Girls basketball player of year: Westlake’s Raven Johnson

Westlake players Raven Johnson (25) and Ta’Niya Latson (20) walk off the court in celebration of their latest state title - a 64-46 victory over Carrollton - in the 6A girls championship game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Macon. (Hyosub Shin/hyosub.shin@ajc.com)
Westlake players Raven Johnson (25) and Ta’Niya Latson (20) walk off the court in celebration of their latest state title - a 64-46 victory over Carrollton - in the 6A girls championship game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Macon. (Hyosub Shin/hyosub.shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Only a handful of Georgia players have won four state championships in girls basketball, but Westlake’s Raven Johnson made it clear early on that she intended to join that select group.

Explore2020-21 High school basketball All-State girls team

When the Lions defeated Carrollton in the Class 6A championship game at the Macon Coliseum on March 12, Johnson had accomplished her goal.

The Lions’ 64-46 victory made Westlake the seventh school in GHSA history to win four consecutive girls basketball championships.

Johnson, the AJC’s all-classification girls player of the year for the second consecutive season, concluded her four-year high school run with a record of 110-4, never losing a game in Georgia. The Lions, who won their previous three titles in Class 7A before moving down in reclassification, won their games this season by an average of 37.3 points, with only two games decided by fewer than 11 points. They finished 20-0, the only undefeated team in the state this season.

Explore2020-21 High school basketball All-Metro girls team

“I’ve never had a freshman come into my building and say she’s going to get four rings,” Westlake coach Hilda Hankerson said of Johnson. “When we got measured for the first ring, they asked us to decide what finger to put the second one on. And she looked at the guy that was measuring and said, ‘I’m getting four.’ And he said, ‘Then I’m going to pick any finger you want.’ She led us. It takes that leader who believes to lead us to the promised land.”

Westlake's Raven Johnson (25) brings the ball upcourt during the Class 6A girls basketball championship game Friday, March 12, 2021, against Carrollton at the Macon Centreplex in Macon.
Westlake's Raven Johnson (25) brings the ball upcourt during the Class 6A girls basketball championship game Friday, March 12, 2021, against Carrollton at the Macon Centreplex in Macon.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Johnson wasn’t the team’s top scorer or rebounder this year — those honors went to fellow all-state members Ta’Niya Latson (23.2 points per game) and Brianna Turnage (7.0 rebounds) — but she was second in both categories, with 15.1 points and 5.0 rebounds. And she made her mark in other areas, leading the team in steals (3.7) and assists (5.8), finishing the season with 116 assists while turning the ball over only 35 times.

“Raven Johnson is one of the most dynamic players to come from the state of Georgia in a long time,” said Cherokee coach Matt Cates, whose team lost to Westlake in the 2020 Class 7A semifinals. “She is a high-character young lady with a pure heart, but the athleticism and drive to take over any game at any point. One of the toughest guards to defend, and runs her team with precision.”

Johnson, the No. 1-ranked point guard and No. 2 player overall nationally among seniors, recently was awarded the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy for High School Girls player of the year. She signed with South Carolina, where she will be one of four McDonald’s All-Americans in a Gamecocks class that includes Forest Park’s Sania Feagin.

“Raven is the ultimate point guard,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said in the news release announcing Johnson’s signing in November. “She’s a two-way player in her presence on both sides of the floor as the lead guard, understanding where everybody needs to be and unafraid and unapologetic about telling people where they need to be. We couldn’t ask for a better point guard, and she’s really just scratching the surface. Her work ethic will definitely set her apart from everybody else.”

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