Photo by Derrick Mahone
Lovejoy senior Justin Tuoyo (right) is all smiles while waiting with teammate DeAngelo Anthony on the bench for player introductions. Tuoyo will become more serious when he matches up against longtime friend Ekene Anachebe of Fayette County when they meet in the playoffs.
Justin Tuoyo, Lovejoy’s 6-foot-9 center, has known his Fayette County counterpart, Ekene Anachebe, since they were both in the sixth grade.
Last season, Tuoyo was matched up against the 6-9 Anachebe in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAA tournament in Fort Valley. On that night, Anachebe and his Fayette County teammates got the better of Lovejoy as Tuoyo fouled out and the Tigers headed to the Final Four.
Friday, the two renew their rivalry at Fayette County in the first round of the state playoffs.
“I went to elementary school with almost everyone on the Fayette County team,” Tuoyo said Monday afternoon. “I’ve been friends with them for a long time. Every time we talk, we always talk about basketball and playing against each other.”
This will be the second of what will probably be many matchups between Tuoyo and Anachebe. Last November, Tuoyo signed with VCU while Anachebe inked with Old Dominion. Both schools play in the Colonial Athletic Association.
“We have to get used to playing each other for the next four years,” Tuoyo said, grinning.
“It will be an interesting matchup,” Lovejoy coach Rick Francis said. “I’m sure a lot of people are looking forward to this.”
MEETING AGAIN: Aside from the Fayette County-Lovejoy playoff rematch, Forest Park’s girls are playing McIntosh for the second straight postseason.
Last season, Forest Park defeated McIntosh in the second round.
Griffin’s and Jonesboro’s boys also met in the first round of the state football playoffs earlier last November, where Griffin defeated the Cardinals 47-43 at Tara Stadium.
TWICE AS NICE: There are five area schools that will send both their boys and girls teams into the state tournament — Jonesboro, Drew, Lovejoy, Forest Park and Henry County.
Both Lovejoy teams will have to travel to Fayette County for the first round.
The boys matchup was set up because of region tournament misfortunes by both teams.
Lovejoy was the top-seeded team in the Region 4-AAAA tournament, but was defeated by North Clayton in the semifinals. The Wildcats were playing their first game in nine days after receiving a bye into the semifinals for clinching the top seed.
Fayette County, which is ranked No. 1 in the state, was the top seed in Region 3-AAAA, but was defeated by Alcovy in the championship game.
“Are we disappointed in not winning the tournament? Absolutely,” Francis said. “We had three goals coming into the season of getting the No. 1 seed, winning the region and winning state. We fell short of our second goal.”
ROAD TRIP: Luella’s girls will hold the distinction of having to make the longest playoff trip of 17 teams from the Southern Crescent. The Lady Lions, the No. 4 seed from Region 2-AAAAA, will have to make the three-hour, 195-mile trek to Lowndes on Friday.