Class 5A: Semifinal coverage from West Georgia

Eagle’s Landing, Kell boys, Jackson-Atlanta, Midtown girls advance to finals
Shakira Gresham (21) of Jackson-Atlanta gets in position to rebound during the Jaguars' 77-57 victory over Cartersville in the Class 5A girls basketball semifinals on March 1, 2024, at the University of West Georgia Coliseum in Carrollton.

Credit: Chip Saye

Credit: Chip Saye

Shakira Gresham (21) of Jackson-Atlanta gets in position to rebound during the Jaguars' 77-57 victory over Cartersville in the Class 5A girls basketball semifinals on March 1, 2024, at the University of West Georgia Coliseum in Carrollton.


Eagle’s Landing 69, Jackson-Atlanta 51

Second-ranked Eagle’s Landing shook off a show start during which it fell behind 17-10 and stormed back to defeat Jackson-Atlanta in the Class 5A boys basketball semifinals Friday at the University of West Georgia Coliseum in Carrollton.

Eagle’s Landing (23-7) will face Kell at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Macon Coliseum in a rematch of last year’s final. The Eagles will be making their fourth consecutive trip to the finals overall, winning the championship in 2021 before losing to Tri-Cities in 2022 and Kell in 2023.

Two free throws by Max Young and a 3-pointer by Yusef Bowyer gave Jackson (21-9) a 17-10 lead early in the second quarter, but the Eagles scored the next 12 points and went on to outscore the Jaguars 20-9 in the quarter for a 30-21 halftime lead. Forward John McQueen played a key role in the second-quarter rally with six points on a putback and two short jumpers.

“I had to a call a timeout just to tell the kids to relax. These lights aren’t as bright as the lights in Macon, so calm down,” Eagles coach Elliott Montgomery said. “We stuck to the same thing, we played the same man, ran the same plays, but it’s the kids. We’re really blessed.”

The surge continued in the second half as the Eagles scored the first nine points of the third quarter for a 39-21 lead and outscored the Jaguars 20-9 in the period. Forward Dwight Brown scored nine of his 15 points in the quarter. Between them, McQueen and Brown scored 25 of the Eagles’ first 47 points.

“Inside works,” Montgomery said. “At the end of the day, we’re bigger and stronger. In the first quarter, we shot four 3s, and I asked them the question, ‘I thought we had a different plan.’ They said, ‘We did, coach.’ But you know how it is, we’re away and mom and daddy want to see me score the basketball. It is what it is.”

Bobbi Buggs added two 3-pointers in the quarter on his way to a team-high 18 points.

Eagle’s Landing built the lead to 63-36 midway through the fourth quarter. Jackson fought back and pulled within 12 points on two free throws by Cam Dover with 55 seconds remaining but got no closer.

Donaven Thomas led Jackson with 22 points.

Kell 66, Winder-Barrow 34

Top-ranked Kell held Winder-Barrow to two field goals and just nine points in the first half and cruised to its second consecutive appearance in the Class 5A championship game.

The Longhorns (27-3) will face No. 2 Eagle’s Landing in a rematch of last year’s final, which Kell won 61-53.

Winder-Barrow (26-5) took its only lead of the game at 3-2 on a 3-pointer by Tyrin Sims with 6:29 remaining in the first quarter. The Bulldoggs didn’t score again until Jerrin Samuel’s 3-pointer with six seconds left in the quarter that cut the lead to 14-6.

Kell wasn’t much hotter from the field in the first quarter, making just four field goals, but the Longhorns also made six free throws, including five by C.J. Brown, who had seven points in the quarter.

Kell warmed up in the second quarter, scoring 13 unanswered points in one stretch to push the lead to 29-7. The Longhorns led 34-9 at halftime.

Led by 10 third-quarter points by Cannon Richards, the Longhorns increased the lead to 37 points, and Winder-Barrow never got closer than 30 in the fourth quarter.

Richards led Kell with 14 points, Brown had 13 and Chris McLavish added 11. Nine Longhorns scored at least two points.

Sims was the only double-figure scorer for Winder-Barrow with 10.


Jackson-Atlanta 77, Cartersville 57

Shakira Gresham scored 29 points and dominated on both ends of the floor to lead Jackson-Atlanta to the championship game for the first time in eight years.

Jackson (28-1) will face Region 5 rival Midtown for the title at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Macon Coliseum. The Jaguars last reached the championship game in 2016, when they finished as the Class 3A runner-up.

Jackson trailed 7-5 midway through the first quarter before going on an 18-5 run for a 23-12 lead with 7:05 remaining in the half. Gresham had 11 points in the run, all coming from point-blank range and free throws.

The Purple Hurricanes were still within six points after KK Arnold’s two free throws with 2:53 remaining in the second quarter cut the lead to 27-21, but Jackson scored the final 16 points of the half for a 43-21 lead. Taliah Cornish scored seven points in 29 seconds off steals and layups during that run.

Cartersville (18-13), the No. 2 seed from Region 7, entered the tournament unranked but knocked off No. 4 Jefferson and No. 9 Harris County by a total of three points in the previous two rounds to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1982. The Purple Hurricanes had no such magic against No. 2 Jackson, which was the highest-ranked team to reach the semifinals. Cartersville trailed by 18 points at halftime and 31 in the fourth quarter before closing the game with a 20-9 run that cut the final margin to 20 points.

Cornish finished with 18 points for the Jaguars. Arnold led Cartersville with 13 points, and Taff Bradley scored 12.

Midtown 73, Dalton 63

Third-ranked Midtown scored 16 consecutive points after Dalton had taken a four-point lead 15 seconds into the fourth quarter and held on to earn its first trip to the state finals and its fourth shot this season at Region 5 rival Jackson-Atlanta.

Midtown (27-5) and Jackson will face off in the championship game Thursday night in Macon. The teams met twice in the regular season and once in the region tournament championship game, with Jackson winning all three by an average of eight points.

A layup by Jolie Wingfield gave Dalton a 47-43 lead with 7:46 remaining before Midtown went on its decisive run. It started with two free throws by Hailey Wortman, and a short jumper by Briaiah Lewis tied it 47-47 with 7:05 left. It ended with back-to-back baskets by Sinclair Richman for a 59-47 lead with 4:43 left. Dalton (21-10) got no closer than six points down the stretch.

Midtown went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final two minutes to put the game away.

Lewis led Midtown with 22 points. Richman (18), Devin Bockman (14) and Cate Barton (10) also scored in double figures.

Dalton’s Emma Hefner made four 3-pointers and led the Catamounts with 22 points. Grace Ridley, the Region 7 player of the year, had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Neither team led by more than four points in the first half. Dalton took the first four-point lead on a steal and layup by Ridley that made it 13-9 with 2:02 remaining in the first quarter. Midtown led 23-19 on a 15-foot jumper by Richman and 25-21 on two free throws by Lewis with 23.7 seconds left in the second quarter before settling for a 27-24 halftime lead.