Moments after winning their third straight Class AAAA state basketball title, Southwest DeKalb’s girls basketball team was in a singing mood.
The group found its way over to the Panthers’ large student section and together belted out the Boys II Men hit “End of the Road.”
Eight seniors played their last game for Southwest coach Kathy Richey-Walton, but they were more a part of a beginning than an end. Southwest was the first of four DeKalb County teams to win state championships March 12-13, kicking off the most dominant basketball weekend in county history.
Also last weekend, Miller Grove won its second straight Class AAAA boys title, the Columbia boys won their third championship in five seasons and the Columbia girls earned their first title in their first appearance in the finals. Redan had its 58-game winning streak snapped but finished runner-up in the Class AAAAA girls tournament.
The four titles are the most in one season in the county, and Columbia’s sweep also is a first for the county.
“I think it’s a tribute to the players and the coaches, and the hard work they continue to do with the kids during the season and in the off-season,” said longtime Columbia boys coach Phil McCrary. “Basketball is a year-round sport now, and it just shows the level of dedication there is in the county.”
Columbia (28-5) beat previously unbeaten LaGrange 54-46 in AAA title game in Macon on March 13. Jershon Cobb led the way with 20 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Tahj-Shamsid Deen added 14 and Chris Grier had 10.
The Columbia girls beat Carver Atlanta 40-36, with 13 points and eight rebounds from Akila McDonald. Jimimah Ashby added 11 points.
“Winning both boys and girls titles in the same year is great,” McCrary said. “Usually, it’s always one team that wins and the other falls by the wayside. But for both of our teams to win in the same year speaks volumes about the whole school. Our kids are students first and then athletes, and it has carried over to the basketball court.”
Second-year girls coach Chantay Frost got the girls program their first state playoff win last year and followed up with the program’s first state title. In a show of unity and support, the boys team climbed into the stands after their championship to celebrate with the girls team.
“It’s something our kids had in their minds, and when we both got to the final four, we talked about it,” McCrary said. “They wanted to share the moment with each other. (Frost) has done a great job, and she’s added more pressure on me to keep up. Our teams feed off each other.”
Both the Southwest girls and the Miller Grove boys were feeding off their fans the day before in their championship games. Nearly 200 Southwest students showed up for the Friday afternoon game, all with permission from the administration and their parents.
“It made a big difference to have our students here,” Richey-Walton said after a 65-45 win over Northwest Whitfield. “We knew (Northwest) shut down the town and brought everybody. It could have been much more difficult without the support we had.”
Seniors Kayla Lewis and Chancie Dunn each scored 19 points for the Panthers, with Lewis scoring 16 points in the first quarter. Alondra Rivers added 10 points.
“DeKalb County is a special community, even outside athletics,” Richey-Walton said. “I live in the community and my kids went to school here, so it’s a special place for me. All these schools are right around the corner from each other. It’s a testament to DeKalb County athletics, coaching and the support we all get from the county and the community. We want everybody to do well.”
Miller Grove, who ran away from Mays 64-35 to win the AAAA boys title, also felt the love from a large group of fans. Adarius Fulton hit five 3-pointers and led the Wolverines with 18 points, and senior Donte Williams added 11 points and 13 rebounds. Henry Brooks also had 11 points and Brandon Morris added 10.
“We were undefeated at home, and it meant the world to have support like this,” Wolverines coach Sharman White said.
Four state champions and one runner-up. Richey-Walton got her wish.