Proud victory messages are displayed on the schools’ marquees. Pep rallies are being planned. Businesses are offering celebratory dinners. Even though it’s close to spring, it feels a lot like Christmas in DeKalb County. That’s because four DeKalb high schools are state champions: Miller Grove, Tucker, Redan and St. Pius.
“We work all year to get to that point, the one night where all the kids’ hard work and dedication pays off,” said Miller Grove Head Basketball Coach Sharman White. “We had a lot on our shoulders with the death of Terrell, but fought through it. We wanted to make sure we did this right to reach the one big goal as a team and coaching staff. We take pride in doing the little things right.”
Miller Grove High’s varsity basketball team claimed its sixth straight championship, defeating Warner Robins 70-43, in the Class AAAAA finals at the Macon Coliseum on March 7. With the win, Miller Grove became the first high school boys’ basketball team in Georgia to win six consecutive state championships.
Miller Grove dedicated its season to the memory of Terrell Coleman, a 15-year-old who died while playing in an AAU basketball game last fall.
“We wore all black for Terrell early this season. Terell was always grinding with us, always working to be better. All he wanted was a ring and I’m glad we could win it for him,” said Miller Grove senior James Walker. “People doubted us this whole season, but we made it through a lot of adversity to get this championship. This is an awesome feeling. It’s really indescribable.”
Miller Grove’s boys’ squad will be the special guests of the Atlanta Hawks when they take on the Denver Nuggets on March 15 and will be honored by state Senator Ronald Ramsey on March 18 at the State Capitol. The school has a pep rally planned for the team at the end of March.
The AAAAA division was also claimed by Tucker High School girls’ basketball team when it defeated another squad in the county, defending champs Southwest DeKalb, 83 - 65.
“Our championship represents the true meaning of teamwork, with a record of 30-0 in the region. We’ve had the talent here for years. We just had to get everybody on the same page with the same common goal. We did that this season,” said Tucker Head Coach Robin Potter. Potter has coached the team for 10 seasons. “It really hasn’t sunk in for me yet. I’m so happy for these girls. They worked all year long to be in this position.”
Tucker players say there were favored to lose by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
“They said we were favored to because Southwest had won the year before and one of their players even said in the paper that the difference between Tucker and Southwest was that they know how to win,” said Senior Erykah Davenport, who has committed to the University of Miami. “We just used it as motivation. We kept that chip on our shoulders the whole game and we wanted to beat them bad in every quarter.”
Tucker’s counseling staff bought the team breakfast on March 12 to celebrate. The squad appeared on V-103’s Greg Street radio show on March 13. The team will be recognized at the city’s March 15 Chili Cook-off and a school pep rally with the Atlanta Hawks organization is set for March 21.
Redan High also is basking in glory. The Raiders girls’ squad defeated Columbus High School 63-53 for the AAAA championship. This was the second basketball title for the girls’ squad in the school’s history.
“Whether we bring in team members from the Atlanta Dream or bring in tutors, we are always looking for ways to uplift and motivate our kids to do better,” said Coach Jerry Jackson. “When you win state, it sets a precedent for future teams to follow and even try to do better. This is a great thing for our school and our community.”
Redan’s squad appeared on V-103’s Greg Street radio show on March 10. The school has a pep rally planned for the team with the Atlanta Hawks organization on March 18.
Closing out DeKalb’s sweet night of victories at the Macon tournament was the AAA Champion St. Pius Golden Lions. They were the only team from the county to see a close game, defeating the Buford High School Wolves 48 – 45.
“It was a real close one, especially at the end of the first quarter. We did a lot better in the second half and I’m just really happy for these girls. They really deserve this,” said Head Coach Kyle Snipes. “They all stayed focused and I’m glad we could win it for our seniors.”
This was St. Pius’ second consecutive state title. The high school has a special presentation set for the team to be held at mass, before the end of March.
DeKalb County Athletics Director Horace Dunson says basketball in DeKalb is at a high level and the competition is healthy.
“It’s a really great feeling. In one championship you had two DeKalb teams battling for the state title in the girls’ tournament. If Stephenson would have beat Warner Robins, you would have had the same good situation happening on the boys side,” said Dunson. “We love it because no matter which squad took home the trophy, DeKalb County is winning.”
Dunson says basketball programs will continue to flourish in the county as long as competition stays at this high level.
“Redan’s girls’ title was the second in school history and the 11th for DeKalb County public school girls teams in the past seven seasons. Miller Grove has won the championship six years in a row. That’s unheard of. Tucker’s girls won their first championship in the team’s 70-year history. We are bringing up history makers in DeKalb,” said Dunson.