The stage is set for the 5-A state basketball championship on Friday, March 6 at the Macon Centreplex where the Cedar Shoals Jaguars (28-3) will face the Dutchtown Bulldogs (27-4).
Yet another high ranked match-up for the Jaguars this playoffs, Dutchtown and Cedar rank 1-2 in the 5-A rankings, and Maxpreps lists Dutchtown at 12 and Cedar at 13.
The Bulldogs have two focal players: senior forwards Jamaine Mann and Cameron Byrant, both standing at 6’5”.
Both Bryant and Mann aren’t unfamiliar with Jaguar stars and USC-Aiken commits Quincy Canty and Tyler “Chip” Johnson. Canty, who stands at 6’6”, has a similar playstyle to the pair making this a marquee frontcourt matchup.
“I’ve played with and against Jemaine and Cam during travel season. They’re both super physical. Jemaine, he’s built like a football player,” Canty said
Head coach L’Dreco Thomas and the rest of the coaching staff have been preparing the Jags for this physical match-up against the Bulldogs.
“It’s gonna be very, very critical. Not so much because of their height but because of their strength and their physicality. They crush the boards hard so we’ve got to put a body on them,” associate head coach Grant Moro said.
“He’s (Mann) going to be super physical and always wants to dunk. Something with Cam he plays football as well so he’s got to kind of use that against him to get them in foul trouble so they can sit out. Then we can just worry about the only other players. They have also have number one, Kameron Hobbs, and he can shoot, so if we just take the other two out we’ll be okay,” Canty said.
“Across the board, they have a pretty big team,” senior guard Jamal McIntosh said. “We gotta hit shots and make free throws.”
The Jaguars missed several key free throws early in the game in their 4-overtime comeback against Southwest Dekalb.
Going into the championship game, the Jags will have to keep their heads above the hype, especially Final Four hero Johnson.
“Nothing but God, man,” said Johnson about hitting the game-winning three-pointer as the buzzer sounded in Fort Valley.
“If it wasn’t for Jah (Jerdavian Colbert) crashing and tipping the ball it would have been different. Everybody played a part in that play Because if it wasn’t for like Jah crashing, we would have lost. If it wasn’t for Jay ‘s(Jaiden Williams) pass, we would’ve lost. If someone didn’t do their job we would’ve had a different outcome,” Johnson said.
Colbert has been showing up for the Jaguars in the playoffs, tallying up 15 points, 10 rebounds and 3 steals in the semis and 12 points with 3 steals against Lithonia. The team has dubbed him “Playoff Jah.”
“He rose to the occasion. I always knew he had it in him, he finally woke up. He had a concussion, so he couldn’t play a couple of games, but he came up clutch,” Johnson said.
With the attention pointed at the championship game, all of Athens will have their eyes on the Jaguars.
Johnson’s game-winning shot went viral gaining over 30,000 views on his twitter and 17,000 views on Maxpreps’ Instagram, and Canty has gained plenty of attention for his postseason play, too. They aren’t letting their increased attention get to their heads, however.
“Obviously we knew people were going to show fake love cause we had a lot of people doubting us and our team. You got to realize that it’s going to happen, so once you learn how to handle it, then you’ll be okay. But I’ve learned to just ignore it,” Canty said.