Class 5A blog: A final look at girls basketball season



Observations from the just-completed girls basketball season.

Best player: Crystal Henderson, Kell. This turned out to be an easy choice. She went out by leading Kell to its first state championship by scoring 29 points in the title game. It truly was a showcase for Henderson, who dished the ball to her teammates, ran the offense and never allowed Warner Robins to get its footing. Henderson leaves the program having scored 2,000-plus points and as the all-time leader in steals and assists. She is currently unsigned.

Best coaching job: Kandra Bailey, Kell. It isn’t easy to wear the No. 1 target all year, but Bailey kept her team grounded and motivated. They breezed through their region schedule, had no trouble in the region tournament and were barely tested in five state tournament games. Sure, she had good talent, but it takes more than players to win a state championship.

Best 3-point shooter: Bella Brick, Flowery Branch. Her team wasn’t great, but Brick leaves as one of the GHSA’s best shooters. She won the state 3-point contest as a sophomore and junior and lost by a point last weekend in Macon. She teamed up with Landon Mealor to win the coed shoout as a junior and senior. She’s a straight-A student, the class valedictorian and is going to sign a track scholarship with Georgia.

Best 5-foot-3 player: Lauren Watson, Calhoun. Like Alan Jackson once sang, “It’s OK to be little-bitty.” Especially when you hustle and shoot the daylights out of it, like when she made a school-record nine in the first round of the state playoffs. Fun player to watch.

Best second banana: Jada Green, Kell. On the rare night that Crystal Henderson wasn’t on her game, Green was able to pick up the slack. She wound up scoring her 1,000th career points and ending her senior season in style.

Most overachieving team: Jefferson. The Dragons didn’t wow anyone when they walked on the court. They were rather small and unimposing and struggled against an overwhelming schedule (Buford, St. Pius, Mill Creek, etc.). But coach Greg Brown’s team never quit grinding until the final horn. There’s only one senior on the team, so it may not premature to pencil Jefferson in as one of the preseason Region 8 favorites for 2023-24.

Big girl to watch: Emaya Lewis, Loganville: The junior has great length – she’s 6-foot-3 with long legs and long arms. She is already exceptional around the basket and is working on her midrange and perimeter game. She’s also got the knack of staying out of foul trouble.

Freshman to watch: Bradwell Institute’s Ja’Nya Bush. The 5-foot-8 freshman made a big impact on the Region 1 runner-up team that reached the Elite Eight before losing to Kell. Bush averaged 5.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists on a senior-laden club that won 23 games.

Team to beat for 2023-24: Maynard Jackson. The Jaguars went 26-2 and reached the Final Four with a team that did not start a single senior. Taliah Cornish and Aaliyah Weaver are among the returning players who will be among the favorites to contend for a championship. Runner-up: Midtown. Same situation as Maynard Jackson. Young and talented.

Biggest wish: Schools should make sure their statistics are entered in the MaxPreps system. This is helpful to everyone – from parents to reporters ro college scouts. The task can be assigned to a manager and will take 10 minutes.