Basketball Featured

Elite 8 Preview

And then there were two…Banks County and Rabun County girls are the only local programs still alive in the GHSA State Playoffs as Tuesday marks the opening date for the State Quarterfinals.

NOTE: While not in our coverage area, we also wish the best of luck to other local teams: Hart Co & Gainesville boys, as well as Jefferson, Buford, Franklin County & Flowery Branch girls in their quarterfinals matchups.

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Class 2A


#1 Banks Co Lady Leopards (25-5) vs #1 Laney Lady Wildcats (29-0)

WHEN: Tuesday, February 27 | 6 PM
WHERE: Homer, GA | Banks Co HS
HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Lady Leopards defeated Pepperell in the opening round, 53-49. In the Sweet 16, they took down KIPP 70-28 in a game that was never even close. Laney beat Northeast 80-41 in round one, followed by a 76-60 win over Swainsboro in the Sweet 16.
ELITE 8 PREVIEW: The quarterfinals is a first for Banks County. Coach Steve Shedd and Allison Smith, Jaycie Bowen, Maddie Thomas, Amber Williams and company will have their toughest battle yet against undefeated, #1-state ranked Laney. At least the Lady Leopards have the home floor and home crowd behind them. The Lady Wildcats are FAST! They score on average, 78 points per contest, and allow right at 41 points per game, so an average win is by 37 points. De’Sha Benjamin leads Laney with 22.2 pts per game (37 3-pointers) and 8.1 reb per game. She’s an all-around elite player, also tallying 2 blocks and nearly 4 steals per game to go with 3 assists on average. The Lady Wildcats average over 20 steals per game — which is just ridiculous. Don’t forget about Jhessyka Williams (16.8 pts, 7.3 reb, 4.9 stl, 4.1 ast, 1.2 blk) and Jaiden Hamilton (15.9 pts, 5.1 reb, 4.5 ast, 3.2 stl). As always, this will take a total team effort for Banks County, and it will need to treasure every possession and make great passes. Being that Banks County is #2 in the state and Laney #1, this has the feels of a State Championship game.

#3 Rabun Co Lady Wildcats (24-6) @ #1 Fitzgerald Lady Purple Hurricanes (16-5)

WHEN: Tuesday, February 27 | 6 PM
WHERE: Fitzgerald, GA | Fitzgerald HS
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Rabun cruised past Rockmart, 73-46 in round one before another blowout win, 63-43 over Lamar County. Both games have been on the road. Fitzgerald downed Bryan County 73-52 before surviving Washington County in the Sweet 16 by a 68-65 margin.
ELITE 8 PREVIEW: The Purple Hurricanes are a balanced team in scoring and defense. Kirstin Cook (17.6 pts/game), Trinity Jones (12.3 pts) and Hayleigh Ross (10.8 pts) all score in double-figures, and have a couple of others who average around 7 points per game. Interestingly, both teams have few seniors (3 for Fitzgerald, 2 for Rabun). These are two young, but very good programs. The Lady Cats are on the road, but have done well in the role as road warriors. They also have experience (playing for a championship last season) and being in the quarterfinals three straight times. Georgia Stockton again will be heavily relied on, and Jaden Quilliams will need to continue to play physical in the paint, as she’s done a tremendous job in the postseason. Others like Brooke Henricks (limited time) and Laken Stiles will also need to make some big plays for DeeDee Dillard’s Rabun team.

Jacky Jones 2018


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