Class A Blog: SACA and Cowan driving toward state title, latest power rankings

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.”

Power rakings

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.

BOYS

Public

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)

Private

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)

GIRLS

Public

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)

Private

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)

24 comments Add your comment

Layup King

January 29th, 2013
9:46 pm

I don’t see anybody beating North Cobb Christian on the Private side. That’s another thing I hate about the dividing Public and Private. At least on the Private side, one team has dominated the entire state. (Eagles Landing and North Cobb Christian)

S. Thomas Coleman

January 29th, 2013
10:43 pm

@Layup King: Not so fast. NCC is the front runner, but W.D. Mohammed, Greenforest and Athens Christian are capable of winning it all as well. Should be a great state tournament.

Thanks for reading and posting.

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

HSbball

January 29th, 2013
11:59 pm

If these power ranking formulas stay the same next year every A coach is just going to schedule a bunch of cupcakes for there non-region games. Teams like Excel (with a soft region) and Mt. Paran (with a soft non region schedule) will get a higher power ranking then teams that step out and play good teams consistently. In the “old” days coaches would schedule a tough set of games so that by the time the region tourney came around they were battle tested. What coach in their right mind would do that with this system and cost themselves seeding potentially? Robs fans of some good games. Robs everyone of competition. Another great job GHSA.

Weasel

January 30th, 2013
8:22 am

We know the GHSA caved from the pressure of some south GA football coaches. All sports are suffering the consequences. Who are the leadership of GHSA, who pays their salaries? How much do they make?

S. Thomas Coleman

January 30th, 2013
9:35 am

I think I need to clarify and go into a little more detailed explanation, for better clarification of the issues for everyone.

The Georgia High School Association is a membership group that acts as the organizing entity for high school sports in Georgia. It basically takes the place of an “athletic department” in the Georgia Department of Education, except schools pay a membership fee to be a part of, and participate in, athletic competitions organized by the GHSA.

That said, the GHSA has an executive committee made up of former and present school administrators and coaches. It has 58 members, 48 of which serve as a representative from each of the 48 regions in the state (for example, Buford athletic director Dexter Wood is the executive committee rep for Region 7AAA). The other 10 members represent entities such as the Georgia Department of Education, the Georgia School Boards Association, the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals, the Georgia School Superintendents Association, the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association and the Georgia Athletic Directors Association.

Dr. Ralph Swearngin is the executive director of the GHSA. He can make recommendations on issues to the executive committee but HE DOES NOT and CANNOT APPROVE any measure, rule or regulation. That is done by the executive committee.

Similar to a governmental body, the executive committee approves any new rules or regulations mostly through the recommendation of subcommittees. Each sport has a subcommittee that studies issues impacting the sport and then determines whether or not a new rule, regulation or initiative is needed. There is also a Reclassification subcommittee. If a new rule, regulation or initiative is approved buy the subcommittee, it is put before the executive committee for ratification or denial.

That’s how the Class A split was approved. Several ideas were tossed around and debated. Many of them didn’t make it out of the subcommittee phase. The vote by the executive committee to separate Class A was done to keep the Association from losing many (NOT ALL) of the south Georgia schools competing in Class A, who felt that private schools (primarily those in the larger metro areas) had too many competitive advantages. Those schools threatened to start their own association (which probably would have had about 30 schools) and they were quietly being wooed by the Georgia Independent Schools Association as well. So to keep the peace and preserve the GHSA, the executive committee voted in favor of the split, with the idea that they would come up with a plan for regular and post-season competition later.

The vote on the split came in March 2012, which didn’t give the GHSA a lot of time to develop and fully vet its plans for competition. At the time, Dr. Swearngin said their would be “unintended consequences.” Obviously he was right. However, he has always maintained that the executive committee had the power to tweak the rules or make wholesale changes this spring. That should take place at the April meeting of the GHSA, where the Reclassification committee will also begin the process of setting up classifications and regions for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

Sorry for the long diatribe.

S. Thomas Coleman
s.thomascoleman@yahoo.com

The Dogfather

January 30th, 2013
9:37 am

Med scored 35 last nite for Aquinas and didn”t break a sweat

athensbball

January 30th, 2013
10:05 am

@STC: And on that executive committee, guess how many are from/represent the private schools….4 out of 58. And we wonder why they favored the public schools in this split…Not to mention how many of them are former football coaches and could care less how this affected basketball.

HSbball

January 30th, 2013
10:20 am

@ Athensbball stole my next point. EXACTLY…

S. Thomas Coleman

January 30th, 2013
12:03 pm

@athensball: I think you may have a point there. I do think the GHSA tries to be representative of its membership in the make up of the executive committee. Though the percentage of private schools in Class A is nearly 50-50, it’s much lower when you take all the schools and classifications into account.

So if 4 out of 58 is roughly 5 percent, that might be closer to the percentage of GHSA members statewide. I could be wrong as I don’t have time to do the actual headcount. And I do think there are private school reps on the various subcommittees.

But make no mistake, (1) football rules the roost in Georgia and always will and (2) public schools will always have a lot more representation on the executive committee — which is why the GISA would love for all the private schools in the GHSA to bolt and sign up with them instead.

