GHSA basketball semifinal coverage from around the state on Friday

There are semifinals games at three locations across the state Friday – Fort Valley State, Georgia College and State University and the University of West Georgia in Carrollton.

Seth Ellerbee is covering the games at Fort Valley State in Class A Division II and the AJC has writers are West Georgia (5A) and Georgia College (A Division I).

To see coverage from West Georgia or Georgia College, follow the links or check out the recaps from Fort Valley State below.

Boys: Manchester 62, Warren County 60

It’s oddly fitting that Manchester’s two leading scorers made the game-winning block to send the Blue Devils and first-year head coach Demonta Prather to the Division II state championship game.

And it’s more picturesque when realized that the last time Prather suited up in a high school basketball uniform, he played for Manchester – a small railroad town in the west central part of the state — when it lost to Laney 67-53 in the 2012 Class 2A championship game.

And it’s heartwarming seeing coach Prather grab his young son – Khyson — out of the stands as soon as the clock struck zero to celebrate the moment with him.

“We lost that game my senior year,” Prather said with a borderline grimace on his face outside the locker room as he team celebrated inside.

It’s a memory that stings, despite the passage of 12 years since the defeat.

“And so this means a lot to me. It means a lot,” Prather said. “It’s a small community, Manchester, and we all support each other. We need to bring the crowd next week. We gotta have that crowd.”

Jayden Terry, who finished with 24 points, and Daryus Bryant, who tallied 14 points, combined for the game-saving block after seeing a Manchester lead dwindle. The Blue Devils entered the fourth quarter nursing a 49-41 lead and were up 61-50 before a 3-pointer and free throw from Warren County’s Cosa Pender, a basket from Jacarius Reese and a shot from Cortez Wilder cut the lead to 61-60.

The block and Terry’s free throw with under a minute left secured the victory and gives Manchester a chance for its second state championship and first since 2007.

“We knew we were up two points and we wanted to force a long shot and not let them get in the paint,” Bryant said. “It’s just great to make that block and we know when we get back home everybody is going to be congratulating you and thanking you but in the end, we got a championship to play for.”

Warren County had three players – Torossie Leslie (19 points), Pender (17) and Jamarion Darden (12) – in double-figures in the loss.

Boys: Greenforest 68, Macon County 44

When Macon County opened the second half on a 12-0 run to cut the lead to 38-34, Greenforest head coach Rory Griffin called time out. He wasn’t worried, he didn’t fret. He didn’t chastise his players.

He knew they’d been there before. Against Class 7A Milton and against Class 7A Berkmar.

Griffin, with a state championship berth on the line, told them he loved them.

The Eagles – which won state championships in 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2022 — gave up just 10 points the rest of the way.

“That was just basketball,” Griffin said. “We’ve been there before. I know what we tell out guys at half and I can only imagine what he gave them. Potentially 16 minutes left in the season, in the career. So they are supposed to come out like that.”

The Eagles led 24-14 after the first quarter and 38-22 at the half and after weathering a 16-12 run in the third quarter, Greenforest held Macon County to a six-point effort in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.

“Normally, I would not have called time out,” Griffin said. “But I just wanted to let them know I loved themk and remind them that the crowd element was local and to zone it out.”

Macon County, for those unaware, is not where Macon is located. But just south of Fort Valley, merely miles away from Fort Valley State’s campus. Its county seat is Montezuma, which is just up the road from Marshallville, for those needing a frame of reference.

“From top to bottom, any of these guys could go for 20 points a night,” Griffin said. “We read adjustments and go from there.”

Michael Robinson finished with 22 points to lead Greenforest while Elijah Lewis and Caleb Kawela each scored 13 points. Macon County was paced by Frankie Raines Jr, who scored 17 points and Tyler Stephens, who finished with 11 points.

“We just work every day. That’s the key, to work every day,” Griffin said.

Girls: Montgomery County 61, Clinch County 57

When it mattered, Montgomery County hit its free throws. And the reward for that is a trip to Macon and a state championship berth after the Eagles outlasted defending-champion Clinch County in the first game of the A Division II semifinals at Fort Valley State.

A 51-point combined performance from seniors Marley Bell and Amire Banks didn’t hurt the Eagles, which enter the state championship game 30-1.

“We shoot, and make, 50 free throws every day at practice,” said Montgomery County head coach Tyrone Madison. “We preach free throws and rebounds. If it takes each player 100 free throws to make 50, we have to make 50. We hit more than they did down the stretch. I know they missed four in a row late in the game.”

Bell, a 5-foot-9 senior, entered the game averaging a team-leading 25 points per game and bested her season average scoring 29 points.

“Those two mean everything to this team,” Madison said of Bell and Banks. “That’s why we are doing kind of what we are doing. Last year, they were playing. But they were not playing as hard as they are now. They are tuned in for the ultimate goal next week.”

Banks finished with 21 points, besting her season average of 16 points per game.

“The free throws today were very important,” Banks said. “I was happy that my teammates were able to knock them down.”

Montgomery County held a 32-24 lead at the half and with 6:42 left inthe game, Clinch County cut the deficit to 45-40 and a 3-pointer with 1:44 left in the game got the Panthers to within three points, 55-52, but Montgomery was able to hold on.

“Every game of the season, every game of high school, everyone has to make free throws,” said Bell. “We learned little things today that caught up to us and the game got close, but we were able to push back in the second half.”

Trinity Wideman (6 points), Miracle Nobles (4 points) and Erin Adams (1 point) were the other scorers for Montgomery County, which will try for the program’s fourth state title and first since 1972 next week.

Amariah Dean scored 25 points to lead Clinch County in scoring while Asia Hood added 12 points and Dmarreya Magby finished with 10 points.

Girls: Greenforest 65, Taylor County 34

In basketball, height matters and for Greenforest, as it outclassed Taylor County in all facets of the game to advance to the Division II state championship game, height helped.

Greenforest, which has been ranked atop the class all season long, was bigger, faster and took advantage of that throughout the game. The top-ranked Eagles’ shortest starter was a head and shoulders above Taylor County’s tallest player.

It just wasn’t a fair fight.

The Eagles led 18-4 after the first quarter, 37-17 at the half and 54-25 entering the fourth quarter.

“I get calls all day long from parents who want their kids in our system,” said head coach Edward Ravenel. “They care about the small classes and how the community supports the school and supports the team.”

Lana Koricanac led Greenforest with 18 points while Ndate Ndiaye added 13 points. Greenforest’s senior center Arek Angui is a Central Florida-commit and finished with eight points. Trista Bennett scored 10 points to pace Taylor County.


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