WINDER - Conventional wisdom says after tonight's 8-AAAA championship game, which tips off at 8:30 p.m. at Winder-Barrow, the Rockdale boys basketball team will be region champions.
After all, the Bulldogs (19-7 overall) have already defeated the Red Devils twice during the regular season by a combined 30 points.
But not so fast - nothing is certain when it comes to the 8-AAAA title.
"They're the most improved team in our region; they play very well together and move the ball better than anyone I've seen in a long time," Rockdale coach Alvin Williams said. "It's going to be a difficult matchup for us, and now they've also added pushing the ball. They get the ball up the court well now, and their man-to-man defense looks really good.
"It's going to be a tough game."
Rockdale has defeated Loganville (16-12) twice already this season, accumulating a combined 164 points along the way. On Jan. 6 the Bulldogs won 81-56; on Jan. 23 they were victorious 83-78.
"I just want my children to understand that just because you beat a team twice it doesn't automatically mean that you win the third time," Williams noted. "I want us to give our best effort; if we give our best effort I'm not worried at all."
In the first matchup, Rockdale senior Jonathan Gissentanner netted a game-high 30 points, followed by teammates Julius Giles (15), Kevin Ware (14) and Bernard Thompson (12).
"Julius has really stepped up in a lot of areas - a lot of unseen areas," Williams said of his talented senior. "He defends well and knocks down big-time shots when we need them. He's one of our better leaders, (and) with a young team it really helps us."
In its second matchup, Rockdale junior point guard Cordarryle Bethley led the way with 17 points and 13 assists. Ware added 15 points, followed by Byron Lawrence (12). Thompson had a big night with nine points, five rebounds, six assists and four steals.
The underlying theme is that Rockdale has a handful of players who can easily beat anyone on any given night. On the other hand, Loganville has four shooters - Tyler Gunnett, Stephen Cochran, John Harris and Ryan Boulter - who can also light it up, especially from downtown.
On paper, both Loganville and Rockdale are eerily similar.
This season, Rockdale is averaging 68.8 points per game while allowing 62.3. Loganville is averaging 68.1 and allowing 66.8.
The Bulldogs have won 10 of their last 12 games. In their seven losses, they have fallen by a mere 36 points, an average defeat of 5.1 points.
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.