But that ain’t happening. In fact, there are rumors that three of GISA’s largest remaining schools — Mount de Sales, Stratford Academy and Tatnall Square, all in the Macon area — could decide to join the GHSA this spring. Stay tuned.

S. Thomas Coleman

athensbball

January 30th, 2013
12:07 pm

@STC: Very good points. What you will see is a lot of the Class A private schools just going up to AA next year. Several schools tried this last year when they made the split, but the GHSA said it was too late to change classes.

athensbball

January 30th, 2013
12:09 pm

@layup king: North Cobb Christian is really good, but nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs. NCC was 30-0 going into the playoffs last year and got knocked out in the first round.

S. Thomas Coleman

January 30th, 2013
1:00 pm

@athensbball: Yes, I know that Coach Queen, the AD at ELCA, has at least entertained the thought of moving up to AA. Coach Gess, the football coach, has thought about it as well. Not sure how the other coaches at the school would feel about it.

S. Thomas Coleman

BBall Fan

January 30th, 2013
8:53 pm

Thomas, MDS voted last week to make the move to GHSA, the other 2 will decide before the April deadline.

S. Thomas Coleman

January 31st, 2013
10:26 am

@BBallFan: Thanks for the info! I meant to check the Macon paper last week when I heard MDS was thinking of making the move. From what I’ve read and heard, the other two will probably follow suit.

Thanks for reading and posting.

S. Thomas Coleman

CSRA706

January 31st, 2013
8:27 pm

Just be real 90% of public school coaches do it for a check and the other 10% have the market cornered. Most private schools are in it for the kids and the education. kids transfer to the public power houses that they do private. Private schools for the most part have 2 maybe 3 good players and a bunch of lower tier athletes who are committed to there program. the only advantage private schools have is the coaches are just better than public school coaches

moodswing

February 1st, 2013
10:33 am

Savannah Christian is #15 with a 5-10 record(1-6 region)??? What a mess the GHSA created!!! Think of all the kids playing on teams who will miss STATE under the old system(worked fine for over 70yrs.) They wiil have that memory the rest of their lives!

loveofthegame

February 3rd, 2013
1:15 am

Love the arrogance of Coach Cowan from Southwest Atlanta Christian. The school in Rome that outplayed you that night was not Dalton but Darlington!! Most class act coaches in defeat give credit to the winning team and not make up alot of excuses. You beat Wesleyan the night before is correct, but the article or statements failed to mention that you played the whole fourth quarter against their second and third string because the calls were so one sided the Wesleyan coach did not want any of her first string injured! Last time I looked The Class A Private School girls State Championship game will not be played at SWACA. Hopefully, with the Neutral Site and Referees that dont know the players, fans, and coach on a first name basis, feeling tainted with a public and private school state champion will be the least of your concerns.

K-man

February 3rd, 2013
11:47 am

loveofthegame….I agree with you 100%

K-man

February 3rd, 2013
12:28 pm

CSRA706….What in the world are you talking about? Private school coaches have an unfair advantage of recruiting the division 1 players each and every year….legally. Public schools can only use whoever is left in that local area. Tell me that doesnt make a difference! I`ll give you a great example….my school which is LANEY….has been in the final-4 for the last 9 out of 11 years or so…..and EACH and EVERY time …..we lost to a power-house private school in the end which has lord knows how many D-1 players! How many times have we lost to WESLEYAN…or BUFORD which can recruit…or GAC…or LOVETT…or some Christian school who has a different set of rules than we have to follow….how many? The one time we did make it to the championship….we lost to WOODWARD ACADEMY….not to mention …add them to the final-4 list as well! Do you SEE the advantage now? How can we compete with this problem? CHEAT!…I dont think so …we follow the rules. We are honest. BUT…what if we could recruit out of the AUGUSTA area with all of the schools there…..LANEY would also be a magnate for D-1 players and win championships every year too. So dont tell me about better coaches….PLEASE!

athensbball

February 4th, 2013
10:47 am

@Kman: So only private schools recruit players leagally huh? Take a look at this years Norcross team…You will find half of the starting lineup from last years Whitefield Academy state championship team. It happens on both sides buddy.

AUGBBALL

February 5th, 2013
10:27 am

K-Man, either you don’t know your own school or you don’t know how high school bball works in Augusta. The only person who recruits harder than Laney, is the local college coaches. Pull each player from the last three years residence history and you will some red flags.

AUGBBALL

February 5th, 2013
10:30 am

@CSRA706- You make a great point, at least in our area. Aquinas has basicall one great player, one or possibly two more(depending opn their mental game) that show promise, and then a bunch or role players. That coaching staff gets more respect from me than any in our expended living area. Go to a game, watch them actually coach. I’ve heard their practices are teaching sesions, how rare is that.

GameWithAPurpose

February 5th, 2013
12:06 pm

@loveofthegame: I agree 100%, we played at SACA a couple of weeks ago and the calls were so one-sided. Coach Cowan should not imagine holding that trophy just yet!

I know that football concerns/issues will always be the determinant for HS sports in this region of the country, but I do hope that how the decision to split has affected other sports(i.e basketball) will make GHSA re-visit the rules at the end of the season.

GFY

February 5th, 2013
1:31 pm

SWAC acting like a buffoon? Say it ain’t so….well you can take them out of the