One of the biggest prizes in Region 5, perhaps the deepest league in Class AAAAA, goes to the regular-season champion. That team gets a free pass to the semifinal round, guaranteeing them a spot in the state playoffs.
Getting the leg up on such an advantage will be at stake tonight when No. 3-ranked Southwest DeKalb travels to No. 4 Miller Grove on Friday night. The winner will take over first place in Region 5, giving them a very slight lead in the toughest conference in the state.
“That’s why everybody goes so hard every night,” Miller Grove coach Rasul Chester said. “Getting that bye is a big reward. You don’t have to worry about that play-in game. It makes every game important and you get great competition.”
Miller Grove (11-6, 6-1) and Southwest DeKalb (13-5, 5-1) will be meeting for the first time. Their original game was postponed because of weather. Miller Grove won both meetings last season.
Those two clubs hold a slight lead over No. 5-ranked Lithonia (14-4, 3-2), No. 6-ranked Columbia (9-7, 4-4) and Arabia Mountain (10-8, 3-4). Even Clarkston (6-7, 2-5) and Chamblee (8-9, 2-6) are dangerous.
Miller Grove, which reached the state semifinals a year ago in Chester’s first season, is led by junior Maurice Harvey, guard Lorenzo Anderson and forward Kevin Paige, who is one of the best rebounders in DeKalb County. Sophomore Terrence Edwards, a 6-4 guard, has developed into a consistent player and has been a big contributor.
Southwest DeKalb has gotten strong efforts from sophomores Kadarius “K.D.” Johnson and Eugene Brown at guard and from the strong board presence of James Glisson, a 6-7 junior. Despite their success, the Panthers remain a young team that has continued to get better.
“Our guys are figuring out how to do things the right way,” coach Eugene Brown said. “We’re mixing and matching and putting new kids in the program and trying to make it all work together. We’re getting there, but hopefully we’re not where we’re going to end up at.”
A win for either team would punctuate the midpoint of the season with an exclamation mark. It would guarantee nothing, but be a step in the right direction toward earning that guaranteed state playoff spot.