Young center key for Raiders

By Jeffery Armstrong and Doug Gorman

The Region 4-AAAAA Tournament was a coming-out party for Riverdale center Gani Lawal. The 6-foot-7 freshman scored in double-figures (14, 10, 13) in all three of Riverdale's tourney games, the only starter to do so. He also averaged about two blocks per game. The Raiders won two of the three games to clinch the third seed.

They're back: As the Jonesboro Lady Cardinals head into the first round of the state tournament Friday night in Tifton, they will have the luxury of playing as the No. 1 seed out of Region 2-AAAAA.

They will also have Jasmine Duffey and Jessica Pippin in the lineup. Duffey missed most of the regular season after suffering an eye injury and Pippin sat out for personal reasons.

In the region tournament, Duffey made her presence known with a strong inside game, while Pippin hit several key shots from the outside.

We are family: Lovejoy's senior boys basketball players call themselves "Squad Up" because they all have played together as a group upon entering Lovejoy High.

"We all came up as a family," said guard Faderain Thompson.

Getting their act together: The Morrow Mustangs are probably still wearing wide grins after the performance they put together in the Region tournament last week in Houston County. Morrow entered the event as the No. 8 seed and finished as the Region 2-AAAAA champs. The Mustangs overcame some regular-season internal problems to win the event.

"We believed in ourselves when nobody else did," said Calvin Goss after his team beat Henry County 86-83 in the title game Saturday night.

This one is better: Even though Lovejoy has won three straight Region 4-AAAAA championships, Thompson and fellow guard Daashon Pryor value this year's title over the other two.

"We were more involved in this championship than the others," said Pryor and Thompson, who for years had to back up former Lovejoy point guard Josh Barker, who's now at Savannah State.

This should help: Last year, the Riverdale Lady Raiders breezed through their region tourney en route to a state final four appearance. This year, Riverdale had three tough games n a seven-point win over No. 8 seed Starr's Mill, an overtime victory over Fayette County and a three-point, last-second win over Carver.

Riverdale head coach Derick Powell said the tough games may have helped his team.

"We've been in every situation during this tournament," he said. "It's good to be tested like this n I'm sure we'll be ready for anything thrown at us in state."

"These games show that we are able to fight and win," said Riverdale guard Brittany Baity.

Showing support: Former Lovejoy forward Tony Omotayo was in the stands rooting for the Wildcats during the Region 4-AAAAA boys finals Friday night. Omotayo is a freshman at Fort Valley State University and will try out for the basketball team next spring.

She's on fire: Riverdale forward Antoinette Williams scored a total of 61 points in the three tourney games. Williams only hit two 3-pointers in the entire tournament n many of her points came on layups.

Don't count them out: The Jonesboro Cardinals might have their work cut out for them as they head into the first-round of the state tournament. As the No. 4 seed out of Region 2-AAAAA, the Cardinals draw tournament host Tift County. But Jonesboro, the Class AAAAA runners-up, won't roll over to anybody.

Although Toney Douglas, the Clayton County career scoring leader, runs the show, the squad is very athletic and can make things happen.

"Toney just makes all of our games better," said Kenny Harris.

Back to State: The Mt. Zion girls' basketball team has gone through plenty of adversity this season.

They lost their coach when Edwin Turnipseed took at job in athletic administration at Georgia around Christmas.

Doc Gammage took over and the team hasn't missed a beat. This weekend, they go to the state tournament for just the second time in their history.