ALBANY — As a new season of high school basketball begins, there are some familiar faces atop The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll.
But there are some new faces, too.
The Westover Patriots (4-1) will open the first poll as the top-ranked team despite their first loss last week against Class AAAAAA power Tift County. However, the Patriots are deep and talented enough to make a deep postseason run.
“We have two , sometimes three different groups that we can throw at teams and really wear them down until the fourth quarter, which gives us an advantage,” Westover coach Dallis Smith said.
Randolph-Clay is off to a 3-0 start and garners the No. 2 spot. The Red Devils scored a thrilling 80-79 overtime victory over Eufaula (Ala.) last Friday behind 24 points from Gary McCrae and 17 from Cornelius Bennett.
Randolph will meet Region 1-A foe and Herald No. 3 Seminole County in an early-season battle tonight for first-place. The Indians (2-0) whipped Stewart County 58-41 last Friday, then pounded Webster County 71-39 on Saturday to set up a huge early-season contest.
Worth County is off to a surprising 5-1 start and is the No. 4 team in this week’s poll. The Rams used a triple-double from Anfernee McLemore in a 53-51 victory over Americus-Sumter on Friday, then the sophomore added 35 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots in an 89-57 rout of Fitzgerald Saturday in a non-region game.
Albany High is No. 5. Since opening the season with a 63-47 loss to Herald No. 1 Westover, the Indians have strung together three impressive victories over Crisp County, Monroe and Colquitt County to improve to 3-1.
On the girls side, Monroe is on top after starting the season 6-0. The Lady Tornadoes have pushed themselves atop the region standings, too, following last Friday’s 55-50 victory in which Monroe outdueled Crisp County and Georgia signee Nasheema Oliver.
The Lady Tornadoes outscored Crisp 18-9 during a decisive third quarter to take the victory. It was the closest game Monroe has had this season. In the Lady Tornadoes’ previous five wins against Albany High, Lee County, Bainbridge, Cairo and Dougherty, they have beaten their opponents by an average of 25.2 points a game.
Randolph-Clay’s girls are No. 2 after starting the season with three big victories. The Lady Red Devils have been paced by Kobi Thornton and former Calhoun County standout Brandi Buie. Randolph will get a stiff test tonight when they play host to Seminole County in a key Region 1-A game.
Westover’s Lady Patriots, after missing the postseason last year for the first time in 16 years, have run out to an early 7-0 record and sit at No. 3 in this week’s poll.
The Lady Pats downed Terrell County 58-17 on Saturday night after defeating Tift County 51-44 in overtime Friday night in a pair of non-region games. The Lady Patriots travel to Cordele tonight to meet Crisp County in a key Region 1-AAAA battle.
Just behind Westover is Dougherty, whose only loss was a 68-51 setback to Herald No. 1 Monroe in its season opener. The Lady Trojans have reeled off five straight, including three region victories.
The No. 5 team is Pelham, which opens its season Friday night at Mitchell County. The Lady Hornets return two of the area’s top players in guards Briunna Freeman and Hilary Williams.
Herald Fab 5 Basketball Polls
3) Seminole County…….2-0
4) Worth County…………5-1
Albany Herald Fab 5 High School Basketball Poll
1) Westover (4-1) – The Patriots only loss was a 65-61 setback to Class AAAAAA power Tift County last Friday. This team is only expected to get better.
Next: at Crisp County, 7:30 p.m., today
2) Randolph-Clay (3-0) – With Gary McCrae and Cornelius Bennett leading the way, this team has a legitimate shot of making a very deep postseason run.
Next: vs. Seminole County, 7:30 p.m., today
3) Seminole County (2-0) – The season just got started for the Indians. With football season is over in Donalsonville, Seminole can now focus exclusively on basketball.
Next: at Randolph-Clay, 7:30 p.m., today
4) Worth County (5-1) – The Rams have quietly reeled off five straight victories after their season-opening loss to Houston County. Worth County could be a sleeper in Region 1-AAAA.
Next: vs. Albany, 7:30 p.m., today
5) Albany (3-1) – The Indians have won three straight since dropping their season opener. Don’t sleep on them.
Next: at Worth County, 7:30 p.m., today
1) Monroe (6-0) – The Lady Tornadoes are off and running again. Slowing them down will be a challenge.
Next: at Westover, 6 p.m., Friday
2) Randolph-Clay (3-0) – The Lady Red Devils were already going to be good. Then the addition of former Calhoun County standout Brandi Buie made Randolph-Clay even better.
Next: vs. Seminole County, 6 p.m., today
3) Westover (7-0) – After missing the playoffs last season, the Lady Patriots are playing like they have something to prove.
Next: at Crisp County, 6 p.m., today
4) Dougherty (5-1) – The Lady Trojans have won five straight after opening with a loss. Dougherty will be a team to be reckoned with.
Next: vs. Worth County, 6 p.m., Friday
5) Pelham (0-0) – With four returning starters and one of the top players in Region 1-AA in Briunna Freeman returning, Pelham should pick up from where they left off last year.
Next: at Mitchell County, 7 p.m., Friday