Class 1A Private blog: Season recap

Mount Paran girls win 1st title; Greenforest dominates tourney field from start to finish

Last weekend in Macon, two Eagles teams emerged from Class 1A Private as champions — one that had never been there before, and another that had.

On the boys’ side, the Greenforest Eagles, who were heavily favored heading into the tournament, defeated King’s Ridge 61-52, winning their fourth title since 2013. On the girls’ side, the Mount Paran Eagles beat Hebron Christian 54-49 for their first title in program history.

The Mount Paran Eagles (25-4) were led by coach Stephanie Dunn and the team’s best player — one of the best in the country, in fact — her daughter, senior guard-forward Kara Dunn. Their win marked the second year in a row in 1A Private that a mother-daughter combo won their program its first state title. The team they beat in the title game, Hebron Christian, won the Lions their first title last year with coach Jan Azar and her daughter, senior Nicole Azar.

Though this is the Eagles’ first title, it’s Stephanie Dunn’s fourth — her first three came at St. Pius (2004, 2006, 2007). She denied Azar of what would have been her 15th state championship and second in a row at Hebron. Kara Dunn is a 4-star and No. 61 overall player for the Class of 2022, according to ESPN. She signed with Georgia Tech in November.

With Kara being a senior, this was their last chance to win a state title together, and they took home the hardware.

In the championship, Dunn dominated. She scored a game-high 30 points, doubling the next closest scorers, Hebron Christian’s Jessie Parrish and Aubrey Beckham, who each scored 15. On the season, she averaged 20.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.5 assists.

Though Dunn is graduating, the Eagles can build around freshman Jessica Fields. The forward emerged as the Eagles’ No. 2 scorer, averaging 13.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.7 steals.

Credit: Top: Chip Say, for the AJC; Bottom: Stan Awtrey, for the AJC

Credit: Top: Chip Say, for the AJC; Bottom: Stan Awtrey, for the AJC

For the Greenforest Christian Eagles (28-4), their formula for success has produced yet another title. The Eagles are known for bringing in immigrant players from Nigeria for a better opportunity in America and developing their raw talent alongside American teammates. In this year’s title game, 7-foot Nigerian DK Manyiel pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds and two blocks, and homegrown talent Jalen Forrest — son of Georgia Tech great James Forrest — scored a game-high 26 points.

Tip of the cap to King’s Ridge for keeping the deficit single-digits, a feat no other Greenforest opponent could manage. The Eagles came in with a 32-point average margin of victory, with no team coming closer than 19. The Tigers shot 20-of-38 from the field (52%) and 10-of-23 from the 3-point line (43%) and their leading scorer, Isaac Martin, scored his 18 points on 6-for-10 3-point shooting.

The Tigers shot the lights out in Macon, but it wasn’t enough to get past the Eagles, who have been dominant all season. They were 21-0 against 1A Private teams this season and 7-4 against one of the state’s toughest non-region schedules.

Forrest and Florian Tenebay (17 points in the title game) headline four of the Eagles’ top five scorers who graduate. Manyiel and fellow 7-footer Gai Chol, who was third on the team in scoring with averages of 9.7 points 8.4 rebounds, are both juniors. If the Eagles can sufficiently replace Forrest and Tenebay, they should remain soundly in the title discussion next season with Manyiel and Chol.