Class 2A blog: Season recap

Westside boys, Elbert County girls claim state titles

There are infinite takeaways from the 2021-22 season, so let’s address some of the most obvious ones. For starters, the Westside Patriots on the boys’ side, and the Elbert County Blue Devils on the girls’, are your state champions.

The Patriots defeated Region 4 rivals Butler 64-55. The Blue Devils beat Region 8 rivals Rabun County 52-44.

The Patriots (28-3) are champions for the second time in program history, with the first coming in 1995. The school opened in 1971. Aside from an 18-point loss to Butler on Jan. 25, they only lost by a point in their other two losses to Butler (50-49) on Jan. 25 and Putnam County (64-63) on Feb. 24. The Patriots peaked during the playoffs, with Khalon Hudson leading the way, averaging 22.5 points and 13 rebounds during their five-game run.

The Patriots’ win was not just big for Westside, but the Augusta basketball community as well. Patriots coach Jerry Hunter and Butler Bulldogs coach Cervantes Boddy said as much before the game. Augusta basketball scored two big wins in the second round in a pair of top-five matchups against Atlanta’s top-ranked Pace Academy and No. 2 Columbia.

The odds were high that one of the winners from this Region 4 (Augusta) vs. Region 6 (Atlanta) showdown would go on to win the championship. Unfortunately for the teams involved, the showdown was taking place at the earliest possible moment in the tournament.

The No. 4 Bulldogs beat No. 1 Pace Academy, and the No. 3 Patriots beat No. 2 Columbia. Three rounds later, they played in Macon for the championship. The Patriots finished atop the final rankings, with the Bulldogs right behind them. Pace Academy finished No. 3 and Columbia No. 4, but that’s not a knock on the six other teams, aside from Butler and Westside, that advanced further. It speaks to the belief of pollsters that the four best teams in the tournament met in Round 2.

It’s hard to object to that when looking at Pace Academy and Columbia’s body of work.

The Patriots’ top three scorers – Hudson (17.5 points), Jalexs Ewing (16.7) and Amauri Tillman (15.3) – are all juniors, and DeMarco Middleton (8.7 points) is a sophomore. They should open the season No. 1 and as favorites to repeat.

The Patriots were one of three Augusta-area boys teams to win the state title, joining Grovetown (6A) and Cross Creek (5A).

Credit: Top: Stan Awtrey for the AJC; Bottom: Chip Saye for the AJC

Credit: Top: Stan Awtrey for the AJC; Bottom: Chip Saye for the AJC

In the case of the Blue Devils (28-4), this was the year their potential was realized by achieving the ultimate goal. Doing so as juniors gives them the chance to close out their prep careers as back-to-back champs. They just toppled their region rival Wildcats – Rabun County beat them twice this season – which had a senior-heavy squad. That should work to the Blue Devils’ advantage in 8-2A next year, and they should be considered favorites to repeat.

(More: Girls final rankings)

The Blue Devils bring back all scorers from the championship win. Aaniyah Allen (17 points), Niya Moon (14), Terrace Hester (12), Jamia Allen (6) and Brenasia Faust (3) all are juniors. On the season Aaniyah Allen led the way, averaging 19 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.2 steals, followed by Moon (14.2 points, five rebounds, 4.2 steals) and Hester (11.1 points, 2.8 steals).

After coming within a point of eventual champion Josey in last year’s quarterfinals, the Blue Devils were operating with confidence and experience. The Wildcats were a worthy challenge, beating the Blue Devils in the 8-2A championship and earlier in the season, but the Blue Devils were playing on another level when the playoffs rolled around.

Indeed, no team in the tournament played the Blue Devils closer than Rabun County — the Blue Devils won 52-45. Against their first four opponents – South Atlanta, No. 8 Swainsboro, No. 6 Callaway and No. 4 Josey – their average margin of victory was 22.5 points, with none coming closer than 16.

In contrast to the Blue Devils, only two of Rabun County’s title-game scorers return — sophomores Lucy Hood (6 points) and Mili Watts (1). It could take time for the Wildcats to find their new identity next season, whereas the Blue Devils will be locked in and with a title under their belt.

This Blue Devils group, which has been winning together since middle school, will play out their version of “The Last Dance” in the fall.