By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
All signs pointed to a blowout Friday night at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy.
The Warriors (26-3), top ranked in Class A in the AJC Top 10 for weeks, had already defeated Greenforest Christian by 30 points three months ago, and were in a foul mood, after being upset by St. Francis in their region championship game last weekend. Additionally, they were none too pleased with the No. 4 power ranking they received from MaxPreps and the Georgia High School Association.
And, despite having one of the state’s most talented players in senior guard Moses Johnson, who has signed with Chattanooga, SACA was still clearly the better team on paper. But this time, the Warriors didn’t win by 30. They won by 40.
SACA bolted out to a 30-7 lead after one quarter en route to a 72-32 win over Greenforest in the first round of the Class A private school state tournament.
Warrior head coach Jackie Cowan said she expected a great effort from her team and she got just that.
“History has shown that’s what we do, we tend to respond after a disappointing loss,” Cowan said. “We did the same thing when we lost earlier to Darlington. We had a 15 point lead at halftime against St. Francis and they came back on us.
“They are a good team, and they showed us that you can’t let up against anybody,” Cowan said. “I thought we had leaned that lesson after we lost to Darlington, but I guess we didn’t. Now, I think [her players] get it.”
Their actions showed that they did. From the opening tip, the Warriors appeared intent on not just winning, but dominating. Even as their lead in creased they continued to dive for loose balls, step into passing lanes for steals, battle for rebounds on both ends of the floor, and play tough defense – especially on Johnson, last season’s Player of the Year in Class A.
“We know she is a great player and very capable of putting up some big numbers,” Cowan said of Johnson, who tied SACA senior forward Alexis Carter with a game-high 18 points. “She can change a game in a hurry. We have a lot of respect for her and so we wanted to make sure we defended her well.”
Johnson showed her explosiveness late in the first half when she scored six of the Eagles’ points during a 10-0 run to close out the second quarter. The kept the halftime deficit under 30 points for Greenforest, 48-19.
But the lead grew back to 34, 55-21, midway through the third quarter, after a bucket by Carter. Then a 7-0 spurt by SACA, led by Griffin and fellow junior Marquita Daniels, gave the Warriors a 37-point cushion, 62-25, heading into the final period.
Still, SACA kept up its intensity. Reserve players fought their way over screens, a dozen or so male basketball and football team members impersonated Duke’s “Cameron Crazies in the stands, and Cowan continued to bark out instructions.
“We had some younger players in the game and I wanted to make sure they were on the same page,” Cowan said. “We have to stay focused. We have some tough teams ahead of us.”
Greenforest Christian (32) – Moses Johnson 18, Arielle Holloway 6, Kenya Finley 4, Briana Gardner2, Wendy Palm 2.
Southwest Atlanta Christian (72) – Alexis Carter 18, Marquita Daniels 16, Amy Griffin 13, Lleah Jones 9, Kristin Carter 4, Tori Dozier 3, Keimesha Walker 3, Kelsey James 2, Kendall James 2, Amber Perkins 2.