OTR Hoops: GHSA State Champions – A Closer Look – March 12, 2024

The high school season officially came to an end on Saturday as all of our state champions were crowned. While some were expected to win it all, others shocked the state. Regardless of expectation, it takes a special team to cut down the nets. We take a deeper look at our eight state champions and their very different roads to Macon.

By: Staff

Grayson (7A)

Grayson’s roster was loaded from top to bottom, and they lived up to the high expectations set for them. The Rams went 30-2 this year, their only losses coming to out-of-state teams. Few teams in the country could matchup with Grayson as they had D1 guys at every position and 3-4 more college prospects coming off the bench. Jacob Wilkins and Amir Taylor made up the strongest frontcourt in the state, each guy bringing a different set of skills to the table. The guards were excellent too and while Gicarri Harris’ numbers won’t blow you away, I think this year showed just how effective he can be as a role player amongst other high-end talent. With the win in Macon, Grayson cemented their status as the best team in Georgia this year.

Riverwood (6A)

Riverwood entered the season as a clear-cut contender in 6A and while they hit their bumps along the road, the Raiders showed up when it mattered. They came into the playoffs as a 4-seed and were faced with a trip to Lee County in the first round. Karris Bilal went for 51 points as Riverwood pulled off the overtime upset, 87-84. In the second round, JR Leonard took over and dropped 48. When called upon, Bilal and Leonard both delivered historic playoff performances. After beating Woodstock and Jonesboro on the road, Riverwood was headed to Macon to take on the defending champs, Alexander. Riverwood prevailed in an overtime thriller behind 31 points from JR Leonard. It feels like a storybook ending for Karris Bilal after he remained loyal to Riverwood and delivered the first state championship in school history.

Kell (5A)

After starting the year 1-3, Kell went on a 27-game win streak that ended on the podium in Macon. Kell was led by CJ Brown who proved to be one of the most dominant players in the state this year. By winning a second straight state championship, Brown solidified his legacy as one of the greatest to ever wear the Kell jersey. He was surrounded by some deadly shooters on the perimeter and their blue-collar big man, Cannon Richards. Along the way, they knocked off a number of powerhouse programs like Wheeler, North Broward Prep, Jackson-Reed, and eventually Eagles Landing in the state championship. Many have said that last year’s Kell team was the best in school history. This team belongs in that conversation as well.

North Oconee (4A)

It was a season to remember for North Oconee as they won 30 games and took home their first state championship in school history. The Titans found themselves down 4 at the half in Macon but came back to knock off Holy Innocents. North Oconee didn’t have the size, athleticism, or high-end talent that Holy Innocents did, but they proved to be the better team on Wednesday and that pretty much sums up their season. All 5 members of the core embraced their roles along the way and the team grew together as one unit throughout the season. The underclassmen, Justin Wise and Khamari Brooks, both stepped up late in the year. The torch will now be passed to them as they look to prolong the winning culture that the seniors left behind.

Sandy Creek (3A)

Sandy Creek won big in Macon to repeat as 3A state champs and keep the trophy in Tyrone. They were led by Micah Smith and Amari Brown, one of the best inside-out duos in the state. Juniors, Jared White and Jacobi Robinson, were also vital to Sandy Creek’s success this year and both guys raised their stock tremendously. While it was clear that Sandy Creek was the best in 3A, they took down a number of well-respected programs this year and established themselves as a top 5 team in the state regardless of class. Coach Nickerson holds his guys to a higher standard, and he’s built Sandy Creek into a powerhouse over the past few years. Micah Smith and Amari Brown may be heading off to college, but Sandy Creek isn’t going anywhere.

Westside-Augusta (2A)

Westside-Augusta is officially in dynasty mode after winning their third state championship in a row. Despite losing some key pieces from last year, Westside maintained dominance in 2A and won 29 games. They won every playoff game by double digits and held Toombs County to just 29 points in the state championship. Westside has been of one of the better defensive teams across the state this year and they showed that in Macon. DeMarco Middleton and Lavonta Ivery joined forces this year at Westside and they made for one of the best backcourts in the state. Both guys will be playing college ball next year while Jarius Adkinson is set to take the reins.

Mt. Vernon (1A-D1)

The Mustangs are GHSA State Champions for the first time in school history after beating Paideia in Macon. Mt. Vernon’s out of region schedule was a gauntlet and it ultimately served them well. They played Grayson, Alexander, Sandy Creek, and Greenforest who all won state championships. When it came to playing other 1A-D1 teams, Mt. Vernon was simply used to playing at a higher level. KJ Garris proved to be a huge addition as he averaged 18 PPG and earned Region Player of the Year honors. Xavier Shegog and Dennis Scott were even more lethal in their second year together. The Mustangs are now GHSA State Champions for the first time in school history.

Greenforest (1A-D2)

Greenforest cruised through the 1A-D2 bracket and made a statement with their 29-point win in Macon. The Eagles put together quite a resume this year. They finished with a 27-4 record, a state championship, and wins over Eagles Landing, Newton, and Mount Vernon. Elijah Lewis and Caleb Kawela were known as the lead dogs, but Mike Robinson emerged as a real weapon late in the year and rose his stock significantly as a senior. Coach Rory Griffin has built a special culture at Greenforest and as long as he’s there, the Eagles will contend for championships.