In a game that probably would have made Dr. Martin Luther King proud of the courageous effort by a team from near his Atlanta, Ga., birthplace, Snellville, Ga., South Gwinnett High School, upset No. 1 nationally ranked Mouth of Wilson, Va., Oak Hill Academy on Dr. Martin Luther King Day in Greensboro, N.C. Mike Mercer's offensive and defensive efforts keyed the victory for South Gwinnett.
Rebounding from a disappointing 88-79 double-overtime loss to Jackson, Miss., Lanier High School on Saturday night, and enduring a long Sunday bus ride from Jackson to Greensboro, N.C., Snellville, Ga., South Gwinnett High School simply showed more desire, determination, and "will to win" than did Oak Hill Academy on Monday in the North Carolina Scholastic Play-By-Play Classic at the Greensboro Coliseum Annex.
I sat beside Georgia head coach Dennis Felton during the game, and he was absolutely beaming over the stellar play of what he dreams will be his future Bulldogs' backcourt, 6-foot-1 second guard Louis Williams, and 6-foot-4 combo guard Mike Mercer, one of the nation's best high school guard duos.
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Williams was the leading scorer in the game with 33 points. However, he is more a points producer than a pure shooter, and relies upon his incredible speed, quickness, and Kenny Anderson-like explosive athletic talent to zip past "would be defenders." Williams final statistics were 33 points (9-21 FG, 2-8 3-point shots, and 13-16 free throws), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals.
From my observations the key player for Coach Roger Fleetwood's South Gwinnett team was Mike Mercer. After missing his first six shots, and hitting only two of his first nine field goal attempts, Mercer did not miss another shot, making ten straight, to lead his team to this surprising victory. Mercer finished with 24 points (12-19 FG, 0-2 3-point attempts), 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 7 steals. His defensive intensity and energy were major factors in the game.
Other significant players for South Gwinnett were 6-foot-8, 210-pound junior power forward Avery Jukes with 12 points and 8 rebounds; and blazing quick 5-foot-10 junior point guard Delano Howard with 10 points and 5 assists.
This game was somewhat comparable, other than the final points differential, to Oak Hill Academy's earlier loss to 68-67 loss to Flossmoor, Ill., Homewood-Flossmoor High School in the 2004 Marshall County Hoop Fest in Benton, Ky., on December 4. As in that game, Oak Hill dominated in the first half, but lost their momentum and ability to score and shut down their opponent during the second half. I do not know if it was the result of "tired legs" from playing their fifth game in six days, but this was not the same Oak Hill team that I observed in their 109-50 rout of Statesville, N.C., Christian School on January 14.
Against South Gwinnett, Oak Hill led 37-31 after the second period, but, as a team went as cold as the outside temperature (20 degrees) during the second half with 6-foot-4 swingman Jamont Gordon scoring all eleven of his team's third quarter points, as Oak Hill fell behind 51-48. In the fourth quarter South Gwinnett turned up the defensive pressure, Mercer made baskets, and Louis Williams sank free throws to lead their team to the 82-68 upset.
Jamont Gordon was selected the game MVP for Oak Hill Academy, topping the team in scoring with 19 points, even though he did not shoot well (6-21 FG, 0-5 3-point shots, 7-9 FT), but he did grab 15 rebounds. Syracuse-bound, 6-foot-3 combo guard Eric Devendorf had 16 points on 7-19 FG shooting, and 1-7 from the 3-point stripe. Outstanding 6-foot-9 junior forward Kevin Durant had an impressive first half with 12 points, but only scored one basket in the second half to finish with 14 points ( 5-14 FG, 2-4 3-pointers), and 14 rebounds. And, junior floorleader, 6-foot-1 Tywon Lawson had 14 points (5-10 FG, 4-4 FT) for Oak Hill Academy.
The game MVP for South Gwinnett, Louis Williams, is an outstanding high school player, who reminds me very much of Florida's Anthony Roberson. And, like Roberson, Williams should delay going to the NBA, and play several years for Coach Dennis Felton at Georgia.
After this game USA Today dropped Oak Hill Academy (14-2) to No. 9 nationally; and elevated Snellville, Ga., South Gwinnett High School (16-2) to No. 8 in their latest high school boys' basketball team rankings.
In the final game of the North Carolina Scholastic Play-By-Play Classic, Winston-Salem, N.C., R.J. Reynolds High School defeated Greensboro, N.C., Dudley High School 91-82 in overtime. The regulation game ended in a controversial manner with Dudley ahead 73-71, and time running out when Wake Forest signee, 6-foot-7 power forward Kevin Swinton was charged with goaltending for possibly (?) touching a final shot by R.J. Reynolds' 6-foot-4 senior guard/forward A.J. Highsmith with 1.9 seconds on the clock. Highsmith's shot was ruled good to tie the score at 73-73, and send the game into overtime.
During the overtime period Swinton fouled out, and despite the gutsy performance by Dudley's 6-foot-6 junior forward William Graves, who announced his commitment to North Carolina yesterday, R.J. Reynolds prevailed.
6-foot-2 sophomore guard Rod Kirby led Reynolds with 20 points, and game MVP, A.J. Highsmith, and 6-foot-8 senior center Michael Copeland, each scored 19 points for Coach Howard West's victorious team.
Future Tar Heel William Graves was the game MVP for Dudley High (14-2) with 27 points and 9 rebounds. Kevin Swinton had 24 points, 14 rebounds before fouling out, and 6-foot-5 junior wing forward Robert Johnson added 16 points for Dudley.
In other games at the N.C. Scholastic Play-By-Play Classic, game MVP, 6-foot-3 sophomore Brandon Davis had 17 points, and 6-foot senior point guard Alan Fox scored 16 points to lead Coach Freddie Johnson's well-schooled Greensboro, N.C., Day School to a 50-44 win over Graham, N.C., Southern Alamance. 6-foot-3 senior guard/forward Brian Bosman was game MVP for Southern Alamance with 14 points.
Sophomore standout, 6-foot-7 guard/forward Eric Wallace, Kernersville, N.C., Glenn High School received game MVP honors scoring 24 points, including seven crowd-pleasing dunks; and unsigned senior teammate, 6-foot-five wing forward Zalinor Banks was the scoring leader with 27 points as Glenn High School whipped High Point, N.C., Southwest Guilford High School 82-62. Unsigned senior, 6-foot-5 wing forward Alex Taylor was outstanding for Southwest Guilford with 29 points, 10 rebounds.
Despite 31 points from game MVP and UNC-Greensboro signee, 6-foot-5 wing forward Montez Downey, Kernersville, N.C., Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School lost to Greensboro, N.C. Page High School 68-57. Versatile 6-foot-3 junior combo guard Marsharee Neely was the game MVP for Page High with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals.