Preview of Friday's State Basketball Championships
The longest day of the state basketball tournament is Friday, when five championships will be contested, along with the highly anticipated girls’ 3-point contest. All the action will take place at the Macon Coliseum. All the events will be streamed at GPB.org. There is no charge for viewing the coverage, which is provided by the NFHS Network.
Here’s a look at Friday’s schedule.
Class 4A Girls: Americus-Sumter vs. Troup, 11 a.m.
Americus-Sumter (28-2) is trying to win its first state championship. The Panthers are led by Jelissa Reese, a senior who has signed with Troy; she averages 21.7 points and 10.5 rebounds. She led a fourth-quarter charge to beat Luella in the semifinals and scored 18. Senior Trinity Jones averages 14.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists. Junior Trinity Jackson averages 8.1 points and 5.5 rebounds. Americus-Sumter had quite a turnaround this season after missing the playoffs a year ago. The Panthers won their only state title in 2016 and are the last team to defeat Buford in the postseason.
Troup (27-1) is also in pursuit of its first state championship. The Tigers bounced back from a loss to Sandy Creek in the Region 5 final to post four straight wins in the playoffs. Troup eliminated defending state champion Carver Columbus in the semifinals. Troup’s top players are 6-foot sophomore Aniya Palmer (12 points, 8.9 rebounds) and 5-9 senior Amber Gilbert (14.5 points, 8.8 rebounds), who were both named to the All-Region 5 team. Freshman Alexcia Murphy (10 points, 8.8 rebounds) was a second-team selection.
Class 4A Boys: Woodward Academy vs. Cross Creek, 1 p.m.
Woodward Academy (29-2) features Walker Kessler, one of the state’s legitimate 7-foot prospects. Kessler is a five-star prospect who has signed with North Carolina. Kessler was the Region 4 Player of the Year and averaged 17.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.2 blocks. Kessler’s father, Chad, and uncle, Alec, played at the University of Georgia. Emory Lanier (11.4 points, 4.3 rebounds) and Will Richard (14.2 points, 6.1 rebounds) were also named to the all-region team. Woodward Academy, coached by former War Eagle standout Anthony Thomas, is aiming for its first basketball title.
Cross Creek (25-6) had never reached the semifinal round until this year. Coach Lawrence Kelly’s Razorbacks are led by Region 3 Player of the Year Kobe Stewart, who averages 20.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Other all-region performers are Makhi Climons (10 points, 6.1 rebounds) and Corey Trotter (12.4 points, 9.6 rebounds) and honorable mention picks Josh Dorsey and Markell Ware.
AAASP Wheelchair Championship: Houston County vs. Henry County, 3 p.m.
The Houston County Sharks have won the championship for the last seven years. Houston County lost veteran Jordan Kozioski, but returns five members of last year’s championship team, including Orlando Hicks and Jacob Stevens. The Sharks are coached by Jamie Gladney and Harlon Matthews. The Henry County Hurricanes, coached by Christy Jones and Melissa Ring-Hartman, are trying to break that streak and become only the sixth program to win a state title since the GSHA recognized it as a state championship sport in 2004.
Girls 3-Point Shooting Contest, 5 p.m.
The top four point scorers from the statewide semifinal qualifiers will compete in the contest that will follow the Wheelchair Championship. The finalists are Trinity Jones from Americus-Sumter, Jashiyah Jones from Vidalia, Emily Acampora from Harrison and Leah Turner from Griffin.
Class 5A Girls: Kell vs. Buford, 6 p.m.
Kell (32-0) is making its first appearance in a state championship game; the Longhorns had never advanced past the quarterfinals before this season. Coach Tony Ingle’s team is loaded with young talent, particularly freshmen Crystal Henderson and Jamiah Gregory. Henderson, a likely first-team all-state selection, scored 24 in the semifinals and has the ability to take over a game. Junior Kya Williams was a first-team All-Region 7 choice and Jada Green and Amaya Moss were both honorable mention selections.
Buford (30-1) is trying to win its fourth straight championship and the eighth under coach Gene Durden. It’s the second straight year the Wolves have tangled with an undefeated team in the championship game; they defeated Villa Rica in the 2019 finale. The Wolves are extremely balanced and play 10-14 players per game, rolling wave-after-wave of aggressive defenders to wear down the opposition. Buford’s most decorated player is Tate Walters, a senior who was named Region 8 Player of the Year. Others named to the all-region team were Ashyia Willis, Blair Wallis and Katelyn Klein.
Class 5A Boys: Cedar Shoals vs. Dutchtown, 8 p.m.
Cedar Shoals (28-3) has knocked on the championship door before, losing to Buford in the 2017 title game. The Jaguars are well-seasoned by a difficult schedule and have survived some close calls in the playoffs. They won a quarterfinal game on a late bucket against Lithonia and endured four overtimes to beat Southwest DeKalb in the semifinals. Coach L’Dreco Thomas’ team is led by Region 8 Player of the Year Quincy Canty and Tyler Johnson, a do-it-all forward who hit the winning shot against Southwest DeKalb. That duo combines with Jerdavian Colbert and Kashik Brown to form a solid nucleus.
Dutchtown (27-4) has survived some close calls on the way to its first appearance in the state championship game. The Bulldogs got a desperation 3-pointer from Cam Bryant with 0.7 seconds left to beat Columbia and needed outscored Kell 10-4 in the final minutes to win its semifinal match. Coach Jordan Griffin’s team is led by Region 3 Player of the Year Jamaine Mann, whose brother Charles Mann played at the University of Georgia. Jamaine Mann transferred from Starr’s Mill and averaged 17.4 points; he has committed to Gardner-Webb. Cameron Bryant averages 15.1 points and Kameron Hobbs averages 12.5 points for the Bulldogs.