Greenforest, Wilkinson County boys; Wesleyan, Pelham girls are state champs
Hail to the champs! Here is a look at the state champs as the book is now closed on the 2016-2017 season:
Private Champion: Greenforest Christian (27-5)
How the title was won: Greenforest went on a 10-1 run in the last two minutes of the first half to blow open a close game against Southwest Atlanta Christian, and eventually route the Warriors 81-57. Senior Justin Forrest led all scorers with 36 points.
Perspective: It is the second consecutive state title for the Eagles and the third overall for the program. Greenforest now has appeared in the state finals for three straight seasons.
Prospects for repeating: Greenforest will lose nine seniors to graduation. In fact, all but seven of the 81 points scored in the state final win were done so by seniors. Leading the charge for a three-peat next season will be 6-foot-9 junior forward Mohammed Abdulsalam.
Public Champion: Wilkinson County (25-7)
How the title was won: The Warriors trailed 34-29 at halftime but began the third quarter on an 8-0 run to take command and roll to a 66-53 win over Calhoun County. Wilkinson County was led by four players in double figures – Clarence Jackson (15 points, 12 rebounds), Tylan Grabel (15 points, 10 rebounds), Larry Jones (11 points) and Derrick Wilcher (10).
Perspective: The win gives Wilkinson County nine state championships under the leadership of Aaron Geter Sr. The Warriors have now won four out the last five state finals.
Prospects for repeating: Wilkinson County will lose six seniors including guard Aaron Geter III, Jones and Wilcher. However, Jackson and Grabel will lead a strong group of returnees in search of a 10th title overall, the third in a row for the Warriors.
Private Champion: Wesleyan (28-4)
How the title was won: Wesleyan trailed by 17 points midway through the second quarter, but staged a furious rally to edge Holy Innocents 51-48. The Wolves closed the first half on a 9-0 run and kept chipping away until they tied the game at 41-41 heading into the fourth quarter. UConn-bound senior Mikayla Coombs led the way with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Natalie Armstrong, who has signed with Samford, added 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Perspective: This was the third consecutive meeting in the state finals between Wesleyan and Holy Innocents with the Wolves now winning two of the matchups (2015, 2017). Wesleyan has now won 12 state titles under head coach Jan Azar, who has led the program to 14 straight trips to the state finals.
Prospects for repeating: Wesleyan will lose senior standouts Coombs and Armstrong, but junior guard/forward Sutton West will be back to lead the effort to repeat for the Wolves.
Public Champion: Pelham (30-1)
How the title was won: Pelham jumped out to a 20-8 first quarter lead and never looked back as they defeated Telfair County 60-42. The Hornets were led by the “Mahogany twins” – junior Mahogany Randall, with 18 points, and senior Mahogany Brown with 17 points.
Perspective: This was the second state title for the Hornet program, which won its first in 1997. Since 2013 under head coach Antonia Tookes, Pelham is 136-11.
Prospects for repeating: Pelham could be right back in the title game next season as Randall returns along with 6-3 forward Willeshia Kemp.