The 2018-19 boys and girls basketball seasons ended with two city schools taking home the title. Therrell’s boys and Douglass’ girls each won the first title in program history, with the Panthers beating Vidalia 51-49 and the Lady Astros topping Early County 57-51.
The Panthers, which entered the tournament ranked No. 4, but had been ranked as high as No. 2 at points in the season, finished 26-8. Remarkably, they will lose just one senior from their team: Zyquan Morton. Though he’s a significant loss — Morton led the Panthers in the title game with 19 points — they’ll return as a title contender with a handful of talented players led by 6-foot-4 class of ‘21 forward Robbie Armbrester.
That is, if Holy Spirit doesn’t come calling. I hate to even go there, but think of the dynasty the Panthers would have had if that private school, which competes in the GISA, hadn’t plucked Anthony Edwards and Deandre Brown over the past two seasons. It’s easy to envision this season being their third straight ending with an AA title.
That they Panthers overcame that and won anyway is a testament to the players who stuck around. They should hold their heads high knowing they didn’t take the easy way out. And hopefully for the program, they’ll all be back for more next year, when they’ll again be viewed as one of a handful of teams with a realistic shot to win state.
On the losing end of the title game were the Vidalia Indians. It stings for them because the came up short as runner ups for the second year in a row, losing last year to Thomasville. It’s tough to project how they’ll fare next season because they lose seven seniors but could retain 10 juniors and a sophomore.
Here are the final rankings for the AA boys:
1. Therrell (25-8)
2. Woodville-Tompkins (29-1)
3. Vidalia (27-5)
4. South Atlanta (25-6)
5. Elbert County (28-4)
6. Northeast (23-6)
7. Laney (23-9)
8. Washington County (20-8)
9. Early County (23-6)
10. Thomasville (22-7)
The Lady Astros did a masterful job of flying in under the radar, entering the tournament as a No. 1 seed but coming from a Region 6 that netted no ranked teams at any point in the season, other than themselves. They were ranked most of the season and as high as No. 3, but a 47-41 loss to South Atlanta on Jan. 29 knocked them from the top 10 until the start of the region tournament, when they returned at No. 9. When the state playoffs began, the were No. 6.
The loss to South Atlanta was bad considering the Lady Astros beat them 58-30 on Dec. 18. But what no one except for maybe inside the Douglass locker room could have predicted is that they wouldn’t lose again, closing the season out on a nine-game winning streak that included top-ranked Fitzgerald, No. 4-ranked, two-time defending champion Laney and No. 3 Early County.
It was an impressive run for a team with seemingly not a lot of depth. Only nine players are listed on their MaxPreps roster and that appears accurate based on the above picture of the team hoisting the championship trophy. One of those players is senior captain Nekiyah Thompson, who led them to the title with 23 points.
Thompson was the team’s heart and soul and with her graduating, others will have to step up to fill the void if they’re to contend for a title again next season.
For the Early County Lady Bobcats, the future looks bright with Makayla Timpson. The sophomore sensation took her game to another level this season after being named an AJC all-state second team selection last season as a freshman, the only underclassman to earn first or second team honors. She’s made strong case for first team this year, and she’s already one of the most coveted recruits in the country.
Timpson finished with 20 points, 10 steals, four rebounds and five blocks in the title game, which was in line with her season averages of 19.7 points, 9.7 boards, 2.3 steals and 5.8 blocks.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Lady Bobcats open the season ranked No. 1 because of Timpson, a 6-foot-2 guard-forward.
Here are the final rankings for the girls:
1. Douglass (27-6)
2. Fitzgerald (27-1)
3. Early County (27-5)
4. Laney (28-3)
5. Rabun County (28-2)
6. Model (23-8)
7. Dodge County (25-3)
8. Bryan County (26-3)
9. Woodville-Tompkins (24-6)
10. Swainsboro (23-5)
That will do it for basketball season. Beginning next week, this space will be used for lacrosse coverage.
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