The road to the high school basketball final four was as familiar as it could be for a few programs, but for some of the teams still alive these are uncharted waters, and the chances for an appearance in the championship game is historical for their schools and fan bases.
The Morgan County boys appear ready to make their fifth consecutive title appearance, and Greater Atlanta Christian stands in the way. The Bulldogs, who won titles in 2014 and 2016, have had little trouble navigating through the bracket, defeating North Hall 61-29, Towers 64-49 and Central-Macon 51-37. It hasn't been as easy for GAC, which eased past defending-champion Pace Academy in the second round, 57-54. The Spartans used the second-round scare as momentum and cruised through the quarterfinal game over Johnson-Savannah 75-61. GAC fell to Lovett in the first round last season (62-58) and in 2015-16 it fell to Dublin in the second round of the Class AA bracket.
On the other side of the bracket, the only Savannah school standing, Jenkins, will face a Khavon Moore-less Westside-Macon team that has not skipped a beat since losing its star player to injury earlier in the season. Westside has been led by senior Gregory Holloway, who’s averaging 18.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. The Seminoles made it as far as the quarterfinals before falling to eventual-champion Pace Academy last season. In 2015-16, it made it to the second-round before falling to Calhoun, 71-43. Jenkins will be riding momentum from a come-from-behind victory against Cedar Grove in the quarterfinals after being behind 19-9 after the first quarter. The Warriors put together a 21-12 run in the second quarter, led by Tyrone Scott and Tre’ Mays, to cut into the lead and by the fourth quarter, Jenkins held a 1-point lead before outscoring Cedar Grove 28-18 to punch its ticket to the semifinals.
On the girls side of the bracket, Greater Atlanta Christian is coming off a quarterfinal victory against Beach, and the momentum should play big after losing a controversial semifinal game against Beach last season. A scorebook error could have cost GAC a championship appearance. Instead, Beach won in overtime and defeated Johnson-Savannah in the championship game.
GAC is as potent as ever this season, offensively and defensively, despite losing its leading scorer, Robyn Benton, to injury. The Lady Spartans are led by Taylor Sutton (16.8 points), Caria Reynolds (12.2 points) and MaryMartha Turner (10.2 points). Teammate Kennedi Williams is averaging just shy of nine points per game.
Franklin County, GAC's opponent, is unbeaten (30-0). Last season, the Lady Lions lost 53-52 to Ringgold in the first round, and this year is viewed as a redemption tour. The team features four senior starters and one freshmen. Savannah State commit Mya Jones leads her team with 21.5 points per game. Her twin sister, Asia, averages 11. Freshman Maddie Morehead has had two games with five 3-pointers. The Lady Lions' record might suggest that their schedule was light, but that's not the case. Franklin has beaten 13 teams that were ranked in the top 10 at some point during the season and defeated one of the better teams from South Carolina. The team has averaged more thanr 63 points a game while holding opponents to 30.
State-runner up Johnson-Savannah enters the semifinals for the third consecutive year and is led by Sy-Marieona Williams, the Region 3-AAA Player of the Year. Williams averages 18.1 points per game. J’Mya Cutter adds 13 points, five steals and five assists per game. Teammate Jasmine Thompson averages 11 points, eight rebounds and three steals per game. Johnson is anchored inside by 6-foot-5 center Giana Copeland, who averages eight rebounds and 12 blocks per game.
Tattnall County, Johnson's opponent, is led by Kashay Hankerson (17 points, four rebounds, four steals and three assists per game), Kayla Garrett (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Hallia Carl (eight points, six rebounds, three steals, three assists). The Lady Warriors lost to GAC in the quarterfinals at home last season. But after only losing one senior to graduation, Tattnall is poised for a possible championship run.
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