Class 5A blog: Woodward girls worker harder to defend title

Woodward Academy head coach Kim Lawrence and players celebrate their victory Thursday in the 5A girls championship game in Macon.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/

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Woodward Academy head coach Kim Lawrence and players celebrate their victory Thursday in the 5A girls championship game in Macon.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/

Winning championships are hard. Defending them are tougher.

That’s the lesson that the Woodward Academy girls are learning this season. The defending Class 5A champions are 12-2 and ranked No. 1 again, but it has not been an easy ride.

“It’s actually a little harder because you know everybody is going to give you their best game so they can say they knocked off the champions,” Woodward coach Kim Lawrence said. “It’s like now that we’ve done that, what’s our next goal. Can we do it again? When we made our first run, we were able to fly under the radar. No one really knew about us. That’s not the case now.”

The War Eagles have played a tough non-conference schedule that includes wins over out-of-state powers Blanche-Ely of Pompano Beach, Fla., and Hoover, Ala., and good Georgia teams like New Manchester, Lovejoy and Roswell. Their only two losses have come against Maynard Jackson, the No. 2-ranked team in Class 5A, and Lake Highland Prep of Orlando, Fla., the No. 2-ranked team in Florida and No. 16 in MaxPreps’ national poll. Woodward Academy is ranked No. 23 by MaxPreps.

“I took a page from my high school coach (Woodward’s Jim Waller, who won three state championships) that we want to pay the best teams we can,” Lawrence said. “That’s going to get us ready for what we’ll face. I love the challenge, to see what we’re made of and to step up and see what we need to work on. It helps me know that we’ve done everything we can to get our girls in the right position so we can make another run.”

The War Eagles are led by all-state guard Sydney Bowles, a 5-foot-11 senior who averages 25 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.9 steals. She scored 22 points in the state championship game. Bowles has signed with the University of Georgia.

“Every time I watch her, I’m amazed at some of the things that she does on the court,” Lawrence said. “It’s amazing. You see the job she does, but you don’t see the unseen hours of practice and watching videos. Even though you know it’s coming, it’s still amazing to watch her do the kind of things she does.”

Bowles’ contribution is more than just points and rebounds. Her effort is off the charts and Bowles can usually be found scrambling for a loose ball and coming away with 50-50 balls.

“And she’s able to turn on a different burner when it’s needed,” Lawrence said. “It’s been a blessing to coach her.”

Woodward’s other starters are junior Sara Lewis (10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds), and seniors MacKenzie Moring (6.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.9 steals), Zoe Scott (5.2 points, 7.4 rebounds) and Kennedie Mosley. Anna Wylder is a key player off the bench. Moring has signed to play soccer at the University of Arizona. Lewis 13 points and nine rebounds in the title game.

Woodward’s main challenge in Region 3 will again be Forest Park. The two teams played for the state title last year and will meet Jan. 21 at Woodward Academy and Jan. 26 at Forest Park and

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