Cam Gaither

Cam Gaither, above, combines with teammate KJ Reid for 29 points in Social Circle’s 57-40 win over Greene County on Jan. 5, 2020.

After the Social Circle boys were bounced from the state basketball tournament last March, head coach Taylor Jackson sat down to look back at the season and deduced one reason his team failed to advance.

“Up to that point, we hadn’t really seen that level of opposition,” Jackson said. 

That won’t be a problem this year. Before the calendar turned to 2021, the Redskins played among the most challenging schedules in the state.

Of their eight games in 2020, seven were against teams in higher classifications. One was against a Class AAAAAAA school, two against Class AAAAAA teams, two against Class AAAAA, one each against a Class AA and AAA opponent. Three of their opponents were ranked among the top 12 in their respective classification.

Despite the brutal slate, Social Circle emerged with a 4-4 record and, more importantly, a boatload of confidence.

After opening the season with four straight wins, the Redskins closed out the year with four consecutive losses, including a pair of defeats in the Pope High School holiday tournament in Marietta. But they were hardly hanging their heads. 

“We left that tournament feeling really good about ourselves,” Jackson said. “We hung tough with some really good teams.”

This past Tuesday, Social Circle began the new year in impressive fashion, trouncing Greene County 57-40 to improve to 5-4 overall. But most importantly, the Redskins picked up their first Region 8-A public victory. Combined with an earlier loss to seventh-ranked Towns County, they are now 1-1 in league play.

The Redskins opened the season having practiced just twice with a full roster thanks to the football team’s success in making the state playoffs. Despite the early wins, Jackson knew his team wasn’t playing up to the level he expected. 

“We just hadn’t had time to jell,” said the second-year head coach.

They seemed to have worked things out against Greene County with their most complete game of the year. 

Senior post A.J. Vincent scored all 12 of his points in the first half to help stake the Redskins to a 15-point halftime lead. After that, guards K.J. Reid and Cam Gaither took over, combining for 29 points to secure the victory.

“We knew they were undersized,” Jackson said. “So the game plan was to pound the ball inside to A.J. It worked to perfection.”

This weekend, Social Circle was scheduled to step outside of region play. They faced Creekside Christian on Friday and had a rematch with Monroe Area on Saturday, hoping to avenge a 61-47 loss earlier this season.

The Redskins will step back into league play on Tuesday against Washington-Wilkes with second place at stake.

“It’s a big game,” Jackson said. “We can’t afford to take anybody for granted if we want to compete for the region championship.”

David Johnson is a correspondent for The Walton Tribune.

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