The McEachern girls basketball team appears to be hitting its stride, and that’s not good news for the rest of Class AAAAAAA.
The four-time defending state champion Indians (16-5 overall, 8-1 in region play and ranked No. 6) have won nine consecutive games after starting the season 7-5 against their traditionally difficult schedule. They have overcome an early loss in region play, their first since 2015, and can clinch the No. 1 seed in the Region 3-AAAAAAA tournament with a victory Friday at rival and ninth-ranked Hillgrove. And they received a boost recently when one of their best players, Chanel Wilson, returned from an injury that had sidelined her for almost a year.
The timing of it all couldn’t be better for McEachern, which begins postseason play in the region tournament next week.
“We’re not near where I want us to be, but we’ve still got a little bit of time to get there,” McEachern coach Phyllis Arthur said. “We’ve still got a lot of things we need to work on, of course. We’re trying to get Chanel back healthy, but then we lost Daelyn Craig to a meniscus injury about a week ago, so she’s done for the season. Chanel is slowly getting better, but she’s still only about 70 percent. If we can keep avoiding injuries and sicknesses, we might be OK.”
McEachern’s four consecutive state titles are the most in the highest classification since Lowndes from 1977 to 1980. The Indians also won a championship in 2012, making them the first team in state history, boys or girls, to win five state titles in six years in the highest class.
The Indians lost four key seniors from last year that went on to play college basketball, most notably Class AAAAAAA player of the year Que Morrison, who’s now at Georgia. But they have a strong senior class of six players, four of which have signed scholarships.
Wilson is one of those. The 5-foot-7 point guard, an Indiana signee, suffered a torn ACL in her right knee near the end of the 2016-17 regular season. She is still playing limited minutes but is enjoying being back on the court.
“It means the world, because when I got hurt it felt like I lost a whole piece of me,” Wilson said. “Now it just feels great. It feels like that piece is coming back on its own, slowly but surely.”
Guard Jasmine Carson, a Georgia Tech signee, is averaging a team-best 16.9 points per game and leads the Indians in steals. She had 10 points in a 62-29 victory Tuesday against Kennesaw Mountain in a game the Indians led 43-8 at halftime. Forward Daimaya McPherson will play at North Georgia, and forward Victoria Agyin has signed with Pennsylvania, where she will run track. Also, guard Jewel Smalls is receiving Division I interest.
Soon the Indians will turn their attention to the state tournament, where they have won 20 consecutive games and are 25-1 over the past six seasons.
“I think there’s going to be some pressure,” Arthur said. “You know, we’ve got a target on our back. We’ve had a target on our back for years, but we’ve got enough girls who understand what it’s about and how to continue to play through that. I’m hoping we can rise to the occasion again. We’ve been talking about that since Day 1, that we’ve got to rise to the occasion, and hopefully they’ll do that.”