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Ferguson’s Game Winner Propels Grovetown Over Evans

Head Coach Darren Douglas shares thoughts about Ferguson, Julius Brown, Zach Bell and Derrion Reid in Full Game Report from Friday’s win, which threw region’s race into a three way tie half way through regular season league schedule

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Julius Brown – Grovetown

Sophomore Malik Ferguson picked up a loose ball in the middle of the paint with one second remaining, and right before the fourth quarter buzzer sounded, he released a shot that found its mark to give Grovetown 61-60 win over Evans Friday, a result that threw the top spot in the class 6A, region 5 standings into a three way tie between Grovetown, Evans and Heritage to mark the beginning of the stretch run for the league’s regular season championship. Ferguson’s shot came at the end of a full court dash by Grovetown after head coach Darren Douglas was able to draw up a play during a timeout that was meant to result in a bucket in only six seconds. The play was designed for senior Zach Bell, who eventually fumbled the ball after spinning between defenders at the end of a drive that began near half court after he gathered the ball from freshman Derrion Reid.

“It (the play) was to get Zach going on a run,” Douglas explained Saturday over text message. “The play actually busted but once Derrion got it, we trusted him to get it to Zach. Zach drove and took some contact and lost it and Malik picked it up. Once I saw him go up I knew it was gonna go in. He had made way too many tough, winning plays in the fourth.”

Ferguson, one of four Warriors who scored in double figures, scored 9 of his 11 points during the final quarter, with each seeming to have “play of the game” potential while observed in real time, and each appearing more impactful than the last as the stakes rose while neither team gave an inch to its rival during a game in which no lead exceeded 5 points after halftime.

“I was really proud of how he stayed engaged and ready for his opportunity,” Douglas said of Ferguson’s high impact fourth quarter performance.

Malik put Grovetown ahead 51-50 with 5:00 left with a layup on a feed from junior Jose Rodriguez. Then Ferguson converted a three point play with 3:19 left to give his team a 54-53 advantage. Forth-nine seconds later, the 6’4” right handed guard drove left and finished with his left hand to tie it at 56. And then with his team trailing by 2 with :50 left, he turned the ball over on a baseline drive, only to come right back and knock the ball loose from Rashad King near half court. Bell picked it up and proceeded to convert a three-point play to give the Warriors a 59-58 lead with :34 left. That entire series of clutch plays came before the sophomore’s game winner!

“All of those plays were big,” said Douglas. “The biggest play to me though was the steal on King that got the three-point play. Just every possession he was involved in down the stretch came out positive.”

A win over a team like Evans, which entered the game with only one loss and owned the #3 spot in Sandysspiel.com’s class 6A weekly ranking, cannot be earned without a complete team effort. Grovetown received such an effort with a strong second half performance by Bell, who scored 12 of his 14 points after halftime, including the first 7 points of the third quarter, and the previously mentioned three point play during the final minute.

“I think Zach was pressing a little bit in the first half,” Douglas said of his high flying guard’s more productive second half. “We tried to run him action to get an easy bucket to start the third and then just encouraged him to attack in transition and to shoot inside-out threes.”

Fellow senior Julius Brown, who led all scorers with 19 points, provided more consistent production than any player on either team during Friday’s star studded affair between what are probably the area’s two best teams. After being held scoreless in the first quarter, Brown poured in 10 points in the second quarter to help the Warriors close the half down only 4 points after trailing by as many as 9 points midway through the second quarter. Brown made 5 threes in the contest, and all of them seemed timely in that they served to keep the deficit manageable for his team.

“It (Brown’s play) was a huge difference,” Douglas remarked. “He made a lot of shots to keep the game from getting away from us and he made shots to swing momentum our way on every possession that we needed.”

Douglas is used to Brown’s clutch play.

“He has a winning spirit about him. He’s never been afraid to take the big shot and he is supremely confident in his abilities.”

Derrion Reid, a freshman who is one of four ninth graders in the area who have made an outsized impact on their team’s winning prospects, added 10 points, including 8 in the first half when his team struggled to generate points. During prior articles, we have covered in detail the exploits of the other three fantastic freshmen to whom I refer: Khaleel Pratt (Greenbrier), Elijah Crawford (Augusta Christian) and Lavonta Ivery (Thomson)

So after Reid’s performance in Friday’s high stakes contest, I took the opportunity to ask Douglas three questions I’ve been meaning to get answers to about his “diaper dandy,” to use Dick Vitale’s go-to moniker for somebody like Reid, who has potential written all over him:

How old is Reid?

How tall is he?

How good is he?

“He’s 14, he’s 6’5, and he could end up being the best kid I’ve ever coached,” Douglas told me.

Had Ferguson’s shot not fallen, or had it been judged to have been released after the buzzer sounded, what would have been a game report about a win by Evans would have focused on the late game heroics of junior Devin Story, who buried two free throws with 6 seconds remaining to give the Knights a 60-59 lead. Story, a 6’3” pure shooter, led Evans with 15 points, including 13 in the second half. And senior Rashad King, who scored 13 points to go along with 5 assists, played a game that is consistent with his reputation of being the area’s best player, a widely held opinion that is also mine. Senior Joshton Mincey and junior Brasen James added 12 points each in the loss.

