Observations from the just-completed girls basketball season.
Best senior player: David Thomas, Eagle’s Landing. He was the go-to guy on a team that lost only one regular-season game. The three-time all-state player did it all – he kept the offense functioning, he was able to attack the basket, shoot the 3-pointer and play the best defense on the team. His presence had the ability to elevate the team to another level. Coach Elliott Montgomery will miss him, but Mercer is getting a guy who will help the program regain its mojo.
Best coaching job, Jermaine Sellers, Kell: It isn’t easy to bear the burden of being the “team to beat.” But Sellers kept the team focused, navigated a challenging schedule and had the Longhorns playing their best at the right time. While the team was known for it’s high-scoring attack, they could play defense, too. (Example: Kell held No. 4 Chapel Hill to 33 points in the semifinals.) Plus Sellers was able to do handle all the pressures without losing his good nature. He’s genuinely a good guy.
Best junior, C.J. Brown, Kell: He’s athletically similar to former Grayson start Daveion Smith, now at Georgia Tech, but with more offensive skills. He’s got an ability to take off and get to the rim like few others 6-foot-2 can. He’s got a good 3-point shot and knows how to run the offense – with or without his 7-foot teammate Peyton Marshall. Brown had 22 points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks in the championship game.
Most overachieving team: Winder-Barrow emerged from Region 8 as the No. 1 team because of its consistent play. The Bulldoggs rode the coattails of gguard Jeremiah Holloway to a 20-win season and the reggion championship. Coach Travis McDaniel got them to the Sweet 16, where they took mighty Mays into overtime. They’ll be talking about this team in Winder for a long time.
Best big man: Peyton Marshall, Kell. Marshall was the Region 6 Player of the Year and on GPB’s all-state team and the 7-foot, 290-pound Marshall is a huge presence – when he stays on the court. Marshall is effective around the basket, uses his size to grab every rebound and is an excellent passer. But his size causes the referees to see everything – even when it might be overlooked if committed by another player. The attention often causes him to get in foul trouble. He’s a fine player who will continue to get better and could one day be playing in the NBA.
Freshman to watch: Chris Perry, Bradwell Institute: He probably contributed as much as any freshman in the state. He averaged 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds for the Region 1 champions. The 6-4 forward is still growing into his tall, lanky frame, but he’s got a nice outside shot, doesn’t mind digging in on defense and can play above the rim.
Best playoff run: Jones County. The Greyhounds finished fourth in Region 2, but wound up reaching the Final Four, where they ran into league nemesis Eagle’s Landing. Jones County took out Region 1 champion Bradwell Institute, No. 10 Tucker and No. 3 Hiram – all on the road – to reach semifinals. Seniors Jaylen Sanford and Daethun Harris did a nice job of keeping the otherwise young team on track.
Team to beat for 2023-23: Kell will have the honor of being the favorite again next season. With Peyton Marshall and C.J. Brown coming back, the Longhorns have a tremendous nucleus that no one else can match. Kell will try to become the firsts team to repeat in 5A since Jonesboro in 2014-15.
Biggest wish: Schools should make sure their statistics are entered in the MaxPreps system. This is helpful to everyone – from parents to reporters to college scouts. The task can be assigned to a manager and will take 10 minutes.
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