Class AAAA Blog: Woodward Academy boys and Americus-Sumter girls complete banner seasons on top

The 2019-20 high school basketball season is in the books and the Woodward Academy boys and Americus-Sumter girls are this year’s Class AAAA state champs. For Woodward, it was the end of a dominant 30-2 season and the program’s first-ever state title. The War Eagles’ only defeats came in a 61-59 cross-state December battle with Jemison (AL) and a 67-63 road loss to Druid Hills on Jan. 17. Woodward clinched its state championship with a 75-56 victory over Cross Creek in the finals. This 19-point margin was enough to influence the final season rankings as Sandy Creek earned the only No. 2 spot for a non-finalist and Cross Creek came in at No. 3. The case for the Patriots taking No. 2 was made in the quarterfinals when Woodward Academy advanced with a gutsy 58-56 victory. 

In that victory over Sandy Creek, Woodward Academy’s 7-foot center Walker Kessler shined with a 33-point, 13-rebound and three block effort. Kessler’s presence was a major factor for Woodward Academy’s success this season and in the postseason where he posted 24.6 ppg and 4.4 blocks per game. As head coach Anthony Thomas pointed out after the championship, it was Walker’s selfless play that made Woodward so successful as a unit. 

“He is so selfless,” Thomas told Stan Awtry. “He doesn’t mind helping others out defensively, he alters shots at the rim, he makes our guard’s job easier.”

In the win over Cross Creek, Kessler had 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting while guard Michael Whitmore finished with 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and five steals. 
Kessler said, “He’s the best point guard I’ve ever played with, one of the most unselfish people I know. He cares about the team more than anything.” Woodward Academy (30-2) had three others score in double figures: Will Richards with 15 points and eight rebounds, Jacorrei Turner with 12 points and five rebounds, and Emory Lanier with 11 points.
“They had the idea to shut me off and they did that pretty well,” Kessler said. “But the team I’m on is such a good team and talented team that it didn’t have to go through me. We have six weapons … it’s like an arsenal … so in the end we were the better team.”

Americus-Sumter claimed its second state championship since 2016 with its 66-52 victory over Troup. Trinity Jones led the Panthers with a game-high 21 points in which she scored 11 points in the decisive final quarter. The biggest takeaway from the Panthers winning this year’s crown is the incredible one-year turnaround that the program made. Last season, The Panthers were an 11-15 team that missed their first playoff since the 2014 season. Here’s a look at how the final rankings shaped up, including each team’s final record. 

BOYS

Class AAAA

1. Woodward Academy (30-2)

2. Sandy Creek (25-5)

3. Cross Creek (25-7)

4. Americus-Sumter (29-1)

5. Denmark (25-6)

6. LaFayette (25-3)

7. St. Pius (23-8)

8. Upson-Lee (21-8)

9. Blessed Trinity (18-10)

10. McDonough (17-13)

GIRLS

Class AAAA

1. Americus-Sumter (29-2)

2. Troup (27-2)

3. Carver-Columbus (25-5)

4. Luella (25-6)

5. Spalding (23-5)

6. Woodward Academy (27-4)

7. Marist (26-2)

8. Cross Creek (19-7)

9. Sandy Creek (18-11)

10. White County (20-9)

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