Class 6A blog: Westlake girls facing toughest week yet in new classification

Westlake head coach Hilda Hankerson instructs Raven Johnson (25) in the GHSA Class AAAAAAA championship game Saturday, March 9, 2019, at the Macon Centreplex in Macon.
Westlake head coach Hilda Hankerson instructs Raven Johnson (25) in the GHSA Class AAAAAAA championship game Saturday, March 9, 2019, at the Macon Centreplex in Macon.

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

The Westlake girls basketball team, which won the past three state championships in Class 7A, hasn’t missed a beat since dropping to 6A as part of the most recent GHSA reclassification.

The Lions are 8-0 and ranked No. 1 in their new class but are facing their toughest week of the regular season so far, a stretch of four games in seven days that includes matchups with three teams ranked in the top five of their classifications.

First up for Westlake is a rematch tonight with fifth-ranked Lovejoy in a Region 4 game. Westlake (4-0 in region play) beat the Wildcats 58-47 on Dec. 22, handing Lovejoy (11-4, 3-1) its only loss in the region. Westlake’s Raven Johnson, a South Carolina signee and last year’s AJC state player of the year, had 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals in that game. Ta’Niya Latson, the team’s leading scorer at 20.6 points per game, and Misia McKinney scored 18 points each.

On Friday, Westlake will travel to third-ranked Hughes (11-4, 3-0), which also is unbeaten in Region 4 play. The Lions will host Douglas County on Saturday before facing Forest Park on Monday in a matchup of top-ranked teams. Forest Park, which features a South Carolina signee of its own in forward Sania Feagin, was the 2020 Class 6A champion but now plays in 5A.

There are other big girls games on the 6A schedule this week, as well. No. 9 Statesboro and No. 10 Brunswick will meet Friday for first place in Region 2. Saturday’s lineup includes No. 2 Buford against Class 4A No. 1 Jefferson; No. 3 Carrollton against Class 7A No. 4 Parkview; and Lovejoy against Class A Private No. 5 Holy Innocents’.

*Tuesday’s best boys game: The No. 3 Chattahoochee boys team and No. 8 Centennial will battle for sole possession of first place in Region 7 when they meet Tuesday night at Chattahoochee. Both teams survived tests over the weekend from the top challengers in the region. Centennial coasted past fourth-place Creekview 75-50 on Friday and outlasted Sequoyah the next night. Chattahoochee beat third-place River Ridge 63-60 on Friday. A.J. White scored 16 points and hit the game-winning shot with 1.9 seconds remaining. Jordan Brown led the Cougars with 20 points. The teams are scheduled to meet again on Feb. 5 at Centennial.

*Friday’s best boys game: First place in Region 6 will at stake when the top-ranked Wheeler boys face No. 2 Kell on Friday at Wheeler. Kell (11-4, 6-0) is undefeated in region play and sits a half game ahead of Wheeler (12-3, 6-1), which lost to third-place South Cobb in region play in early December. Both teams are led by five-star recruits – Wheeler sophomore guard Isaiah Collier (offers from Florida, Mississippi and Texas Tech) and Kell junior guard Scoot Henderson (12 offers, including Georgia, Florida and Auburn). Wheeler was the Class 7A champion last season, while Kell lost to eventual champion Dutchtown in the 5A semifinals.

*Still undefeated: The only remaining unbeaten boys team in Class 6A is fifth-ranked Richmond Hill, which moved to 12-0 overall and 4-0 in Region 2 with victories over Statesboro (67-57) and Bradwell Institute (61-43) last week. The victory over Statesboro was the Blue Devils’ first region loss and put Richmond Hill in sole possession of first place. The Wildcats will look to strengthen their hold on the top spot Tuesday night when they travel to Brunswick, which also has one region loss. Richmond Hill was the Region 2 champion last season. On the girls’ side, Westlake, Buford (9-0) and Statesboro (11-0) are the only remaining undefeated teams.

*Sprayberry girls take the lead: The Sprayberry girls team moved into first place in Region 6 with a 70-66 victory over Kell on Friday in a matchup of top-10 teams. No. 6 Sprayberry (9-2, 6-0) got 22 points from Flau’Jae Johnson and 13 from Janelle McDaniel in winning its seventh consecutive game. Kell’s Crystal Henderson, the Cobb County player of the year last season as a freshman, finished with 36 points, eight 3-pointers, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists. No. 7 Kell (9-3, 5-1) must rebound quickly this week, as it travels on Tuesday to Kennesaw Mountain, which is tied with Pope for third place in the region, one game behind Kell.

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