collins Hill in scoring and is followed by Kai Lambert and Jalen Mitchell. For Duluth, guards Anthony Showell and Kahir Jefferies do their damage from the outside. Joseph Gordon runs the show at the point and 6-foot-7 junior Obinna Ofodile is a strong rebounder and shot blocker. The Wildcats dropped 50-43 in their first meeting with Collins Hill.

No. 1 Pace Academy (19-2, 11-0) @ Hapeville Charter (10-11, 5-6)

Coming off a thrilling two point win at No. 3 Holy Innocents’ on Tuesday, Class AA’s No. 1 ranked Knights will look to remain undefeated in Region 6. Elijah Holifield, who hit a game winning jumper with 2.7 seconds left to lift Pace over Holy Innocents’, is one of the state’s toughest guards. 14 of his 29 points came in the final frame to help Pace stay unbeaten in region play. Wendell Carter Jr. is already recognized as one of the top sophomore centers in the nation and averages a double-double in the process. Zack Kaminsky also provides all-around solid play for the Knights. The Hornets are led by guard Nicholas Tolbert’s 17 points per game. Datraun Poole is a 6-foot-4 forward who usually battles inside for Hapeville, leading the team in rebounding. In their last meeting, Pace only came away with a 65-61 win as Lavarus Peterkin and Tolbert combined for 43 points.

Chestatee (12-11, 3-3) @ No. 2 Johnson-Gainesville (21-0, 5-0)

Ty Cockfield and Roderick English lead one of the best backcourts in the state and have the Knights undefeated late in their Region 8-AAAA slate. Cockfield averages 29.2 points per game while fellow senior English pours in 19.8 per night. Johnson’s third option is Andrew Sims, a 6-foot-3 forward. The Knights have already toppled the likes of Whitefield Academy, North Cobb Christian, Apalachee, Gainesville, and Buford. Chestatee fell victim 66-45. Hunter Creamer, Jordan Pulliam, Blake Degraff, and Caleb Jameson are all seniors who play important minutes for the War Eagles.

Campbell (14-8, 5-6) @ Langston Hughes (17-5, 7-4)

Langston Hughes picked up a big Region 3-AAAAAA win this Tuesday after beating No. 7 Douglas County, 67-53. 6-foot-7 forward Chuma Okeke is only a sophomore, but has already received an offer from Florida State. Okeke posted 28 points and 11 rebounds in the Panthers win over Douglas County. Khalil Cuffee, also a sophomore, scored 18 points and averages close to 20 points per game. The Panthers only hold three seniors on their roster while the rest of the team consists of strictly sophomores, making them a team to keep an eye on not only this year, but for the next two seasons as well. For Campbell, Laz Walker a six-foot guard leads the team in points (21.8) and rebounds with 9.3. Fellow juniors Mike Olmert (15.6 ppg 7.6 apg) and Randy McClure (8.1 ppg 8.5 rpg) are consistently productive for the Spartans. Langston Hughes came away with a 69-52 victory at Campbell in their first game.

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