Sydney Bowles, AJC girls high school basketball player of the year

The Woodward Academy girls basketball team went 9-19 when Sydney Bowles burst onto the scene as a freshman in the 2018-19 season. Things got better in a hurry. A lot better.

The War Eagles went 78-7 during the remaining three seasons of Bowles’ high school career, culminating with a victory against Forest Park three weeks ago in the Class 5A championship game that gave Woodward Academy its second consecutive state title. Woodward Academy has won five state championships overall.

“This was the goal pretty much since we started the preseason this year,” Bowles said after the championship game. “It feels so sweet to actually complete the goal. I’m just really proud of my team. I think we battled. I think that we’re one of the most talented teams in the state, and I think we could go toe-to-toe with anybody.”

Bowles, the AJC’s all-classification player of the year, averaged 20.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.0 steals this season, leading the War Eagles in each category, for a team that went 29-2 and dominated its competition. She was named Miss Georgia Basketball by the Atlanta Tipoff Club and the Gatorade Georgia Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

The 6-foot guard has scored 2,441 points in her career (in 2,368 minutes played) and grabbed 953 rebounds. She is a four-star recruit who signed with Georgia and is the No. 37 senior prospect nationally, according to ESPN.

“Sydney is a wing who can score from all levels; she can knock down the 3 ... strong enough to get to the basket at will and also has a very good mid-range game,” St. Pius coach Kyle Snipes said. “She sees the floor really well, and when you think you have her guarded, she is able to find one of her open teammates. She really does create a ‘pick your poison’ type situation for teams defensively. No surprise she is the Gatorade player of the year, Miss Georgia Basketball and AJC Player of the Year. Most complete player I have seen since Asia (Durr, a state player of the year at St. Pius in 2015).”

Woodward Academy won its five playoff games this season by an average of 32.2 points. That includes victories against Forest Park, Warner Robins and Jackson-Atlanta, who finished Nos. 2, 3 and 4 in the final rankings. The War Eagles also won three games against state championship teams – Lovejoy of Class 6A, Mount Paran Christian of A Private and Hoover of Alabama.

Woodward Academy’s two losses came against Jackson-Atlanta (54-50 on Nov. 26 in the third game of the regular season) and Lake High Prep of Orlando (74-70 on Jan. 8). The War Eagles got payback against Jackson with an 84-58 victory in the quarterfinals. Now they’ll have a chance to avenge the other when they take on Lake Highland in the first State Champions Invitational, to be played April 8-9 in Tampa. Woodward Academy and Lake Highland will meet at 2 p.m. April 8 in a game to be televised by ESPNU. The winner will face Las Vegas Centennial or Washington (D.C.) Sidwell Friends at 10 a.m. the next day, also on ESPNU.

“She’s made history here,” Woodward Academy coach Kim Lawrence said. “She helped put Woodward back on the map. We’ve been invited to a national tournament because of her. And that’s just the things she’s done on the court. Off the court, our admissions team trusts her to be one of the faces of Woodward Academy, as far as prospective students here. Her grades, AP classes, honors classes … she’s getting it done on both ends. When she graduates, her presence will definitely be missed.”