McEachern’s bid to win a fifth straight state championship in girls basketball picked up momentum with impressive victories Friday and Monday over the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in Alabama’s Class 5A.
Playing in Montgomery at the BallN Powher Prep Invitational, McEachern defeated No. 1 Charles Henderson of Troy 49-45 (behind 24 points from Victoria Agyin) and then No. 2 Wenonah of Birmingham 65-56 (behind 16 from Jasmine Carter). Wenonah has won four straight state titles in Alabama.
Now, there's more good news for the Indians: Senior guard Chanel Wilson, who has signed with Indiana, is ready to make her season debut. A major player on three state-championship teams already, Wilson was averaging 12.9 points, 5.0 assists and 2.1 steals when she went down with a torn ACL in February of 2017.
Wilson's return was going to be Tuesday night, when the 10th-ranked Indians (11-5, 3-1) were to face ninth-ranked Hillgrove (12-4, 4-0), but the game was put on hold Tuesday morning when Cobb County Schools called off the rest of classes because of cold weather. McEachern will play North Cobb (15-3, 3-1) on Friday. North Cobb defeated McEachern in December. That is McEachern’s only region defeat since the 2014-15 season. Hillgrove then routed North Cobbb 51-34 last week, putting the Hawks in first place in one of the state’s toughest regions.
In other news among girls teams in the highest classification …
*Norcross, the 2017 runner-up to McEachern, defeated No. 1-ranked Buford of Class AAAAA 62-58 on Monday. Myra Strickland made six 3-pointers, one with 1:13 to give Norcross the lead for good, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post’s account of the game. Buford is the defending AAAAA champion, so that’s a nice notch in the belt for Norcross (18-3, 8-0), which has lost only to AAA No. 1 Greater Atlanta Christian and two out-of-state opponents.
*Eighth-ranked Colquitt County (16-4, 2-0) went 1-1 last weekend at the Rose Classic Super Jam in Brooklyn. Colquitt scored a 55-47 victory over T.C. Williams, the No. 1 team in Virginia’s Class 5A, 55-47, then lost 75-53 to Rock Creek Christian Academy, the No. 6 overall team in Maryland. The only region in which every team has a winning record is Colquitt’s Region 1. The other teams are Lowndes (13-4, 2-0), Camden County (15-4, 1-2) and Tift County (12-8, 0-3). The Packers will play Lowndes for the first time next week.
*Westlake, the No. 1 team in the high class, has moved into MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25 national rankings at No. 23. The Lions’ only defeat came against No. 10 Mercer County, the No. 1-ranked team in Kentucky. That margin was 77-73 on Dec. 30. Westlake (16-1, 4-0) will be heavily favored to win out and enter the state tournament next month with only one loss. Westlake coach Hilda Hankerson, in her 21st season at the south Fulton County school, has led the Lions to three semifinals and eight quarterfinals but not yet a state championship.
*The best game in the high class this week is probably the Newton-South Gwinnett matchup Wednesday. Sixth-ranked Newton (15-2, 5-0) won the first meeting between the two 61-58 on Dec. 1. Seventh-ranked South Gwinnett has won 10 straight games since.
*Second-ranked Collins Hill (15-2, 6-0) has won its six region games by an average of 48.3 points, none closer than 34 points. There’s nothing scary in Collins Hill’s path to the state tournament except a meeting at Class A private No. 3 St. Francis on Jan. 27.
*Third-ranked Cherokee (16-2, 5-0) beat the only other Region 4 team with a winning record, Woodstock, 63-41, last week, so the Warriors’ chances of running the table into the state tournament is only getting better. Cherokee’s losses are to Collins Hill and No. 1-ranked Holy Innocents’ of Class A.
*Fourth-ranked North Forsyth (16-2, 4-0) plays its toughest Region 5 rival, Lambert (11-7, 3-1), on Friday. North Forsyth won the first meeting between the two only 46-45 on Dec. 15. Lambert might be the only region foe that can head off the Raiders.
Note: Rankings for out-of-state rankings come from MaxPreps.