Westlake coach Hilda Hankerson had only one returning starter, junior Raven Johnson, from the Lions’ 2018 champion team, but Westlake repeated with a starting lineup without seniors. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

AAAAAAA basketball blog: McEachern, Westlake finish unbeaten, nationally ranked

McEachern and Westlake are the first pair of undefeated state basketball champions in Georgia’s highest classification since 1995. 

More than trivial, that statistic is impressive given the difficulty of staying unbeaten these days playing national schedules.

McEachern is the first unbeaten boys team in the high class since Dunwoody in 1995. (Westlake’s unbeaten 1999 team has been discussed recently as one of the state’s best in history along with McEachern, but the Lions were playing in AAA, second from the top, in those days.) 

Before Dunwoody, there hadn’t been an unbeaten team in the high class since Southwest-Macon in 1979. McEachern is beginning to draw comparisons to that legendary team.

‘’Probably one of the best Georgia high school teams ever,’’ McEachern coach Mike Thompson concluded of his team last week after its 62-54 victory over Meadowcreek in the Class AAAAAAA final. 

Set to play in the April 4-6 GEICO High School Nationals in New York, McEachern is ranked No. 1 by MaxPreps, BlueStar and the Prep Circuit Power 50. 

McEachern has defeated nine current or past top-25 teams in the MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25 and captured the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers and the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions in Springfield, Mo. McEachern also played and won in Springfield, Mass. 

Westlake’s girls are nationally recognized as well, coming in at No. 22 in MaxPreps’ rankings, though they won’t be returning to New York this year.

The last unbeaten girls team in the high class had been McEachern (33-0) in 2012. Redan was 27-0 in 2009, Collins Hill 31-0 in 2007 (with Maya Moore), Stone Mountain 32-0 in 1997 and South Gwinnett 33-0 in 1995. 

Westlake (30-0) defeated Collins Hill 60-53 in the Class AAAAAAA final between teams that hadn’t lost in Georgia this year. Westlake has won 50 straight regular-season and state-playoff games (losing only at the GEICO Nationals last spring). 

Westlake also had wins over Tennessee Class AAA Division I champion Bradley Central (ranked No. 25 nationally by MaxPreps) and three-time Georgia AAA champion Buford. 

Westlake hasn’t lost to a Georgia opponent since 2017, and might not any time soon. Westlake didn’t have a senior in its starting lineup this season and just four returning starters from the 2018 state champion. 

“Every [championship] is sweet, but this time we did it with no seniors,” Hankerson said. “Everybody on this team rode the bench last year except for one person [Region 2 player of the year Raven Johnson]. For this team to do this is an outstanding feat, and to go undefeated is a miracle.”

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