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PREP BASKETBALL: Social Circle falls to Banks County in battle for tops in region
Social Circle Redskins Tyrhell Branch led the way in scoring for his team with 17 points in his team's first region loss of the season. Photo by Michael Pope.

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. - The Social Circle Redskins (13-5, 6-1) struggled to gain a lead against the visiting Banks County Leopards (16-2, 7-0) and ultimately fell by a score of 46-39 in a game that was tight throughout the contest. 

The Redskins would tie the game up at 28-all to start the third quarter, but could not break through and take the lead in the final quarter of play. A 9-2 run by the Leopards, which came after the Redskins game-tying bucket, would ultimately be the difference in the game.

With such a close game and free throws widening the margin in a much-closer contest, Redskins head coach Taylor Jackson attributes the difference in the game simply coming down to the Leopards getting more shots to fall than his team.

"They're big, and they have a significant size advantage. I think they grabbed a few more offensive rebounds than we would have liked them to," Jackson said. "We just didn't hit some shots that we normally hit. They hit some shots, and we didn't hit some shots, and that's just the way it goes some times."

Jackson knew the challenge his team had in front of them with this visiting Leopards team, which does not have a single sophomore or freshman on varsity, coming to town. He knew the main challenge would be stopping their star senior Carl Cleveland, who finished with a team-leading 19 points, and Jackson was proud of his group's overall effort.

"Cleveland is just an animal. He bullies his way on the block, but we did a really good job on the perimeter, I don't think he had a three," Jackson said. "He had his way at times on the block, but we fought, and we were tough."

Leading the way for the Redskins was the dynamic sophomore duo of Tyrhell Branch, who led the team with 17 points, and K.J. Reid, who finished right behind Branch with 12 points. They seem to be growing and maturing as better all-around basketball players that should be among the best by their senior year.

"They're extremely solid, and in big games like that, the best players have to perform, and if they don't, it's going to be a long night," Jackson said. "I was so proud of both of them and how they led us tonight."

Jackson stated that the emergence of the young talent on this team gives him great hope for next season and the season after that, but he really wants his guys to win a lot this year. 

The Redskins have done just that with thirteen wins already, and their only blemish in region play came against this Leopards team. The Redskins will get another shot against the Leopards as they close out the season on Jan. 31 at Banks County. 

Jackson knows that his young group has a lot to improve on and hopes that his guys can improve in one main area, which he believes they showed significant growth in this game. 

"Just increased mental toughness," Jackson said. "I thought tonight was our best display of not being too high or too low, but staying the course and believing in us and just fighting until the end. Also, some physical toughness because they're a physically tough team, and so we have to do a better job of matching that."

Despite the loss, the main message that Jackson said he wanted his team to hear is one of pride in the fight of his group of young guys.

"I'm just so proud of the guys," Jackson said. "I don't make the excuse of being so young, but it was nice to see them say 'hey, we don't care that we're young, we're going to grow up tonight and fight against a tough team tonight.' Honestly, outside of maybe Rabun, this was probably our second-best region game. We just played and executed at a high-level, and that's region championship and state-level basketball."

Jackson also said that the turnout to tonight's game was "amazing," and that he was "grateful to the community for coming out and supporting these young men." 

The Redskins will look to get back to their winning ways in their next game on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at home against Monticello.