Class 5A: Semifinal coverage from West Georgia

David Thomas for Eagles Landing takes a shot during the GHSA AAAAA boys Jones County vs Eagles Landing basketball playoff game at the University of West Gerogia in Carrolton, March 3, 2023. Jamie Spaar for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

David Thomas for Eagles Landing takes a shot during the GHSA AAAAA boys Jones County vs Eagles Landing basketball playoff game at the University of West Gerogia in Carrolton, March 3, 2023. Jamie Spaar for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Warner Robins, Kell girls; Eagle’s Landing, Kell boys advance to finals in Macon.

Girls: Warner Robins 62, Calhoun 53

When the best player on the team, a girl who could be voted the Class 5A Player of the Year, scores one point, that usually spells trouble.

But it didn’t matter for No. 1-ranked Warner Robins on Friday. With Jada Morgan hobbling up and down the court with a sprained left knee, the Demons relied on unsung Tasia Agee and some stellar 3-point shooting to defeat No. 6 Calhoun 62-53 and advance to the championship game.

“We had girls step up. We’ve stepped up all year,” Warner Robins coach Rebecca White said. “Tasia hasn’t had a game like that all season and she came out tonight and played. I’m very proud of her.”

Agee, a 5-foot-7 senior, scored 18 points, handed out 11 assist and came up with three steals to pace Warner Robins (28-3). Tori Davis added 20 points, including six 3-pointers.

Davis hit three 3-pointers and Agee had another when the Demons outscored Calhoun 12-3 to start the third quarter and erase a 31-26 deficit. Warner Robins put it away by ending the third quarter on a 10-0 run that extended the lead to 51-40 going into the fourth period. Calhoun ever got closer than seven points the rest of the way.

Calhoun (25-5) lived up to its reputation as a good 3-point shooting club, connecting on eight. Lauren Watson had four from long range and led the Yellow Jackets with 14 points. Britiya Curtis, Sa’niah Dorsey and Kat Atha each scored 11.

“It’s four quarters of basketball and it’s hard to stay hot all night,” White said. “When you get the call, you’ve got to keep your foot on the gas and that’s what we managed to do.”

Eagle's Landing senior Kenneth Brayboy fires a long shot in the 66-54 win over Jones County on March 3, 2023 in Carrollton.

Credit: Stan Awtrey

icon to expand image

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Boys: Eagle’s Landing 66, Jones County 54

After No. 1-ranked Eagle’s Landing suffered its only loss of the season to rival Dutchtown, coach Elliott Montgomery adopted a new strategy. Put the emphasis on starting the game, he told his boys, just as if you were losing.

The Eagles haven’t lost since then and Saturday, thanks to another quick start, they were able to beat Jones County 66-54 and secure a spot in the state championship game for the third straight season. It was the fourth time Eagle’s Landing has beaten Jones County this season, but was much different than the 30-point thrashing that occurred in the Region 2 semifinals.

“We decided that henceforth we will start out of the gate as if we are losing. Every quarter is the fourth quarter,” Montgomery said.

Eagle’s Landing set the pace against Jones County by racing to a 13-2 lead, a run that included a pair of 3-pointers from Kenneth Brayboy. The Eagles led 20-7 and stretched it to 33-18 at halftime.

The Eagles needed as much cushion as possible, as four starters were saddled with four fouls in the fourth quarter. Jones County got as close as three points when Kaden Douglas made a 3-pointer to cap a 12-0 run and make it 47-44 with a minute left in the third period. But behind some clutch play by Khylan McKennie and David Thomas, the Eagles were able to hold off the determined Greyhounds.

“We know we’ve been there before,” Montgomery said. “And it’s easier if you’ve been there before. You think about those things that have happened in the past and they prepare you for where you are today.”

Thomas, a Mercer signee, scored 20 points, Chris Morris scored 18, Kenneth Brayboy scored 15 and McKennie scored 10 to lead the Eagles (29-1).

“You saw David Thomas do some great things,” Montgomery said “And you saw, when David Thomas was out of the game, we struggled offensively and defensively. He gets so much credit for his offense that I think we forget about the defense.”

Jones County (21-13) was led by Jaylen Sanford with 15 points, Douglas with 11 and Judd Anderson with 10.

Crystal Henderson attempts to take the ball past Jackson's Maya Whitehead during the GHSA AAAAA girls Kell vs Jackson basketball semifinals playoff game at West Georgia College on March 3, 2023. Jamie Spaar for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Jamie Spaar

icon to expand image

Credit: Jamie Spaar

Girls: Kell 56, Maynard Jackson 37

When No. 2-ranked Kell started its semifinal game with a 12-3 spurt, that looked like a great beginning. It might have been, but it was below the high offensive standards set by the Longhorns. They returned to normal in the second half and used a 10-0 spurt to take control and run away with a 56-37 win over No. 4 Maynard Jackson.

“That was slow start for us,” Kell coach Kandra Bailey said. “We only scored 19 points in the first half. That’s a super-low scoring half for us. I felt like we missed a lot of shot, you know just getting on the big stage again, but third quarter we picked it up.”

The third quarter was sparked by Crystal Henderson, a senior who a likely contender for Class 5A Player of the Year honors. The slick-handling Henderson scored 18 of her 20 points in the second half and did a good job feeding the other players around the basket.

“She is the glue to our team,” Bailey said. “When she’s playing well, we’re all playing well, so they rally around her.”

Jamiah Gregory scored 16 points and Jada Green added 13 for the Longhorns (25-5). Starting guard Makayah Harris fell and sustained a right ankle injury in the third quarter and was carried off the court. The extend of her injury is not known, but the ankle was heavily taped and she was putting on weight on it after the game.

Maynard Jackson (26-2) had its 19-game winning streak broke. The Jaguars were led by Region 5 Player of the Year Shakira Gresham with 18 points. Asliyah Weaver and Shakira Gresham each scored eight for the Jags.

Boys: Kell 54, Chapel Hill 33

Kell is known for its high-scoring offense, but on Friday it was a superb defensive effort that propelled the Longhorns to a 54-33 win over Chapel Hill and earn a spot in the championship game.

Holding a 22-19 lead at halftime, Kell amped up the defense in the third quarter. Chapel Hill didn’t score its first point of the second half until 2:10 left in the period and held a commanding 34-21 lead by that point. The Longhorns held at 39-22 lead going into the final quarter.

“The first half we were kind of just going through the motions,” Kell coach Jermaine Sellers said. “Our defensive intensity just wasn’t there, so I kind of challenged them at halftime and you can see the results in the second half.”

Kell (27-6) got much of its energy from junior C.J. Brown, who scored 14 in the first half and finished with 24. The high-flying guard had a couple of monster dunks in the fourth quarter, one where he flew over the defender to slam it home. That one earned him a chest bump from 7-foot teammate Peyton Marshall.

The Longhorns also got 10 points from Cannon Richards and Marshall, the Auburn commit, was hampered by early foul trouble and scored six.

Chapel Hill (23-9) was led by Kelvin Hunter with eight points.