Class AA blog: Hoops season recap

Last Thursday concluded the 2019-20 GHSA basketball season and this blog will mark the conclusion of Class AA coverage for the school year. Moving forward, my focus will shift toward covering all classifications of lacrosse and gymnastics.

Congratulations to the Swainsboro Tigers and Douglass Lady Astros on winning the AA state title. Let’s jump into the season recap and the final rankings for the season:

Boys

1. Swainsboro (30-2)

2. Therrell (25-8)

3. Glenn Hills (23-8)

4. Washington County (20-7)

5. Spencer (23-4)

6. Douglass (21-9)

7. Chattooga (24-7)

8. Banks County (25-5)

9. Butler (19-7)

10. Laney (21-9)

Season storylines:

  • Swainsboro captures first title since 1996. I didn’t get the chance to cover the Tigers’ win over defending state champions Therrell, but I know coach Brice Hobbs was drawing inspiration from his predecessor and best friend, Bobby Andrews, who passed away suddenly before the start of the 2016-17 season. He no-doubt had Andrews and his mother, who passed away during that season, in his thoughts as he hoisted the championship trophy. I’m happy for him and the program which, as he correctly noted, has “seen it all.” They’ve been blown out in the championship, knocked out of the tournament as a No. 4 seed and missed the playoffs last year before winning their hard-earned title this season.
  • Therrell does more with less yet again. The Panthers’ goal of back-to-back state titles came just four points short after they made an improbable title game-run run — led by gutsy performances from Resean Frederick, Roman Son, Calvin Miller, Cameron Fortson and others — despite missing their best player, 4-star recruit Robbie Armbrester, who missed all but a handful of games with a wrist injury. It’s the third year in a row the Panthers have made a deep playoff run despite the loss of key players. The previous two seasons they lost their best players — Anthony Edwards, then Deandre Brown — as transfers to Holy Spirit. Armbrester returns next year for his senior season and, with coach Eddie Johnson at the helm, you can expect the Panthers to make another run at the championship.
  • Glenn Hills ascent under first-year coach William Cunningham. The Spartans came within a game of reaching the state championship under Cunningham, a Spartans alum and former NBA player who played college at Temple. His team — led by John Whitehead and Emmanuel Jones — was senior heavy, so it’s unclear how competitive they’ll be next season. But with Cunningham’s credentials, the team should be coached up and ready to go. Hopefully the program learned from it semifinals meltdown that saw five technical fouls, one flagrant foul and two ejections in the fourth quarter alone.

Girls

1. Douglass (26-5)

2. Southwest-Macon (25-4)

3. Early County (26-5)

4. Rockmart (23-7)

5. Laney (27-3)

6. Washington County (23-5)

7. Vidalia (24-5)

8. Rabun County (23-4)

9. Union County (23-7)

10. Josey (23-6)

Season storylines:

  • Douglass repeats. As it turned out, nothing was going to stop the Lady Astros from winning AA again. Everything, including the kitchen sink, was thrown in their way and they kept playing through. In one of the toughest roads to a championship in GHSA history, they had to play a ranked team in every round and in the championship, they played what was designed to be a neutral game against Southwest-Macon at the Macon Centreplex. They will lose Kayla Sesberry, Ikenya King, Ashley McKee and all but three of their players to graduation but Ashuntee Weems returns and we’ve learned the past two seasons that, with coach Alana Allen, you can’t count them out in 2020-21 either.
  • Rockmart breaks out. The Lady Jackets entered the state tournament unranked, but only because pollsters overlooked them. I certainly didn’t when making my playoff predictions before the tournament started. Led by junior Keyarah Berry — who averaged 30.7 points and surpassed 2,000 points for her career this season — the Lady Jackets rolled through the tournament as Region 7 champions before falling short in the semifinals to Southwest on a buzzer-beater. They lose just three players from this year’s team and should be one of the favorites to win it all next year. Had their inexperience not caught up to them against Southwest — they mismanaged a double-digit fourth quarter lead — they would have played for the title this year.
  • Early County turns in another strong season. The Lady Bobcats followed up last year’s run to the title game with a trip to the semifinals, where they again came up short to Douglass. They were led by one of the country’s top juniors in Makayla Timpson, who averaged 22.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5.4 blocks and four steals. They also saw sophomore Jordan Eafford emerge to average 13 points, five assists and 3.8 steals. Both will return next season to give the Lady Bobcats a great shot at another deep playoff run.

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