McEachern girls ready to make run at 4th straight title
McEachern, shown here in the 2015 finals, is gunning for a fourth straight state championship.
KENT D. JOHNSON / AJC
McEachern’s girls basketball team – the three-time defending champion in the highest classification – is 13-6, which is ahead of last year’s pace when the Indians won their final 19 games after a 6-7 start.
McEachern lost its opener to now-No. 1 Norcross 57-53 but has not lost to a Georgia opponent since. McEachern has played in New York, Virginia, Texas and Washington, D.C. A team that has played only three games on its home court this season just got back from Brooklyn and is playing well as it resumes region play.
‘’I knew that going out of state and playing a lot of national teams that we could lose,’’ McEachern coach Phyllis Arthur said. ‘’This is the worst I was expecting us to be. I was wanting to win some games in all the states we went.’’
Technically McEachern has won games in every state that it has played but did go 0-2 in the District of Columbia, where the Indians lost in double-overtime to the No. 5 overall team in Maryland.
Arthur says this season’s schedule has been tougher than last season’s, which took her team to only three states. This season, McEachern has played just three games in its home gym. Only three more home games remain.
McEachern returned two of its best three players from the 2016 championship team. Jada Lewis is now at Georgia State. Back are Quenniecia ‘’Que’’ Morrison, a guard who is going to Georgia, and Chanel Wilson, a junior point guard.
Arthur’s scouting report on Morrison (13.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 3.4 steals):
‘’Que, she gets things going. She’s a wily player who goes hard. She gives everything she has. There are times when she has nothing left to give. We always put her on the opponent’s best player. She knows how to score. She can slash. She’s very unselfish. We tell her she needs to be more selfish. She’s one of those you can depend on each night.’’
Arthur on Wilson (12.9 points, 5.4 assists, 2.0 steals, 3.4 rebounds):
Chanel is a scorer. She can score wherever. She’s our point guard, but she’s one of those that can knock down a 3 from anywhere.’’
Another starter is Jasmine Clements (7.5 points, 8.1 rebounds), whom Arthur calls ‘’a silent player. You don’t know she’s got 10 points and 10 rebounds until you look at the books.’’
McEachern also starts a 6-foot guard, Lyndnsey Whilby, a Texas Tech signee. She averages 9.8 points and 3.6 rebounds and is a good 3-point shooter.
The fifth starter is a question mark because Symone Oliver, a 5-10 senior, suffered a season-ending broken ankle in the Hillgrove game this week.
Fortunately, 6-foot-1 center Kemia Ward happened to make her return in the Hillgrove game after an ACL injury benched her for 11 months. Ward might wind up starting, or Arthur could turn to junior Victoria Agyin, a junior who placed in the triple jump in the state meet as a sophomore.
Compared to previous McEachern teams, which includes four state championships in the past five seasons, Arthur says her current group shoots better from the perimeter and is more flashy. Then she noted that these aren’t necessarily the most valuable traits in a state champion. Teams can live and die by the 3-pointer, she said. As for flash, Arthur is looking to tone it down.
‘’We have to keep them … I don’t want to say humble, but low-key,’’ she said. “You don’t have to make flashy passes or go behind the back. They love the ooh’s and aah’s of the fans. If we can get that out of them, I’ll feel good.’’
McEachern plays at North Cobb on Friday night. Then there are only two more weeks until the region tournament. Arthur said McEachern, Norcross, Collins Hill and perhaps Westlake are the teams to beat in Class AAAAAAA.
‘’We haven’t peaked yet,’’ Arthur said. “We either play really well or just OK. I know we don’t really [need to] peak until the next couple of games. I’m hoping they’ll do it soon. One thing I know about us is that we are getting better and better every day.’’