The Shot Clock with Josh Tec
The clock is ticking down until Christmas, and I’ve consumed as many Christmas movies as I have basketball. Okay, actually, that’s an overstatement. I’ve seen a lot of basketball, but I have been watching a lot of Christmas movies so far this year. I also indulged in several helpings of Christmas cookies. It’s truly a great time for us holiday lovers. I like to dip into some Hannukkah snacks too. I’m an inclusive celebrator and snacker.
After the holidays, I don’t know what I’m going to prattle on about at the top here. Probably a little bit of college basketball talk. Baylor looks like they’re the most reliable program in the country right now. I’m super impressed with what Scott Drew’s doing down in Waco. Arizona looks pretty phenomenal themselves. The Arizona and Illinois Elite Eight game from 2005 is one of the all-time best college basketball games ever. Their battle on Saturday was one of the season’s best too.
You guys are here for Georgia high school hoops though, so let’s ride that last point into one of the best games I’ve seen in person this season:
Norcross at Berkmar: It’s early in the season, but this has been the best game I’ve been to so far in terms of excitement. Berkmar ended up pulling out a 68-67 win in overtime on their home floor. Not only were the teams tied at the end of regulation, but they were also tied going into the half and at the end of the third quarter. That just goes to show how back-and-forth this affair was. Here are some quick hitters from my game notes:
- Bryce Blaine was terrific for Berkmar on the defensive end. More on that below.
- Jameel Rideout led Berkmar with 19 points, and 10 of them came in the 4th quarter when the Patriots needed someone to step up.
- Jerry Deng led the Blue Devils with 18 points and hit some big-time shots for them.
- Sticking with Norcross shooters, Mike Zhang is a name that should be popping up on more college radars with his ability to knock down shots from the perimeter. I’ve heard that he’s a high academic guy too.
- It’s worth noting that London Johnson has been playing with the Jamaican national team, so he missed both Norcross games this weekend. I can’t wait to see how this matchup plays out when he’s back out there for the Blue Devils.
- Ahmed Soumahoro hit the layup that gave Berkmar its final lead. He played well for them on Friday and followed it up with another solid game against Milton the next day.
Where in the Peach is Josh Tec: This is a pretty busy week in Georgia, so I’ve made sure to fill my plate with games before a relatively slow Christmas week.
Monday, Dec. 13: Walton at Roswell.
These two teams already played on December 2, and Roswell picked up the road win over the Raiders 48-46. Walton will look to return the favor and grab a win over the Hornets on their home floor.
Walton’s Luke Flynn is one of the must-see guards in Georgia’s 2024 class. Jase McCullough, Quinton Partee and the sharpshooting Kemp twins are all key guys for Roswell.
The Hornets are coming off of an impressive win against a solid Etowah team.
Tuesday, Dec. 14: Dacula at South Gwinnett.
South Gwinnett is going into the game 10-0. The Comets’ hot start has vaulted them to the top of my list of teams to get out to see. There’s no better time to do so than Tuesday because Dacula’s going to be a significant test for them with Mari Jordan and the rest of their talented roster.
Wednesday, Dec. 15: OPEN. I’m leaving Wednesday open for now. In all likelihood, I’ll go to Mount Vernon for their game against Elite Scholars Academy. I’d like to see some of the Mount Vernon bigs, and that seems like just as good of a time as any to do so.
Thursday, Dec. 16: Paulding County at Alexander.
At the time of this publishing, Alexander is another undefeated team, sitting at 4-0. They do face East Paulding before Thursday, so that could change, but the Cougars are a team with sneaky-good talent across multiple classes. Jah’kim Payne and Zion Fruster headline their senior class, Noah Melson is one of the more interesting prospects in the loaded 2023 class, and Braedan Lue is a sophomore who looks like a grown man already.
Paulding Co is off to a 7-4 start with some solid wins under their belt. This game will be a great opportunity for me to learn more about this squad since it’ll be among their strongest challenges to date.
Friday, Dec. 17: Santa Jam at Lambert.
There are multiple events going on around town this weekend, so instead of breaking down all of the games I’m interested in here, I’m going to write a preview for this and some of the other multi-team events that I’ll be going to.
Saturday, Dec. 18: Playing for a Change at Pace, Lemon St Classic at Marietta.
Best Thing I Saw: The best thing I saw was the end of the semester.
No, but seriously, I have two options here. The first one is Bryce Blaine’s defense in Berkmar’s win against Norcross on Friday, and the second is Mitchell Taylor’s game-winning, buzzer-beating layup against Norcross on Saturday. Blue Devils, I promise I’m not picking on you here.
Berkmar’s game against Norcross was the first time I got to see the Patriots this season, and it served as a nice litmus test to see where they are in regards to some of the other teams I’ve seen. A few days removed from the game, the lasting impression I have is Bryce Blaine poking the ball away while Norcross attempted to tie the game in the waning seconds of overtime. He probably wouldn’t have gotten credit for the steal, but he’s the one that made the play that led to the steal. That play was indicative of how he played for the entirety of the game. Blaine was essentially Berkmar’s offense in the first half of the game, and it was primarily his defense that led to easy transition buckets. Needless to say, I was impressed by his performance on Friday night.
The next night, at Hawks-Naismith, saw the most memorable finish of all the games that I’ve been to this season. In a tie game, Gaddis Heath blocked a Samarion Bond shot attempt, Jalal McKie grabbed the loose ball and led the two-on-one fastbreak with Mitchell Taylor as his running mate. McKie dished the ball off to Taylor who laid the ball in as the clock hit zero to give Westlake the road win over Norcross.
ICYMI: If you’re looking for some more reading, be sure to dig into last week’s top performer lists recapping some of the best performances from the Tournament of Champions Showcase Classic. You can find the first part of the list here, and the second here.