By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
They say heavy is the head that wears the crown. That goes for queens as well as kings.
Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy head coach Jackie Cowan knows that all too well. Her Warriors have been ranked No. 1 in the AJC Top 10 since the beginning of the season, have had the No. 1 Class A power ranking since it was first released three weeks ago, and are 19-2 overall. One of the losses (57-56) was to St. Joseph Catholic, the top-ranked team in West Virginia, during a holiday tournament. The other was to Region 6 rival Darlington, now ranked No. 2 right behind SACA.
In the game, SACA trailed by double digits at one point but rallied before eventually falling by one, 47-46. Cowan said her team was suffering from the blissful hangover of being the only team in Georgia to knock off giant Wesleyan, ranked No. 1 in Class AA, 49-46, the night before traveling to Rome to face Dalton. SACA was shellacked by Wesleyan, 68-44, in last season’s Class A final. The rematch with Darlington is Saturday at 4 p.m.
“That team that lost that game, I don’t recognize them,” Cowan said. “They were imposters. Seriously, it was one of those nights where we didn’t show up. We had beaten Wesleyan the game before and I think that had a lot to do with it.
“You try to tell your team that you have a bull’s-eye on you and everyone is coming after you with their best game, but sometimes they don’t believe you,” Cowan said. “But I think that taught us a good lesson. It taught us that you just can’t go out there and think teams are going to lay down. No, they are going to try their best to beat you, so we have to always be at our best.”
The Warriors appear to have gotten the message. After beating AA No. 6 Greater Atlanta Christian 57-54 in overtime last Tuesday, SACA took care of business last Friday and Saturday against two region opponents – Mt. Zion-Carroll (70-25) and a scrappy and talented St. Francis team (59-45), ranked No. 6.
SACA has as talented a line up as there is in the state, regardless of classification. Leading the way are a pair of seniors – guard Amber Brown (5-foot-9) and forward Alexis Carter (6-1). Juniors Marquita Daniels (5-7) and Amy Griffin (6-0) are among the top juniors in Georgia. Senior Lleah Jones, sophomore Tori Dozier and freshman Keimeshia Walker are key contributors as well.
Though the team only goes about seven or eight deep, Cowan said she’s not concerned about her team being tired down the stretch, even though the Warriors feature a fast-paced, up-and-down style.
“Our players know what we do, and so we do a lot of conditioning, even during the season,” Cowan said. “Sometimes they look at me like I’m crazy, but they see the results.”
Cowan knows her team is the odds-on favorite to win a state title and she embraces the notion. And it is because of that fact that she is one of the many voices railing against the split championships in Class A.
“I have a big problem with it,” Cowan said after the win over St. Francis. “Maybe it’s something they needed in football, even though I don’t think it was needed there either. But we certainly didn’t need it [in basketball]. Let them do it in football and leave the other sports out.
“I feel like it’s almost like segregation, like in the 50’s and 60’s, but not from a racial standpoint,” Cowan said. “They are separating us – public and private – like they separated the races. It’s just not right. Somebody needs to do something about it.”
Cowan said if everything goes according to plan and she is holding the championship trophy in March, the title will feel a bit tainted.
“I’ve been thinking about that and I think [the split title] will take away from it a little, I do,” Cowan said. “People will say, so you’re the private school champion, or you’re the public school champion. It’s just not right.”
Here are this week’s power rankings. The first number in parenthesis is the ranking in the AJC’s Top 10, the second number is last week’s power ranking.
1. Wilkinson County (4) (1)
2. Mitchell County (5) (2)
3. Seminole County (7) (4)
3. Wilcox County (10) (3)
5. Dooly County (NR) (5)
6. Turner County (8) (6)
7. Treutlen (NR) (7)
8. Hancock Central (NR) (8)
9. Greenville (NR) (11)
10. Portal (NR) (10)
11. Jenkins County (NR) (9)
12. Claxton (NR) (16)
12. Stewart County (NR) (13)
14. Trion (NR) (14)
15. Hawkinsville (NR) (15)
16. Georgia Military College (NR) (NR)
1. North Cobb Christian (1) (1)
2. W.D. Mohammed (2) (5)
3. Excel Christian (NR) (3)
4. Greenforest Christian (6) (2)
5. Calvary Day School (NR) (4)
6. Mt. Paran Christian (NR) (6)
7. Athens Christian (3) (8)
8. Holy Innocents’ (NR) (7)
9. Aquinas (9) (10)
10. Landmark Christian (NR) (9)
11. St. Francis (NR) (11)
12. Mt. Vernon Presbyterian (NR) (14)
13. Mt. Pisgah Christian (NR) (15)
14. Lakeview Academy (NR) (13)
15. Savannah Christian (NR) (12)
16. Whitefield Academy (NR) (16)
1. Randolph-Clay (3) (1)
2. Gordon Lee (5) (2)
3. Turner County (10) (3)
4. Treutlen (NR) (4)
5. Claxton (NR) (5)
6. Irwin County (NR) (7)
7. Towns County (8) (8)
8. Marion County (NR) (12)
9. Wilkinson County (NR) (6)
10. Clinch County (NR) (14)
11. Mitchell County (NR) (9)
12. Seminole County (NR) (13)
13. Hancock Central (NR) (16)
14. Calhoun County (NR) (NR)
14. Greenville (NR) (11)
16. Portal (NR) (NR)
1. Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy (1) (1)
2. Holy Innocents’ (4) (2)
3. Darlington (2) (3)
4. Calvary Day School (9) (4)
5. Paideia (NR) (6)
6. George Walton Academy (7) (8)
7. St. Francis (6) (5)
8. Atlanta International School (NR) (7)
9. Mt. Paran Christian (NR) (9)
10. Greenforest Christian (NR) (10)
11. Providence Christian (NR) (NR)
12. Strong Rock Christian (NR) (12)
13. Brookstone (NR) (16)
14. Pace Academy (NR) (14)
15. Prince Avenue Christian (NR) (11)
16. Savannah Country Day (NR) (15)