Senior Cole Middleton dunks on players from KIPP on Jan. 5. The Knights won 73-23. Photo: Fred Assaf

After taking home the title of 3A state champions last year, the boys varsity basketball team is having another outstanding season. At the end of regular season play, the team’s record is 21-1, with the sole loss coming at the beginning of the season in a close non-region game against Class 3A Sandy Creek High School, 63-59. Not only are the Knights ranked No. 1 in GHSA Class 2A, but Max Preps recently ranked them No. 18 in the top 25 teams nationally.

The team pulled out wins against much larger, non-region schools such as Marist, Grayson, North Gwinnett and South Cobb and dominated in region play. “They have a strong desire to be the best team to ever play at Pace, and they’re trying to have fun along the way,” said head coach Sharman White. Recently, they have earned strong wins against KIPP Atlanta Collegiate (72-43), Towers (94-29), Washington (94-52), and Therrell (71-48).

The team’s strong roster includes six seniors. “They have stepped to the forefront in every phase of our program, and they will leave a lasting impression on the school,” said Coach White of the seniors.

Senior Matthew Cleveland is one of only two 5-Star players in Georgia. Cleveland has signed a Letter of Intent to play at Florida State. MaxPreps ranks Cleveland 10th in the state in number of points per game, averaging 23.4. Last year, he was named to Hoop Seen’s Georgia AAA First Team All-State, along with fellow senior Cole Middleton. Middleton has signed a Letter of Intent to play at Cleveland State. Recently, he hit the milestone of 1,000 points in his high school career. Middleton is ranked 10th in the state by MaxPreps in number of rebounds per game. His average is 11.3.

Senior Madison Durr was named to last year’s Hoop Seen’s AAA Third Team All-State. According to MaxPreps, he is ranked No. 1 in the state in assists. Durr plans to play in college and has multiple college offers. “It’s so much fun soaking in our last year of high school,” said Durr.

Fellow senior Josh Mininberg agrees. “My favorite part about playing as a team is the brotherhood,” he said. Other senior players include Logan Baker and Justin Johnson. 

The team has their eyes on taking home the state championship once again. They also hope to reach the GEICO High School Nationals in early April.  “I’m excited about all the games we have left leading up to the championship,” said junior Josh Reed. According to Rivals.com, Reed “had a breakout summer” playing for AC Georgia and “showed off a really versatile skillset” that “led to several offers coming in over the last few months,” including schools such as Boston College and Xavier. “Interest has rolled in from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and multiple Ivy League schools,” per Rivals.com.

“I think this team has a definite shot,” said Coach White. “Most teams’ goals stop short of just making it to the state playoffs, or even just winning the state championship. But we have a goal that’s even higher than both of those.” Coach White has faith that his team can respond to any challenges placed in front of them. “They’ve been together for a while now, so they understand each other, and this [team] is actually an absolute joy to coach,” said Coach White. The Knights are the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A region tournament, to be played Feb. 18-19 at home on the Bob Chambers Court in the Inman Center. The first round of the GHSA state tournament is Feb. 23-24.

Coach White wanted to send a message to the Pace Academy community about the team: “Although we can’t physically have everyone at all the games, we ask you to support us in spirit and just continue to encourage the team as they move toward their goals.”

Get the discussion going! Leave a comment or reply below.