Many of the 19 teams from schools in DeKalb County that have qualified for the upcoming state basketball tournaments are linked by a common strength—defense.
The Columbia boys, who have won two straight Class AAA state championships and four in the past six years, lead the county in blocked shots and in points allowed. The Eagles had blocked 209 shots and allowed an average of 43.5 points through Feb. 10. They have held 11 opponents to less fewer 40 points.
“We pride ourselves in leading the county in points allowed,” said Eagles’ coach Phil McCrary. “To win a championship you’ve got to be able to make stops.”
Chris Horton, who has signed a scholarship with Austin Peay University, leads the county in blocks and had 10 twice in the recent Region 5-AAA tournament. Horton has help close to the basket from Jarmal Reid and Jhaustin Thomas.
Stephenson, Miller Grove, Chamblee, Southwest DeKalb, Columbia and Greenforest Academy each have qualified its boys’ and girls’ teams. The other boys’ teams that have qualified for state tournament play from DeKalb are Marist, Towers and M.L. King. The remaining girls’ teams in the field are Redan, St. Pius, Decatur and Paideia.
Miller Grove and Southwest DeKalb also have strong inside players and rely on solid defense. Southwest is led by all-American William Goodwin, who has signed with Memphis, while the Wolverines have the tandem of all-American Tony Parker and Georgia signee Brandon Morris.
“We’re playing the most consistent defense as we have all year,” Wolverines’ coach Sharman White said. “We’ve held a lot of opponents to 40 points and we’ve really been getting quality defensive efforts.”
Columbia’s girls are equally focused on defense and it showed in their run to a region championship. The Lady Eagles allowed fewer than 30 points in three tournament games, including a 31-28 win over St. Pius in the championship game.
“Defense is what we hang our hats on,” Columbia girls’ coach Chantay Frost said. “The intensity level is good and we’re hitting our stride now.”
St. Pius also has found success on the strength of its defense. The Golden Lions (24-4) have held opponents to fewer than 30 points in eight of their past 13 games.
Chamblee (33.7 points against per game) and Miller Grove (34.4) have allowed the fewest points of any girls’ teams in the county.
The Stephenson boys, at 8-20, are the surprise of DeKalb’s playoff contingent. The Jaguars have endured disciplinary suspensions and scored upsets in the Region 2-AAAAA tournament to qualify for state after a Sweet 16 appearance in the state tournament last year.
As was the case with many other teams, defense was a catalyst for the Jaguars.
“What saved us was our defense,” Jaguars’ coach Curtis Gilleylen said. “We held Newnan and Newton to 38 points and M.L. King to 49. We seemed to come together on defense.
“We’re not near our potential because of all the fragmentation,” Gilleylen said. “But there has been a lot more commitment over the past two weeks. We’re to a point now where everybody knows there are no more chances. There’s been a lot more hard work.”
The Jaguars have been led by guard Derek Harper, who is among the top scorers in the county at 19.3 points per game.
“He takes on a lot of undue pressure but more kids contributed in the region and that helped him,” Gilleylen said.