Photo: Seth Ellerbee
Photo: Seth Ellerbee

Class AAA blog: Top-caliber programs build life-long memories with state titles

The end of the 2018-19 basketball season produced cherished memories for two championship-caliber programs who have displayed dominance for the a number of seasons.

For Johnson-Savannah’s girls, it marked the second consecutive state championship and a display of will-to-win that will permeate the history of the Atomsmashers' program for years to come. For Morgan County’s boys, the season capped off the high school careers of its trio of legendary guards with a state title that felt long overdue and added another chapter in the story of the greatness that has been displayed by Jamond Sims’ program since he has taken the reins.

And for Hart County, it saw the boys and girls teams lose in the finals after a season to remember for the fan base.

Morgan County guards Stevin Green, Alec Woodard and Tyrin Lawrence combined for 46 points as the Bulldogs moved past Hart County 68-54 in the boys title game. Lawrence led the team with 19 points; Greene added 14 points, and Woodard finished with 13 points.

“It feels good,” said Greene, before elaborating. “There was a time when I wanted to give up basketball. I was being told I was too small and wouldn’t be good. My teammates encouraged me to be bigger than what I am and I love them for that. It’s a blessing.”

The Bulldogs finally got over the hump after falling short to Greater Atlanta Christian, the eventual champion, last year and losing to Pace Academy in the title game the previous season.

“We got upset last year,” Woodard said of Morgan’s semifinal loss to GAC. “In 10th grade, we lost to Pace Academy, so it feels good to get one.”

Lawrence’s 18 points came on 4-of-8 shooting from the floor, 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc and 8-of-12 from the free-throw line. Greene shot 6-of-10 from the floor, 1-of-2 from beyond the arc and 1-of-2 from the free-throw line. Woodard was 3-of-10 from the floor and 1-of-4 from beyond the arc, but made up for it with a flawless 6-for-6 effort from the free-throw line. Phillip Crawford added 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line.

On the girls side, Johnson-Savannah outlasted Hart County 54-50 in a hotly contested title game.

“That’s what you want a state championship to be right there,” head coach Brandon Lindsey said. “Hart County is a well-coached team and they came out to play tonight. This was a heck of a ballgame right here. We led for most of the way and then we went down by one, two or three at one point. My ladies were just resilient. They refused to go down tonight, and that’s the mark of a champion. Sometimes you win by knockouts; sometimes you win by points, and sometimes it’s one of those slobber -knockers.”

Freshman K’lya Hankerson’s 3-pointer with 1:21 left in the game put Johnson-Savannah, the defending champions, ahead for good. Hankerson added two free throws on a one-and-one with 15 seconds left to expand the margin. Hart County’s Taniya Alexander cut into the lead with two free throws with 13 seconds left, but Johnson was able to get the ball to Jasmine Thompson, who was fouled. She made one free throw to get the game to its final tally.

“As a freshman, can you imagine the type of emotions she is going through?” Lindsey asked about Hankerson’s resolve. “In this atmosphere, that’s hard to imagine. I can’t even imagine, even as a grown man. She missed the front end of a one-and-one earlier. That’s just composure. That’s basketball.”

And that, my friends, is all the basketball for a championship season. 

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