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January 16, 2005

Ellis, Lanier prevail over South Gwinnett

Strong-willed, "refuse to lose," Monta Ellis led his Jackson, Miss., Lanier High School team to a thrilling, come from behind win over Snellville, Ga., South Gwinnett High School, and their star guard, Louis Williams, in a matchup of the nation's two best senior guards Saturday night in Jackson, Miss.

According to our representatives, Mississippi State signee, 6-foot-4 combo guard Monta Ellis was, unquestionably, the best player in the game, and, deserves to be rated the No. 1 guard in the Class of 2006.

With Memphis Grizzlies general manager Jerry West, and representatives from twenty-three NBA teams in attendance, Monta Ellis scored 46 points, and, as reported by Jackson Clarion-Ledger sportswriter, Todd Kelly, "cemented his reputation as one of the greatest high school players in Mississippi state history with one miraculous clutch shot after another, as Lanier High outlasted South Gwinett, 88-79, in double overtime, before an estimated crowd of 6,000 at the Mississippi Coliseum."

"I told Monta in the fourth quarter this is where you need to prove yourself," Lanier High coach Thomas Billups said. "Monta might have gotten a little tired, but you couldn't tell by how he played at the end."

As the clock ticked down at end of the fourth quarter Georgia recruit, 6-foot-1 second guard Louis Williams scored on a putback to give South Gwinnett a 64-62 lead. With just 7 seconds left Ellis raced down the court, aqueezed between two defenders, and banked in a miraculous shot from the three-point stripe (that Coach Billups thought was a three-pointer), to tie the game at 64-64, and force overtime.

Then, according to Todd Kelly, "with Lanier seemingly on their deathbed, Ellis drained a lean-in three-pointer to trim South Gwinnett's lead to 69-67 with 31 seconds left in the first overtime. Ellis called it his most difficult shot of the day."

In the second overtime Ellis was just unstoppable, and continued to make clutch shots to lead Lanier to the crowd-pleasing 88-79 victory.

As Kelly wrote, "all in a day's work for Ellis, who passed LaKendrick Bailey of Myrtle as the state's No. 3 all-time scorer." With 3,603 points, Ellis, who is averaging 40.7 points per game, now trails only Robert Woodard of Houlka (4,274 points), and Al Jefferson, (estimated 4,000 points), on the Mississippi career scoring list.

For the game Monta Ellis played 42 minutes, scored 46 points on 13-27 FG, 7-14 3-point shots, and 13-18 FT. He had 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals.

South Gwinnett High School coach Roger Fleetwood, said, "I've been coaching for 33 years, and that's one of the top 10 games that I've ever been a part of." Fleetwood added, "Louis Williams didn't shoot the ball well today," but we had a game last night, and arrived late (4:30 a.m.) after a long bus trip from Atlanta."

Playing 41 minutes, Louis Williams scored 34 points, making 13-34 field goals, just 2-13 3-point attempts, and 6-11 free throws. Williams had 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5 turnovers. His teammate and fellow Georgia signee, 6-foot-3 point guard Mike Mercer had 24 points (12-20 FG, 0-5 3-point shots, 0-1 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 turnovers.

Today, the South Gwinnett High School team is taking another long bus ride, from Jackson, Miss., up to Greensboro, N.C. to play the nation's No. 1 team, Mouth of Wilson, Va., Oak Hill Academy at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, January 17, in the North Carolina Scholastic Play-By-Play Classic at the Greensboro Coliseum Annex.

On Friday evening, January 14, I watched Oak Hill Academy destroy Statesville, N.C., Christian Academy, 109-50. Syracuse-bound, 6-foot-3 Eric Devendorf played a masterful game for Coach Steve Smith's Warriors, scoring 18 points (5-7 FG, 2-2 3-pointers, 6-7 FT), passing for 9 assists, getting 5 steals, and doing an outstanding defensive job on Stateville Christian's 6-foot-4 shooter, Zygis Systokas (4-11 FG, 10 points).

Sensational 6-foot-9 junior forward Kevin Durant was the scoring leader for Oak Hill with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 blocked shots; 6-foot-4, 225-pound second guard Jamont Gordon added 22 points, 6-foot-1 junior point guard Tywon Lawson had 12 points, and rugged 6-foot-6, 230-pound center/forward Alex Smith, who just recently committed to William & Mary, had 10 points, 7 rebounds for Oak Hill.

Junior standout 6-foot-5 guard Doneal Mack led Statesville Christian with 12 points (4-10 FG, 2-6 FT), before leaving the game with an injured wrist.

On Saturday night Oak Hill Academy won their fourth game in four days, rolling over Rocky Mount, Va., Franklin County High School, 95-51. Kevin Durant again led the Warriors in scoring with 24 points; Eric Devendorf, Jamont Gordon, and Twyon Lawson, all scored 16 points for Oak Hill.

The high man for Franklin County High was promising junior, 6-foot-8, 210-pound center/forward Lewis Witcher with 20 points, 8 rebounds.

The top-rated Oak Hill Warriors will take an 18-1 record into their matchup with Snellville, Ga., South Gwinnett High School on Monday afternoon in Greensboro.

Rivals.com will cover this event.


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