This was an exciting basketball season in Columbia County. We did not have a team make a deep playoff run this year, but there were some terrific individual efforts and a few games that deserve mention.
The most exciting match-ups this season were undoubtedly the Evans/Greenbrier clashes. Greenbrier's upset against Evans in early January had a Final Four type atmosphere.
Greenbrier was playing without All-County point guard Bryan Andrews and started three freshman, but somehow pulled off the stunner. Evans would exact revenge on the 'Pack's home floor just two weeks later to keep county bragging rights for another year.
We also saw Harlem and Lakeside play improved basketball thanks to a few talented underclassmen. Augusta Prep scoring whiz Jim Hull continue to wow GISA fans with his ability to get the ball in the hole.
All in all, it was a good year, and several players deserve to be recognized for their solid play on the hardwood.
Jim Hull -- 6-1, Jr., Augusta Prep
I wondered how Hull would follow up his sophomore season in which he poured in more than 26 points a game. Well, he proved that was far from a fluke as he led the entire area in scoring at 30.6 points per game. He managed to top the 40-point mark five times, and will end his career as the school's all-time leading scorer.
Jonathan Nicely -- 6-4, Sr., Evans
Nicely might have been the most athletic player in the county. The three-year starter for the Knights had a solid senior campaign as he popped in 16.5 points and nearly eight rebounds per game. His acrobatic drives to the basket produced some of the most electrifying lay-ups in the area this season. The Knights averaged 20 wins per season with Nicely in the lineup.
Andy Gray -- 6-3, Sr., Greenbrier
Gray was sensational for the 'Pack this season. He averaged 16 points and nine rebounds per contest despite facing double teams most of the season.
He seemed to raise his game when the 'Pack needed him most. Gray could hurt you with a jumper or take the ball to the hole. That versatility made him extremely difficult to guard. He can play at the next level. Hopefully, he will get that opportunity.
Cedric Boatner -- 6-0, Jr., Harlem
I have been singing this kid's praises for many years now. Well, this season most fans finally saw just how good Boatner can play the game.
He was the leading scorer among all the public school players in the county with a 19.4 per game scoring average. He definitely will play at the college level one day, and if he grows a little and has a big summer, he could get significant interest from college recruiters. I was there as he dropped 30 on Cross Creek despite having Razorback defenders hanging all over him all game long.
Mike Leverett -- 6-2, Sr., Harlem
Leverett followed up a football season that saw him lead the county in tackles by leading the county in rebounding and steals on the hardwood.
Those categories have one thing in common: effort, and no one gave more than Leverett this season. He averaged 11 points and 11 rebounds per game and, while Boatner was easily Harlem's most talented player, you could argue that Leverett was their most valuable because of his job on the boards and defensively.
Tyler Bourdo -- 6-0, Sr., Augusta Christian
Bourdo could have easily been a first-teamer this season. His numbers were certainly first team. He averaged 19 points, five rebounds and three assists per game for the Lions. He also shot better than 43 percent from beyond the arc. He seemed to get better and better as the season went on, as he averaged over more than 21 points per contest in region play. When you look at the three major sports, Bourdo has put together a prep career that would rival just about anyone.
Fred Auston -- 6-2, Sr., Augusta Christian
Auston once again put up solid numbers for the Lions. He averaged 13 points and seven rebounds per contest and shot an impressive 58 percent from the field.
Tony Davis -- 6-4, Soph., Evans
Davis might not have put up huge scoring numbers (nine points per game), but he was the glue that held Evans together. His work on the board (eight rebounds per game) and his interior defense were key reasons the Knights won 19 games and earned a state playoff berth.
Bryan Andrews -- 5-11, Jr., Greenbrier
There is no doubt that Andrew has first-team talent. A injury forced him to miss some action this season, which hurt his first-team chances.
He did manage to average 13 points per game. He also led the 'Pack in assists and steals. He likely will challenge Boatner, Hull and company for county player of the year honors next season.
Rosbie Mutcherson -- 6-0, Jr., Lakeside
Mutcherson was part of a trio of Lakeside players (along with C.J. Marshall and Jared Ackerman) who put up similar numbers, but Mutcherson gets the second-team nod. He averaged 11 points per game and was one of the county's top three-point shooters.
Horace Kennedy 5-9, Jr., Greenbrier
Trey Henderson 6-0, Sr., Evans
Deronte Williams 6-0, Sr., Evans
Brandon McCladdie 6-1, Jr., Evans
C.J. Marshall 5-9, Jr., Lakeside
Jared Ackerman 6-2, Sr., Lakeside
Lonnie Cook 6-1, Jr., Harlem
Faison Gaines 5-11, Soph., Harlem
COACH OF THE YEAR
-- Ryan Morningstar , Lakeside
This was a tough choice. Evans posted the best record in the county and went to the state tournament, so Kevin Kenny could have been the choice. Harlem made great strides this season, so Kim Chambers would have been a nice choice as well. Even Casey Dees at Greenbrier was on my radar because of the injury troubles and the fact that he played so many ninth-graders.
However, in my opinion Morningstar's job at Lakeside deserves top billing. Morningstar did not have a player as talented as Boatner and Leverett at Harlem, and the Knights featured first team and second team players and three honorable mention picks.
Morningstar turned around a Panther program that was 4-19 last season, including 0-11 vs. AAAA teams. Lakeside opened the season 0-4, losing those games by an average of 20 points per contest. However, they did not lie down. They won nine of their next 12 contests, including avenging losses to Greenbrier and Harlem.
Overall, they finished 12-12, including 5-5 versus county opponents. Also, they return three of their top four scorers, so next season could be even better.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR -- Cedric Boatner (Jr., Harlem)
I always say the choices were tough, because they really are, but in my 10 years of selecting the All-County Teams this might have been the toughest choice.
Jim Hull averaged 30 points a game for Augusta Prep. I had actually made up my mind to pick Hull, but changed my selection after I really considered the opponents each faced. One thing in Hull's favor is that Glen Miller left Augusta Prep after two seasons, and was a two-year starter and all-county player for Evans. Miller did not post 26 points per game as a sophomore like Hull.
Then you had Jonathan Nicely, who would have been a tough choice to argue with as well. The Knights won 19 ball games and made another state tourney appearance, and he had respectable numbers (16.5 points per game, 7.6 rebounds).
However, in the end I felt Boatner was the best player. He averaged nearly 20 points per game to lead the county public school players. He finished fourth among all area public school players, and was trailing only one area Georgia player (Devonta Lewis of Burke County). He has terrific quickness and is equally effective shooting a three-pointer or taking the ball in the lane.
With Boatner, Faison Gaines, Lonnie Cook, Joe Deuber and A.J. Faust all back next season, Harlem could be a sleeper for 2008-09.
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