After suffering two-straight losses in region play, the Banks County Lady Leopards responded with four-straight wins to get back on track.
The Lady Leopards (14-6, 6-2 Region 8-AA) sit in the second spot in region. Rabun County currently sits atop the standings.
Banks County downed Elbert County 60-45 in Elberton on Tuesday.
The Lady Leopards will travel to Rabun County on Friday. They look to avenge a 63-62 overtime loss from earlier this season against Rabun County.
Allison Smith scored a team-high 20 points. Kailynn Gilstrap dropped 14 points and Taylor Parson added 12 points.
The Lady Leopards picked up a grinding 46-42 win over Monticello last Friday and throttled Social Circle, 80-32, last Saturday.
Head coach Steven Shedd said the team wasn’t “too thrilled” with its first-half performance against Social Circle. The Lady Leopards led 33-17 at halftime.
The team dominated the second half, scoring 22 and 25 points, respectively, in the third and fourth quarters. The defense clamped down and held Social Circle to just 15 second-half points.
Jaycie Bowen scored 18 points and Gabby Kennedy totaled 12 points in the win.
Allison Smith was the leading scorer in the win at Monticello with 11 points. Lauren Shedd added eight points.
“We (the coaches) kind of talked to them at halftime a little bit and made some adjustments, and they came out on fire in the second half,” Shedd said.
“It was a big win. Anytime we can get a win in the region, it’s big.”
Shedd didn’t know how the players were “going to handle” the back-to-back road games in Monticello and Social Circle.
The answer was in their play, which was “well.”
“The game on Friday night was a pretty intense game,” Shedd said about the Monticello win. “To pull that one out by four points was big, being a region win on the road. Then to come back on Social Circle and win as convincingly as we did was pretty satisfying.”
Against Monticello, Shedd said as the regular season comes to an end, his team is working on handling the pressure of opposing defenses.
“We’ve got to be able to learn to shake that pressure and not necessarily panic,” he said. “I really, really, truly feel like if we can handle the pressure against any of these teams, I really like our chances.
“That’s what we’re going to spend time working on between this week and next week.”
He’s had the girls go up against the boys’ squad in practice to simulate the speed some of the opposing teams present. He’s also piped-in loud music to simulate how loud some gyms can get, he said.
“We’ve got to be able to maintain our lead when these teams start putting pressure on us,” he said.
For the first time this season, the team is back to full strength. Lauren Shedd has returned to the lineup and helps add depth to the roster, he explained.
“It’s all coming at just the right time,” he said. “We still like where we’re at, we like our chances. I think this week is going to say a lot.
“It’s not to say that if we have a slip-up that we’re completely out of it, but it sure would be nice to pick up a couple of wins this week.”
The Banks County wrestling team didn’t make it to the state duals tournament in Macon.
However, it hasn’t deterred the team from its next goal: getting wrestlers out of the 4-AA area wrestling tournament and one step closer to the state traditional tournament held in Macon next month.
The area tournament will be held at Social Circle this Friday and Saturday.
One of the keys to the BC wrestlers’ success at area is not worrying about the results of a match before it is finished, head coach Kasey Hanley said.
“Worry about taking it one match at a time and really focusing on each move that they’re doing,” Hanley said. “I think a lot of times you get caught up in what you have to do and you forget the step to get there.”
He says his wrestlers need to have a “worker’s mentality” heading into the area.
Some of the competition includes host school Social Circle, which Hanley says will “no doubt” be tough competition.
“They’ve gotten a few kids back that they didn’t have,” Hanley said about Social Circle. “So, they’re going to be that much tougher.
“In some weight classes, it’s going to be really, really tough.”
Hanley couldn’t pinpoint a number of wrestlers he expects to get out of area, but he says the chances of getting some out are “pretty good.”
In some weight classes, though, wrestlers will have to go “above the expectation” in the weight class, he added.
The wrestling Leopards finished the regular season with a dual-meet record of 14-5.
The team had eight medalists at last Saturday’s Blue Devil Brawl at Marietta High School, the last meet before area.
