It remains to be seen whether Columbia County has a state title contender, but we definitely have solid teams that can beat anyone on a given night. The beginning of the 2013-14 season proves that. So, with region play looming, where do our boys basketball teams rank.
1. Evans (7-2) The Knights have lost two games in a row, but still have impressive wins over ARC, Josey, Cross Creek and North Augusta. Evans’ staple has always been defense, and this season is no different. While K’Lon Lovett, Matlin Marshall, Kameron Mason and Patrick Lawrence lead the way, coach Kevin Kenny has a deep squad and he is not afraid to play any of 10 guys.
2. Augusta Christian (8-2) The Lions can make the argument for the top spot. ACS has a big man in Calvin Taylor (6-9) and they are as deep as any team in the CSRA at guard. Ashton Grant, Nick Fortenberry, Madison Williams and Jordan Dingle can all handle the ball and score.
Grant is a do-it-all guard who can play defense, while Fortenberry likes to shoot from long range. Williams and Dingle are talented offensive players who will likely play at the college level one day.
3. Lakeside (6-2) There is very little difference between No. 1 and No. 3. It was an extremely close call between Evans, ACS, and Lakeside. The Panthers have a tremendous all-around guard in B.J. Raymond. The 5-11 Junior averages 11 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals a game. LHS also has Sam Powell. The 6-3 Senior is a hard worker who is averaging 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds.
4. Greenbrier (6-6) Greenbrier has posted some solid wins, but their résumé is just a notch below the teams in the top three spots. Kayshawn Marshall, Justen Hartfield, Jakob Nelson and Rod Demmons for a good nucleus, which makes the Pack a tough team to beat, and as always when they hook up with Evans and Lakeside, anything can happen.
5. Grovetown (5-6) The Warriors have an emerging star in junior guard Solomon Gause. Gause has poured in 155 ppg to go with 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per contest this year. Logan Morris and Kenny Joseph have also played well this year, but G’Town lacks the depth of some other teams in the county. However, the future is bright at Grovetown as their top four scorers are all underclassmen.
6. Harlem (5-7) The Bulldogs were dealt a huge blow in the off-season with the transfer of Reggie Reid, but the Bulldogs still have some weapons. Juniors Rayshaun Morris and Torien Beard each average 12.2 points per contest. Beard also hauls in 6.3 boards per game, while Morris grabs 5 per game. All seven of the Bulldogs losses have come against other Columbia County teams. Keep in mind they are all Class AAAAA, while HHS is Class AA.
7. Augusta Prep (4-4) The Cavaliers have won three in a row and have wins over Curtis Baptist and Edmund Burke Academy, but they are a slight notch behind Harlem. The Downing Brothers (Mike and Miles) lead the way and star running back Nolan Brandon give the basketball team some toughness, too.
As I stated above, the top three teams were a close call. You could almost flip a coin on those three, but I give Evans a slight nod over Augusta Christian and Lakeside. The best thing about this is that four of our teams are in the same region. That means they decide the public school argument on the court.
We will revisit the rankings in a couple of months to see which teams have stepped up their game and deserve to be moved up a notch or two.