Class 5A blog: Preview of the state championship games

Credit: Jamie Spaar

Credit: Jamie Spaar

It isn’t that often that the No. 1-ranked team and the No. 2 ranked teams actually meet in the state championship game. Somehow the stars aligned this season in Class 5A, where it worked out for the boys and the girls.

And, to make matters even more interesting, Kell High School has its boys and girls in the title games and have an opportunity for a rare sweep. The Eagle’s Landing boys and Warner Robins girls are the other part of the equation.

The teams will meet on Thursday at the Macon Coliseum to determine the champions. The girls play at 5:30 p.m., with the boys to follow at 7:30.

Here’s a look at each matchup:

Girls: No. 2 Warner Robins vs. No. 1 Kell

These are the only two teams to hold the top spot in 5A this year and Warner Robins has doggedly hung on to No. 1 spot since January. Both teams are similar – they like to get up and down the court, they are both well-coached and both have been tested by some stiff competition. And they win – Warner Robins has won 12 in a row, Kell has a 13-game winning streak.

The game also features the two girls who are most likely to be named the Class 5A Player of the Year – Jada Morgan from Warner Robins and Crystal Henderson from Kell.

Warner Robins (28-3) got a big game last week from Tasia Agee and Tori Davis when they defeated Calhoun in the semifinals. But questions remain about the health of Morgan, who was struggling through a left knee strain. Coach Rebecca White said Morgan will play through the issue and be ready for Kell, although the Longhorns will be a more athletic challenge and play at a faster pace than Calhoun.

Warner Robins coach Rebecca White said, “You’ve got a target on your back all season. You come to work and you battle. Nobody is going to give you anything.”

Kell (25-5) runs behind Henderson, the school’s all-time leading scorer and an adept floor leader. Henderson, who had her jersey retired at the end of the season, scored 20 points and showed some adept passing during the semifinal win over Maynard Jackson. The Longhorns have other solid contributors in Jemiah Gregory, Jada Green and Sydney Moss, but they could be without Makayah Harris, who twisted an ankle in the semifinals and had to be carried off the floor.

“This is what we wanted to do last year and we got stopped short, so we’re happy to get there,” Kell coach Kanda Bailey said.

Warner Robins hasn’t won a championship since 1965. White was a member of the Warner Robins team that came up short during her tenure there.

White said, “It’s a dream. I once wore this jersey and I fell short. So to coach at my alma mater is amazing. It’s dream come true. It’s a lot of tradition. You walk those halls with pride and anybody who has been there before wants to come back.”

Credit: Jamie Spaar

Credit: Jamie Spaar

Boys: No. 1 Kell vs. No. 2 Eagle’s Landing

Similar to the girls scenario, these two teams have been the only two in the top spot all season. And both are trying to atone for last year’s shortcomings. Eagle’s Landing reached the championship game a year ago before losing to Tri-Cities. Kell got the final two years ago, where they lost to Wheeler, and were eliminated in the semifinals last season.

Kell (27-2) is on a 14-game winning streak since losing to Grayson, a semifinalists in Class 7A. The Longhorns turned aside Chapel Hill a week ago with a stellar defensive effort. Coach Jermaine Sellers’ team is led by high-energy guard C.J. Brown, who scored 24 points last week and produced a couple of inspirational dunks. Kell also features 7-foot junior center Peyton Marshall, an Auburn commit who changes the game when he stays out of foul trouble.

“The goal is to win it,” Sellers said. “A couple of years ago was our first experience and we didn’t know what to expect. This year I think we would be more prepared and ready to take home the trophy.”

Eagle’s Landing (29-1) has won nine in a row since its regular-season loss to rival Dutchtown. The Eagles are led by David Thomas, who is likely to be chosen to the all-state team for the third time. The Mercer signee can be an offensive force with his ability to drive and shoot the 3-pointer, but is equally important on defense and in running the offense. The Eagles also feature 6-fooy-7 Kenny Brayboy and sweet-shooting Chris Morris.

“The hardest part is always getting here,” Eagle’s Landing coach Elliott Montgomery said. “I told Dr. Hines )GHSA executive director) when I picked up that second-place trophy last year, ‘My kids told y’all last year that we would be here, but I’m telling you (in 2023) we will be there.’ This is great group and this is a great opportunity.”