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Eagle's Landing boys, Drew girls head to state tournament as Region 4-AAA champs

 

 

The No. 5-ranked Eagle's Landing Golden Eagles should be riding a wave of confidence right now as they head into the first round of the Class AAA Tournament Saturday night against Howard (15-12).

After all, Eagle's Landing is playing its best basketball of the season thanks to seven wins in a row and a 23-4 record.

Saturday night the Golden Eagles captured the Region 4-AAA crown with a 63-56 victory against Drew.

" It was at their place, so we knew it was going to be a close game," said Eagle's Landing head coach Clay Crump. "It just feels good to get that region title."

Now Eagle's Landing plays at home against Howard in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs. Tip off for the game is set for 7 p.m. Saturday night.

The Golden Eagles won the region tournament with three victories last week, sending them to the state tournament for the second year in a row.

Crump's squad started the season with a 2-2 record, but began rolling off wins after the .500 start.

One of its signature victories came in the Chuck Miller Classic finals right before Christmas when they beat Henry County 76-75 in overtime.

The Golden Eagles have quietly flown under the radar this year, but now the rest of the state is starting to sit up and take notice. Eagle's Landing has spent the past couple of weeks ranked in the Gasports.com Class AAA poll. This week, they jumped five spots in the new poll.

Eagle's Landing has enjoyed its success despite playing without center Desmond Ringer most of the year.

The 6-foot-8 sophomore went down with an injury early in the season, but the Golden Eagles have had several other players step up.

Eagle's Landing entered the contest with Drew less than 24 hours after beating Stockbridge 68-67 on a dramatic buzzer beater Eric Wortham.

In Saturday's championship, the Golden Eagles spread the offensive wealth as Aaron Horton paced his team with 22 points.

"I think he had the best tournament of anybody," said Crump. "He hit some big shots all week."

In the Golden Eagles' first-round game against Eastside, Horton drained seven 3-point shots to lift his team to a 70-50 win.

Isaiah Dennis added 14 points and Wortham chipped in 12 in the title game.

Drew was led Barry Mayes with 21 points. The Titans sophomore shooting guard scored 17 in the first half, but just four in the second half.

The Golden Eagles' shooting went cold late in the game as they used solid defense and connected on key free throws down to pull out the win.

Drew (12-9) will be at home for its first trip ever to the state tournament and will play Baldwin County out of Region 2-AAA.

Henry County, which finished as the No. 4 seed in the Region 3-AAA, is still ranked in the gasports.com poll. The Warhawks, who travel to Mary Person, are ranked seventh.

Drew girls make history: The Drew Lady Titans (11-8) basketball team has grown up in a hurry, especially the past week.

The second-year basketball team knocked off Eastside 53-52 Saturday night to capture the Region 4-AAA title and earn a No. 1-seed.

They move on to play Westside-Macon in the first round of the tournament Friday at home.

Westside earned the No. 4 seed out of Region 2-AAA and is 20-4 on the season.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Drew is they don't have a senior in the lineup since there are no upperclassmen enrolled at the school.

Still, Drew's youth and inexperience has carried the Lady Titans to the team's first ever state tournament.

Lady Titan head coach Candence Jackson has state tournament experience at other coaching stops and hopes this year's trips to high school basketball's version of the big dance becomes an annual tradition for the Lady Titans.

"I just want them to experience what it is like getting to the state tournament," said Jackson. "This is something we want to build on. This is huge for our team."

The Lady Titans pulled off the biggest upset in the history of the program Friday in the semifinals, shocking No. 6 ranked Sandy Creek 55-43 to send them into finals.

Drew led as many as 12 point in the third quarter before the Sandy Creek made one last run.

"Unbelievable - words cannot describe this right now," said Jackson after the Sandy Creek win. "This speaks volumes and we are not finished yet. Every time we step on the court, we believe we can compete with the best."

The Lady Titans got plenty of support throughout the week from Precious Person. Person finished with 25 and 24 points, respectively, over the final two games. She also hit 9 of 10 free throws down the stretch against Sandy Creek.

Dominique Madison and Dede Debose finished each with eight points each against Sandy Creek.

An official time has not been set for either of Drew teams. The school is hoping the Georgia High School Association allows the teams to play both games on Friday.