Local players earn all-region honors
Published 1:56 pm Thursday, February 15, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Before a new season tipped off, LaGrange’s Aryan Dozier and Troup’s Jarrious Jefferson got together for a photo shoot for the cover of a brand-new basketball preview magazine The LaGrange Daily News was putting together.
The idea was to feature two players who had already accomplished so much during their high-school careers, and who were most likely headed for standout senior seasons.
That, it turns out, was a spot-on analysis.
The all-Region 5-AAAA team was released on Wednesday, and Dozier and Jefferson were the players of the year.
On the boys’ all-region team, Jefferson was joined by teammate Montez Crowe on the first team.
LaGrange was also represented on the team with Bo Russell and Daz Williams making the second team, while Jordan Ogletree was an honorable-mention selection.
On the girls’ side, Dozier was named the top player, even though she missed a good portion of the season.
Dozier returned in time for region play, though, and she helped the Lady Grangers earn the number one seed for the region tournament.
Chnaireia Strozier, who has been a four-year starter at guard along with Dozier, was a first-team all-region selection.
Troup has three players on the all-region team, with Jedda Madden and Amber Gilbert making the first team, and Kiya Fulton earning a second-team nod.
On the boys’ side, Jefferson finished just ahead of Cartersville’s Jaylon Pugh and Sandy Creek’s TJ Bickerstaff to earn the player-of-the-year selection.
Jefferson has been phenomenal all season, leading the way in scoring while also providing outstanding leadership for a team that posted a winning record for the first time in years.
Jefferson scores more than 20 points per game, and he has notched more than 30 points in a game on multiple occasions.
Jefferson had a 31-point effort against a Sandy Creek team that won the region championship.
While the stats are nice, Jefferson is more pleased to be a part of a winning team for the first time at Troup.
“I don’t focus on points. They’ll come,” Jefferson said. “I want to win more than I want to score.”
Crowe was one of Troup’s most reliable players this season.
Crowe, a senior post player, was a consistent double-digit scorer, and he provided valuable leadership.
Crowe also made the all-region team in football after his phenomenal senior season as Troup’s quarterback.
For LaGrange, Russell and Williams were the two leading scorers this season.
Russell is an explosive scorer, and he had 38 points in one memorable road game against Cartersville.
Williams was one of the region’s best outside shooters, and he’s usually good for four or five 3-pointers in a game.
“Bo plays so hard. And Daz, he’s just the same,” LaGrange head coach Mark Veal said. “They’ll both be able to play college basketball. I’m blessed to coach them.”
Dozier started out strong and was playing well early in the season, but she then missed more than two weeks while recovering from an illness.
Fortunately for the Lady Grangers, they were in the midst of their non-region schedule, so being short-handed wasn’t as costly as it would have been later.
Dozier returned at the start of the Region 5-AAAA schedule, and she was spectacular in helping lead LaGrange to 12 straight wins.
LaGrange then beat Central-Carroll in the first round of the region tournament before losing to Sandy Creek in the championship game.
During one memorable stretch, Dozier had 32 points in a win over Troup, and she scored 25 points a few days later against Sandy Creek.
Both games were close, and Dozier was the difference-maker with her ability to get the basket whenever she wanted, hit 3-pointers, or make a critical defensive play.
“She’s a special player,” LaGrange head coach Stephen Tuck said. “She’s one of those truly once-in-a-lifetime players that you’re going to have. The ability to say Fruit go get me a bucket. We need a bucket right here. It’s amazing to be able to coach a player like that.”
Strozier and Dozier have been starting alongside each other for four seasons, and they’re a formidable one-two combination.
While Strozier was out, it was Dozier who took over not only as the leading scorer, but as the on-court leader.
“She’s the one that always plays with a chip on her shoulder,” Tuck said of Strozier. “They tell her she’s too small. She’s trying to prove everybody wrong every single minute, every single game, every single quarter. She’s just trying to prove everybody wrong. She loves that. And I think it’s contagious for the rest of the team. They see her getting steals, they see her going hard, and they do the same thing.”
For Troup, Madden and Gilbert were first-team players, while Fulton earned a second-team nod.
Madden was a phenomenal all-around player for Troup, and she had 19 points during a critical region win over Central-Carroll.
Madden scored 16 of those points in the third quarter as Troup took control.
“She leads by example,” Troup head coach Carla Thornton said. “The girls look up to her. The girls know she’s going to do what she’s supposed to do. She’s the most consistent player we have.”
Gilbert, a sophomore post player, has the ability to take over games, as she showed in the semifinals of the region tournament against Sandy Creek.
During a three-minute stretch late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter, Gilbert scored 14 points to help Troup take the lead.
Gilbert fouled out with a little more than four minutes to play, and Sandy Creek won 46-44.
“I think she wanted it,” Thornton said. “We’ve been talking about what she needs to do, her stepping up and being a leader.”
Jarrious Jefferson (player of the year)
Montez Crowe (first team)
Bo Russell (second team)
Daz Williams (second team)
Jedda Madden (first team)
Amber Gilbert (first team)
Kiya Fulton (second team)
Aryan Dozier (player of the year)
Chnaireia Strozier (first team)