Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thomson Takes Key Region Game at Home

In a battle between two of class AAA's top ten teams, Thomson's Sherrod Hart punctuated a terrific second half by sinking two free throws with seconds remaining to seal the Bulldogs' 68-67 home win over Washington County Tuesday.  The region 3-AAA struggle for the top spot in the regular season standings featured impressive team and individual performances on both sides.  The mixture of depth and youth from both teams makes it easy to imagine deep state playoff runs this season and in the future.

But neither team was looking ahead Tuesday evening.  The Golden Hawks took a 34-31 halftime lead behind 12 points, 9 in the second quarter alone, from sophomore guard AJ Gray.  Gray's game and body has matured significantly since his impressive freshman campaign.  No longer a support player who is mostly relied upon to knock down the open shot and makes the intelligent play, Gray has become the key to Washington County's success.  During the first half, the 6'3" guard scored from deep, attacked the basket, created opportunities for teammates, and forced multiple turnovers that led to transition baskets.

But Gray's first half dozen was matched by 12 points from Thomson's own sophomore standout, post player Steven Hart, who benefitted from the solid floor game of junior point guard Malique Gibbons.  Gibbons ensured that the ball was placed in the right hands at the right times, and Hart reliably finished plays to keep the Bulldogs within striking distance.

For much of the second half, each team's top contributors were players who had remained quiet during the game's first 16 minutes.  Washington County's junior post player DJ Sanders scored 13 of his 15 points after intermission.  And Thomson's Felton Hatcher and Torrie Battle combined for 10 of their 11 total points during a fourth quarter run, which ended with a late Battle 3 pointer, that eventually gave the Bulldogs a 67-64 lead with under one minute remaining.

Thomson appeared to be in control, but Gray, who led all scorers with 20 points, forced two turnovers and finished each play with a layup in transition to give the Golden Hawks a 68-67 lead.  But in stepped Sherrod Hart, who scored 13 of his team high 16 points in the second half.  After converting shots from all angles throughout the latter parts of the game, the senior guard attacked the basket and earned two free throws on his team's final offensive possession.  Hart calmly sank both shots, and Thomson's defense stood firm as Washington County failed to answer on the game's final play.

It is difficult to imagine the region 3-AAA regular season and tournament champion not being represented during last night's game.  Both teams exhibited the talent, depth, and poise needed to make noise in the most important stretch of the season.  We look forward to the rematch in Sandersville.  And we hope the region alignment that provides two or more Washington County-Thomson matchups this season will stay in place in the seasons to come.

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