This sweet sixteen matchup featured two teams who placed first within their region tournament..
Spencer is the Region 5 Champions and looked to advance to the Elite eight to avenge last years lost to the Thomasville Bulldogs.
For the Greenwaves, they needed to get past an established winning program in the Hornets. It was only two years ago in 2017 that the Hornets were the Class AA champions, a time in which Florence was a freshman.
In order for the Hornets to get an opportunity at another state title, they needed to get past a tough and upcoming Spencer team.
Both teams kept the score close early on in the first quarter with South Atlanta leading 13-12. Forward Demetrius Headspeth lead the Hornets in scoring with four points off two tough layups.
All was close until the Hornets 2-3 zone defense began to affect the Spencer offense. The Greenwaves struggled to get high quality shots and layups, falling into the death trap of the 2-3 zone, the corner.
This helped the Hornets create turnovers and opportunities for points.
After a three pointer by Jadarius Davis, Florence continued South Atlanta’s momentum making a three pointer and an and-one, fast break dunk erupting the crowd in noise.
This lead to the Hornets going on a 12-0 run to end the first quarter, leading 25-12.
The game seemed to be getting ugly as the Hornets continued to pile on its lead as the second quarter began. Spencer battled and stayed close to keep the game from getting out of hand.
As halftime neared, Florence dribbled up the court with less than eight seconds remaining and beat the buzzer with a three pointer, giving the Hornets a 17 point lead going into halftime.
Thomas’s dominance in the paint made the Greenwaves change their defensive scheme from one on one to guards crashing the paint/glass as soon as Thomas touched the basketball.
With the Greenwaves season on the line, Jaylin Sellers attacked the basket with authority scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter.
As the fourth quarter came down to the last three minutes, the Greenwaves narrowed the Hornets lead to nine.
Fifty-two seconds remained in regulation as Sellers got fouled. Sellers converted on both free throws as the Greenwaves called a timeout needing a miracle to comeback and tie the game.
The Hornets answered converting on their free throws to put the game out of reach.
Guard Rohan Garner made one of his two free throws as Florence drained both of his free throws to ultimately put the game out of reach.
A late free throw by Greenwaves center Jawaun Brown, closed the lead to 10, making the final score 81-71.
Florence lead all scorers with 27 while Headspeth was third in scoring with 17 points.
Sellers finished with 22 points to lead all Greenwaves players in scoring.
“The Spencer [Greenwaves] is a heck of a team and they made it difficult on us,” said Hornets coach Michael Reddick after the win. “We still have some work we have some work to do, I’m happy that we got the win and am moving on.”
“Jaquavion Florence is the player of the year in the region and in Class [AA] PLayer of the Year, so we expect great things from him. He has a state championship as a freshman so he knows what needs to be done and we need him to keep coming through for us,” said Reddick on Florence’s play in the game.
As for Spencer, head coach Eric Allen had this to say after the game,
“We didn’t shoot free throws well tonight. It came down to free throws,” said Allen.
“Coach [Michael Reddick] got a very good program, they have been winning for a long time. We are a up and coming program with 12 sophomores with three sophomore starters. It was a learning experience tonight and I’m very happy we had a chance to play South Atlanta.”
For the Hornets, they will play the winner of Vidalia and Early County. Details of the game will be announced soon.