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Today, we release the wrestling rankings and look ahead to this weekend's Area Duals. Also, we recap Tuesday night's thriller on the hardwood between top-ranked Wheeler and No. 7 Pope.


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Wrestling Rankings
Wrestling Notebook
Wheeler vs. Pope
Top Stories

How many points per game did Wheeler win its four previous region games prior to the 64-54 victory over Pope?

Today's answer can be found in the newsletter!

Tuesday's Answer:
Milton star linebacker Quart'e Sapp is visiting Tennessee on Jan. 16.



1. Archer

2. Pope

3. Mountain View

4. Collins Hill

5. Parkview

6. Etowah

7. Roswell

8. South Forsyth

9. Rockdale County

10. Chattahoochee



1. Camden County

2. Woodland-Cartersville

3. Cambridge

4. Allatoona

5. Sequoyah

6. Clarke Central

7. Ware County

8. Creekview

9. Rome

10. Union Grove


Class AAAA

1. Gilmer

2. Buford

3. Cass

4. Alexander

5. Woodward Academy

6. Lumpkin County

7. Chestatee

8. Marist

9. Lithonia

10. West Laurens


Class AAA

1. Jefferson

2. Banks County

3. Toombs County

4. Morgan County

5. Elbert County

6. Blessed Trinity

7. Sonoraville

8. Adairsville

9. Oconee County

10. Rockmart


Class AA

1. Social Circle

2. Gordon Lee

3. Greater Atlanta Christian

4. Bremen

5. Lovett

6. East Laurens

7. Armuchee

8. Vidalia

9. Jeff Davis

10. Holy Innocents'


Class A

1. Commerce

2. Turner County

3. Eagle's Landing Christian

4. Mt. Zion-Carroll

5. Athens Christian

6. Trion

7. Strong Rock Christian

8. Mt. Vernon

9. St. Francis

10. Treutlen

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

State title hopefuls gear up for Area Duals; Class AAAAAA poll heavy at top


Area Duals begin Friday and the State Duals await the following weekend. With three of our six defending Dual state champions (Pope, Buford, Jefferson) finding themselves in different classifications this year, it is sure to bring plenty of storylines in this weekend's duals.

Photo by Sonny Kennedy

In Class AAAAAA, defending Class AAAAA dual state champion Pope will look to win the Area 5-AAAAAA title for the first time with a field highlighted by Etowah, Roswell and Woodstock. Pope handled Etowah 53-19 on Dec. 3 and topped Roswell the previous weekend at Hillgrove 51-27.

Archer continues to pace Class AAAAAA and dominated the Takedown Sportswear Invitational last week. Archer grabbed first place out of a field of 38 teams with 317.5 points. Six wrestlers placed first and 11 total wrestlers placed. Alabama's Thomson finished second and Baylor (TN) took third in the tournament ahead of Class AAAA Gilmer, which finished with 131.5 points.


Archer's success this year has not come as much a surprise, but elsewhere in Gwinnett County, Mountain View is in the midst of a historic season. The Bears finished second out of 55 teams in the Coastal Clash in Charleston last month, which is the Southeast's largest sanctioned high school tournament. Mountain View continued its success with a first place finish at the Gwinnett County Tournament. Adam Flatt (138 pounds) and Justin George (126) have been the key to the Bears' success this season.


In Class AAAAA, Pope's move up to Class AAAAAA opens up a competitive field heading into this weekend's Area Duals. In Area 7, a sacked Creekview, Woodland-Cartersville and Cambridge will battle it out and in Region 4, Union Grove and Ola will highlight the field. Woodland-Cartersville scored a 244.5 victory at the Shane's Rib Shack: Hook 'Em Holiday Clash on Dec. 30-31. North Forsyth grabbed second in the 26-team field with 198.5 points.


In Class AAAA, Alexander looked strong in its first place finish at Gorilla Warfare this past weekend and cruised past North Forsyth, Cass and North Hall. Buford and Gilmer also highlight this year's Class AAAA field. Buford won the Class AAA Duals state title last year and Gilmer grabbed the AAAA title. Gilmer has reached the dual podium five straight years.


Jefferson is set to shake up the Class AAA hierarchy as the Dragons debut in Class AAA for the first time after grabbing 13 consecutive dual state titles in Class AA and A.


Social Circle has emerged as a favorite in Class AA with the departure of Jefferson and sits in a deep field with Gordon Lee, Greater Atlanta Christian, Bremen and Lovett.


By Craig Sager II
No. 1 Wheeler holds off Pope in region battle


In a showdown pinning 13-1 Region 5-AAAAAA opponents, visiting Wheeler jumped to a 35-23 lead at the half before closing out Pope and protecting its No. 1 state ranking with a 64-54 victory Tuesday night.

Jaylen Brown, the Peach State's most sought-after senior prospect, got Wheeler out in front early with a pull-up jumper and six first quarter points. Pope hung around with Chase Hutchins' seven-point outburst in the quarter but would trail 18-9 at the end of one.  Six Wildcats scored in the second quarter and a struggling Pope offense finally found life with back-to-back Mitch Hollis three pointers. However, before the Greyhounds could go into the half with a single-digit deficit, Wheeler's Makhai Eastmond drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Wildcats a 35-23 cushion.

Pope looked to slow down the pace of the game against the explosive Wheeler lineup but failed to 

execute in the half court set once the pace was in its favor. The Greyhounds also did not attempt a single first half free-throw and had trouble finding lanes against the stout Wheeler defense. Pope's inability to protect the ball led to easy Wheeler baskets and that is the formula Pope head coach Pat Abney believes was the difference in this game.

"We can't win against a good team if we don't take care of the ball," said a frustrated Abney after the game. "Our half court execution tonight was absolutely horrendous. We didn't shoot the ball well but the game was lost because we didn't get enough shots up and that is because we didn't take care of the ball."

Pope shook off a slow first half with a 17-11 scoring advantage in the third quarter and trailed just 46-40 heading into the fourth. The Greyhounds finally began drawing fouls and got to the foul line nine times in the second half but converted just 3-of-9 attempts. Wheeler also struggled at the line, with 10-of-21 shooting, but a strong fourth quarter from Shembari Phillips was enough to help Wheeler runaway with the victory. Phillips netted seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter and included 3-of-3 shooting from the foul line. Brown (four) and Cameron Jordan (five) combined for nine of the 18 Wheeler fourth quarter points and finished with 16 points apiece.

Pope got a game-high 21 points from Hutchins and 12 points from Garrick DeBowles. This duo's play on both ends of the court against No. 1 Wheeler showcased why Pope remains one of the top teams in Class AAAAAA.

"We've got a great team," said Abney ".Chase and Garrick are the leaders of this team and we are always going to be good because we bring it defensively each night and we compete. That's why this team can win. I give Wheeler credit but I am still disappointed... We did a good job boxing out. The three keys heading into the game were boxing out, taking care of the ball and shooting well and you have to do all three if you are going to beat the No. 1 team in the state. We just did one."

Both teams return to the court with Region 5 road games on Friday. Pope will visit Roswell and Wheeler will take a trip to Woodstock to take on the Wolverines.  The Wildcats look to continue their sweep of Region 5 opponents that has helped warrant their No. 1 ranking. Prior to Tuesday's 10-point win over Pope, Wheeler had won its last four region games (Lassiter, Walton, Roswell, Milton) by an average of 41 points per game.



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