The No. 4 Decatur girls are in the midst of a great season. But they’ll get a definite midseason checkup on Friday night when they host No. 5 South Atlanta.
It will be a big night for coach Sarah Coleman’s Bulldogs. The boys team will play the first game of the night and there will be a short break for the annual Wall of Fame induction ceremony. Then the girls will play, with tipoff expected for 7:15 p.m.
“It’s a good time to have a game like this,” Coleman said. “You want to have this kind of game, but you don’t want to have it too early. You want to have it in a place where you can learn from it and make any changes.”
There haven’t been many changes needed this year for Decatur or South Atlanta. Decatur is 17-1 and have lost only to two-time defending state champion St. Pius. The Bulldogs have won 14 straight games.
South Atlanta is 16-0 and has won every game by double-digit margins. The closest call for the Hornets was an 11-point win in the Dwight Madison Christmas Tournament in Montgomery, Ala.
Decatur is led by Jayla Morrow, a 5-foot-4 junior point guard who averages 18.8 points, 3.1 assists and 4.2 steals. Morrow is only 12 points shy of reaching the 1,000-mark for her career and could reach it on Friday.
“Jayla has been the team leader,” Coleman said. “She knows the game so well and can distribute the ball so well.”
Jamee Reeves, a 5-5 senior guard, sets the pace on defense. Her quickness sets the pace for the tough Decatur defense and her pressure helps create offensive opportunities for her teammates. She aveagers 3.2 steals and 4.9 rebounds.
The inside duo of Kayla Thomas, a 5-10 junior, and Janay Williams, a 5-11 junior, give the Bulldogs some inside muscle. Thomas, who averages 10.8 points and 8.9 rebounds, can play inside or outside and is a tenacious rebounder. Williams, who averages 12.2 points and 11.2 rebounds, is a classic low post player who knows how to score in the paint.
The other starter is Taylor Jones, a 5-9 sophomore who is athletic enough to do a lot of things. She’s an outstanding jumper and has cleared key rebounds and is a capable ball-handler.
South Atlanta’s go-to player is Kierra Johnson-Graham, a 5-10 junior who averages 15.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
Erica Gibbons, a 5-11 junior averages 16.4 points and 8.0 rebounds, and Takira Lindley, a 6-foot junior averages 12 points and 8 rebounds to give the Hornets some strength inside. Kaylan West, a 5-10 senior, is solid at power forward. If the Hornets have an Achilles heel it may be depth; South Atlanta has only eight players on the roster.
“They match us pretty well in athleticism,” Coleman said. “They’re a lot bigger than us. They’re long and tall and athletic.”
In other interesting games scheduled for Friday:
The No. 8 Blessed Trinity boys (14-3) travels to Riverdale for a game with North Clayton. The Titans will try to rebound after being thumped 49-20 by No. 4 Cedar Grove on Tuesday night. North Clayton (11-6) was state-ranked all year until losing two of its first three games back from the Christmas break. The Eagles are led by seniors Reginald Scurry, who averages 19 points, and Taiyon Hector, who averages 11.8.
The No. 1 Laney boys (15-1) travel to Sandersville for a game with the dangerous Washington County Golden Hawks. Laney, led by JaShawn Brooks (13.1 points, 5.0 rebounds) has won 15 straight. Washington County (10-4) has been won four of its last five games.
In the girls game, No. 3 Laney (14-2) will try to remain in sole possession of first place in Region 3. No. 10 Washington County (11-3) has won five straight games and moved into the state rankings this week.
The No. 9 Calhoun girls (14-3) try to keep their Region 6 record perfect when they host Sonoraville on Friday. The Yellow Jackets could further distance themselves from the field with a win over the Phoenix (11-7), one of three teams tied for second place with three league losses.
On Saturday, No. 2 Jenkins (12-3) will play No. 6 Savannah (11-6) at Savannah State. Jenkins (12-3) has won three straight games. Jenkins and Savannah, along with Johnson, are expected to emerge from Region 1-AAA as contenders for the state championship.
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Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com