The first region loss of the season for the Knights coincides with the halfway point of the league’s regular season schedule, and it makes the remaining 5 Tuesday/Friday region game nights as interesting as any stretch we are likely to see anywhere during this high school season because the following matchups are on the menu:

Tuesday, January 26:

Heritage (11-6, 4-1)

-at-

Evans (14-2, 4-1)

Friday, January 29:

Grovetown (10-7, 4-1)

-at-

Heritage

Tuesday, February 2:

Grovetown

-at-

Evans

In this six team region, which includes Lakeside, Rockdale and Alcovy, the top two teams receive an automatic state tournament bid, while the other four will have to play their way into the semifinals of the region tournament, which will be held at Rockdale in mid February, before they can earn a spot in the playoffs. Last season’s regular season champion was Grovetown, but Evans won the more coveted region tournament champion and with it the region’s #1 seed in the playoffs, which the Knights leveraged to eventually reach the quarterfinals before bowing out. So one lesson all parties should not have to re-learn is that the halfway point of the regular season is very early in the overall journey that is the high school basketball season, even if Friday’s showdown did have every bit of a postseason feel to it.

College

CSRA Sports Wrap Podcast – Episode 2

Because its regular season just ended, this week’s show is heavily focused on the high school scene, with an equal focus on both the area’s boys and girls side

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Because its regular season just ended, this week’s show is heavily focused on the high school scene, with an equal focus on both the area’s boys and girls side.

CSRA Sports Wrap Podcast – Episode 2

***Special Note: Starting at the 24:30 mark in the video above, Chad explained his understanding for why Evans didn’t play Milton Friday. After seeing the episode, Evans head coach and athletic director Kevin Kenny contacted us and asked to be interviewed so he could correct the record and give his first hand account of why the region tournament for the area’s class 6A region was canceled, and for why the game against Milton didn’t happen. Here is the interview with Coach Kenny, a direct response to the 30 second explanation Chad gave starting at the 24:30 mark of episode 2 (above).***

Evans Head Coach and Athletic Director Kevin Kenny’s Response to Episode 2

Show Notes – Episode 2

Segment 1 – A tour through the regular season

0:00 – 4:15

The impact of the virus on the high school season, using North Augusta’s boys as an example

4:30 – 6:35

Chad’s Fantastic Five (plus a 6th man) freshmen

6:35 – 8:15

Describing and showing of the most eye catching individual highlights of the season

Girls Basketball in Focus…

8:15 – 11:50

Focusing on girls basketball, Charles describes what it has been like to see Laney take a step back and watch Cross Creek, Butler and Josey all take down the Lady Wildcats and assert themselves as forces to be reckoned with.

11:50 – 18:30

More about local girls basketball…

Chad weighs in on the changing of the guard on the girls side and Jordyn Dorsey’s excellence on the court AND in the classroom is highlighted as we hear from Jordyn herself.

But before we hear from Jordyn we take a tour through pretty much the entire area when it come to girls hoops. Finally, we hear from Jordyn at about the 18:00 mark.

***The CSRA Sports Wrap Podcast is also available in an audio only format. Here is the SoundCloud version of Episode 2:***

***And here is the SoundCloud audio version of Coach Kenny’s response to Episode 2***

Segment 2 – Court Side Seats

Focusing on recent thrillers we witnessed:

– Butler vs Laney (Doubleheader)

– Wheeler vs Kell

– Augusta Christian vs Ben Lippen

– Butler vs Westside

– Fox Creek vs Strom Thurmond***

18:30 – 20:15

Butler vs Laney (girls)

20:15 – 21:30

Butler vs Laney (boys)

21:30 – 23:30

Chad talks about Butler’s stacked roster and its dominant final week of the regular season, with blowout wins over Laney and Westside.

23:30 – 24:15

And we finish the Butler talk by showing the bucket Brionna Sims (of the Lady Bulldogs) scored Friday to eclipse the 1,000 point barrier, as well as the celebration that followed.

24:30 – 25:15

What happened to Evans vs Milton?

25:15 – 27:30

Class 6A Showdown

#1 Wheeler vs #2 Kell

Scoota Henderson – The next Sharife Cooper, Ant-Man Edwards, Collin Sexton

Wheeler – The defending Class 7A state champion

27:30 – 32:00

Augusta Christian vs Ben Lippen

Augusta Christian’s January surge and a rundown of its key players.

Is freshman Elijah Crawford the best player in the South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA), which is the high school home of Zion Williamson?

32:00 – 33:30

About Elijah Crawford’s progression throughout the years and his work with trainer Darrin Shine. Can Elijah Crawford (a freshman) one day become a the kind of player Scoota Henderson (a junior) is?

33:30 – 35:35

Butler vs Westside – For the Class 2A regular season region championship

Charles talks about a favorite player of his, senior point guard Ronnie Striggles.

35:35 – 37:25

Fox Creek vs Strom Thurmond

***Segment 3 – Augusta University Basketball Update***

37:25 – 40:20

Augusta University vs Flagler Doubleheader

The Lady Jaguars improved to 4-1 in PBC play

40:20 – 42:40

We hear from men’s head coach Dip Metress, who explains why his team, even though it has been severely impacted by the loss of 5 players for the rest of the season, will not be “opting out.”

43:30 – 47:00

Previewing next week’s show

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