Davis Day (160 pounds) and Terrance Walker (195) finished first in their weight classes. Allen Jones (120) placed second. Parker Hobson (106) finished third. Nick Stout (113), Matthew Bain (138), Tyler Stryker (145) and Zack Dean (220) all placed fourth.
The top-four finishers from each weight class at area will qualify for the sectional round, which is Feb. 4 at Rockmart High School. Sectional round features half the state, while the other half is featured at another host site.
Like area, the top-four finishers from each weight class will move on to the state tournament. The sectional qualifiers will form an eight-person bracket for Class AA weight class.
The Banks County boys' basketball team continues to roll as the season moves along.
The Leopards trailed Elbert County by eight points at halftime, 27-19. A strong second half showing got the game into overtime, where the Leopards pulled away for their 13th-straight win Tuesday night.
Kahmal Wiley scored 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Dylan Orr had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Carl Cleveland added 11 points.
Banks County started the season 3-4 but currently sits atop the Region 8-AA standings at 16-4 (8-0 in region play).
The last five offensive outputs by the team produced three games in which the team has scored 70 or more points.
The other two games, the team scored 56 points or less.
The common denominator: wins.
Banks County picked up wins over Monticello and Social Circle last week on the road.
The Leopards outlasted Monticello last Friday, 70-67. It was the team’s second win over Monticello this season.
The Leopards downed Social Circle on Saturday, 56-48.
Four players scored in double digits at Social Circle. Wiley led the Leopards with 15 points. Orr scored 12 points. Gabe Martin added 11 points and Cleveland finished 10 points.
Head coach Mike Cleveland called last Friday’s win at Monticello “very emotional” and “hard fought.”
The travel to and from Monticello, then the turn around and traveling to Social Circle on Saturday showed, Cleveland said, as he could tell when the team got on the bus Saturday they were “dragging” a little bit, and the team let it “carry over” into the game.
“We’ve got to be a little bit more mentally tough so that doesn’t happen,” Cleveland said after the Social Circle win. “That’s part of basketball. You’re going to have back-to-backs and you’re going to have some long rides.
“You still have to get off the bus and play hard. I didn’t feel like we always played hard and I didn’t feel like we always played smart. We’ll take the win and move forward and learn some lesson from things we did wrong and keep pushing.”
The key to the Social Circle win, playing through the paint, according to Cleveland.
“Took advantage of that size, kind of like we always do,” Cleveland said. “But we shot the ball bad again. That’s two games in our last four we’ve just shot bad.”
The Leopards were 3 of 20 from downtown and went 15 of 63 from the field. They shot 50 percent from the foul line, going 23 of 46.
“We’ve got to do a better job of putting points on the board in those situations,” Cleveland said.
Even with a poor shooting performance, Cleveland said the team “believes they can win any night against any opponent.”
“I don’t think this group would ever step on the floor feeling like they shouldn’t be favored to win,” Cleveland said. “It’s out the roof as far as confidence goes.
“It’s a good group of boys. I’m really proud with how far they’ve come this year, no doubt about it.”
Cleveland added confidence is one of the areas the team has improved upon.
“I don’t know if we had that early,” he explained. “We were still trying to find our identity a little bit, but right now it’s pretty high.”
The Leopards play at Rabun County this Friday and will host Putnam County next Tuesday.
Victory at Monticello
Cleveland and Orr led the Leopards with 14 points apiece. Wiley finished the game with 13 points and Grant Rylee had 12 points.
The Leopards led by eight after the first quarter but a Monticello rally cut the deficit to two points at halftime, 38-36.
The Leopards hunkered down in the third quarter, scoring 17 points and holding Monticello to seven points.
Banks County led 55-43 at the start of the fourth quarter. They needed the cushion as Monticello made a huge splash in the fourth, scoring 24 points. The Leopards withstood the rally and got a three-point victory.
If you ask Banks County boys’ head basketball coach, Mike Cleveland, how he felt after his team’s performances last week, he will tell you he’s “really, really happy” with the three wins, and he has good reason.
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