Kell’s Crystal Henderson has had a high school career filled with honors and accolades, but what she didn’t have was a state championship.
She has one now.
The senior guard scored 29 points to go with eight rebounds, seven steals and six assists in leading the Longhorns to a 57-36 victory over Warner Robins in the Class 5A girls basketball championship game Thursday night at the Macon Coliseum.
The championship was the first for the Longhorns, who came close in each of Henderson’s first three seasons. Kell was the state runner-up in 2020, then was eliminated in the quarterfinals and semifinals in Class 6A the past two seasons.
Kell spent most of this season ranked No. 1 this year and finished 26-5.
“We got knocked out in the final four last year, so a lot of people had doubts about us making it this year,” Henderson said. “So we just worked hard, got in the gym, fixed it and came back and got the state championship.”
Second-ranked Warner Robins (28-4) was making its first appearance in the finals since a runner-up finish in 1996 and was seeking its first title since 1965.
Henderson has been a consensus first-team all-state selection every season at Kell, and she has won numerous region player of the year honors and first-team all-region selections. She has already had her jersey retired by the school.
“She’s a phenomenal player,” Kell second-year coach Kandra Bailey said. “I’ve never had a point guard like her. She’s got a player’s mindset and a coach’s mindset. She’s going to lead her team and she is not going to be denied. She’s going to go get a bucket for you anytime you need it. I’m sad I won’t have her next year. Any coach wants a player like her on their team.”
For all the impact Henderson’s scoring had in the championship game, this one was as much about Kell’s defense. The Longhorns forced 19 turnovers that led to 23 Kell points. They also limited Warner Robins to 24.4-percent shooting from the field (11-for-45).
Most important to the outcome was holding the Demons without a field goal for an 11-minute stretch in the first half during which Kell turned what had been a 2-2 game into a 21-5 lead. A 3-pointer by Warner Robins’ Tori Davis ended the drought and ignited an 8-0 run that cut the deficit to 21-13.
Kell’s Jamiah Gregory ended the first-half scoring with three free throws for a 24-13 lead and made a 3-pointer 19 seconds into the third quarter to make it 27-13. Warner Robins never got closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
“We played fast. We’re an up-tempo type of team,” Bailey said. “So we just wanted to focus on our defense tonight and let our steals get some scores in transition. That’s how we like to play.”
Gregory, a sophomore, also had a big night. She scored 15 points and had seven rebounds and two steals. Makayah Harris added eight points.
Warner Robins was led by Tori Davis and Jada Morgan, who scored eight points each.
Kell - 17-7-20-13 - 57
Warner Robins - 5-8-10-13 - 36
Kell (57): Makayah Harris 8, Jada Green 4, Sydney Moss 1, Jamiah Gregory 15, Crystal Henderson 29, Aiya Dudley.
Warner Robins (36): Nevaeh Mack 5, Kyannadi Howard 3, Tasia Agee 5, Tori Davis 8, Jada Morgan 8, Chelsea Thomas 4, Korveanna Slaughter, Mykiah Williams, Verkesia Fuller 3.
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