Tuesday April 23rd, 2024 11:10AM

Boys basketball: Bluff, Chestatee setting the early in pace in their half of 8-4A

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

Region 8-4A, with 11 teams due to the Georgia High School Association’s reclassification for the 2022-24 cycle, looked like a powerhouse on paper in basketball on the boys side, even with defending region champ Jefferson moving out.

Playoff stalwarts North Oconee, Cedar Shoals, and Madison County were still around. In fact, the latest Kyle Sandy poll has North Oconee ranked fifth and Madison County seventh in Class 4A.

East Hall and Chestatee remained. Seckinger, a new and quickly-growing school out of Gwinnett County, joined as did Class 5A Walnut Grove and Cherokee Bluff, which made the playoffs two of its first four years in existence, moved up from Class 3A.

The 11 teams were split into subregions with the Hall County contingent, along with East Forsyth, making up one whole subregion. That left the behemoths of North Oconee, Cedar Shoals, Madison County, Walnut Grove, and Seckinger fighting among each other.

So far, Cherokee Bluff and Chestatee have taken advantage of the subregion split, running out to unbeaten records on their half of the standings. They have yet to face each other in region play, though the Bears (11-4, 4-0 Region 8-4A) did knock off the War Eagles (10-4, 4-0 Region 8-4A) in the Lanierland Tournament last week, 72-68, in their only meeting so far on the season.

Both teams already have put some distance between themselves and the rest of their subregion. The Bears routed North Hall (8-6 2-2 Region 8-4A) on Tuesday, 70-52, to knock them two games back in third place. East Forsyth (6-10, 2-2 Region 8-4A) is tied with the Trojans while Johnson (0-12, 0-4 Region 8-4A) and East Hall (1-12, 0-4 Region 8-4A) are still looking for their first subregion wins.

Both Cherokee Bluff and Chestatee have put difficult 2021-22 seasons in the rearview mirror. The 10 wins for the War Eagles already have matched last year’s win total. The Bears are just one win from matching their win total from last season.

Bluff coach Josh Travis said they are only looking at the present.

“None of us have thought much about last year’s record,” Travis said. “It’s cliché but we really do have a ‘one game at a time’ approach.”

For Chestatee coach Tanner Plemmons, an improved defense and determining offensive roles have been keys so far this season. They are averaging nearly five points more (58.8 points/game last season compared to 63.5 ppg this season) on offense and yielding a point less (58.2 ppg down to 57.1 ppg) on defense.

“We have placed a large emphasis on the defensive end of the floor this year. Our guys are starting to buy into their roles, which has allowed us to get into a rhythm,” Plemmons said.

“Jarvis Weaver and Hugh Pruitt have been great on ball defenders for us this season. In addition to defense, Weaver along with Colton Wilbanks and Eli Parlier have rebounded the ball well for us, limiting second chance opportunities. Josh Bull has done a great job facilitating and bringing a level of toughness that we need. Henry Grimsley has given us a great spark off the bench on both ends of the floor.”

Much like the War Eagles, Bluff has followed a similar path from last season to this. The Bears also have an improved defense, giving up 7 points fewer a game (63.6 ppg last year down to 56.6 ppg this year) while the offense has an uptick by 3 points to 66.8 ppg on the season.

“(Our defense) is definitely our greatest area of improvement. It’s something we emphasize every day,” Travis said. “We also have some individuals who have a lot of defensive talent. Defense doesn’t always grab the headlines, but Tanaka Mukono and Tyler Underwood have done as much to help this team win games as anyone else we have.”

But the games that matter most for both Chestate and Bluff will begin next week. The two teams’ first subregion showdown will take place on Tuesday in Flowery Branch. They will head to Chestatee on Feb. 3 in the rematch.

“It is going to be a high-paced, intense game (next week),” Plemmons said. “We both have a lot of momentum right now, so it should be a fun game to coach and play in for both sides. Our region is tough, there is still a lot of basketball to be played and everyone has to bring their best effort going into each contest.”

“I guess our two teams have separated themselves as far as records are concerned, but there is still a lot of basketball to play,” Travis said of the looming showdown with the War Eagles. “We played Chestatee in the first round of Lanierland [and] that game was an absolute battle. I expect nothing less from our two remaining matchups with them.”

Before Tuesday, both teams will be in action playing teams from the other half of the region. Cherokee Bluff travels to North Oconee while Chestatee hits the road against Seckinger.

Games against the other side of the region will count only in the event of a tie in the subregion at the end of the regular season as a tiebreaker for tournament seeding.

  • Associated Categories: Sports, High School Sports
  • Associated Tags: High school basketball, Chestatee boys basketball, Cherokee Bluff boys basketball
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