By Fletcher Proctor
The GHSA has been awarding basketball titles to member schools since Lanier won the first boys title in 1922. The GHSA began honoring girls champions in 1945, but only 12 times in the history of GHSA basketball has a school captured both the boys and the girls titles in the same year.
Jeff Davis was the first school to pull off the feat, winning the Class AA titles in 1958. Roopville pulled off the feat the next year in Class C, but it was four more years until Hart County claimed both AA titles. Greater Atlanta Christian won both the boys and girls Class C titles in 1972, but it would be another 15 years before Clinch County swept the Class A titles in 1987.
In 2006, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy ended the double drought by scoring both Class A crowns. Wesleyan took both Class AA titles in 2008, then accomplished the feat again in 2010. Wesleyan is one of just two schools to sweep both titles twice, with Columbia being the other program. Columbia also won the 2010 boys and girls Class AAA titles. Norcross pulled off the double two years ago in Class AAAAAA as Angie Hembree and Jesse McMillan piloted their teams to a pair of titles and, last year, both Columbia and Miller Grove swept the Class AAA and AAAA titles, respectively.
Entering this year’s quarterfinal round, 18 schools still had both programs alive and competing for basketball titles. The GHSA’s reclassification to six classes and the decision to split Class A into a private bracket and a public bracket have helped inflate this year’s number, but the 18 schools with both teams still eligible also shows how some schools are focusing in on basketball in a football-crazy state. While many sports fans across the country will remark how dominant a breeding ground for football players the Peach State has become, just as many basketball standouts head to colleges across the country to play at the next level. Georgia has rich traditional basketball powers and, this year, both teams at many of those powers have their sights set on state titles.
Norcross is angling to become the third program to pull off the sweep twice. The boys have won four state titles since 2006 including in 2011 when the girls won as well. McMillan was an assistant for three titles, but won his first as a head coach two years ago and knows that sometimes in-house competition is the best form of motivation.
“We have one of the finest coaches in the state in Angie Hembree,” said McMillan. “Watching her prepare her teams and the attention to detail she brings to practices and games has taught us a lot.”
McMillan loves the passion that both teams show for each other and while the competition is there between the programs, it is a healthy competition with a common goal.
“We definitely want to keep pace with each other and it is not a secret that championships are our goal,” said McMillan. “In the past, we might not have had as big of a crowd for the girls games, but now (since Hembree arrived) the stands are packed and everybody loves watching our varsity girls. Both teams expect to win and both teams feed off each other’s successes.”
Last year Miller Grove took home both titles as Sharman White’s boys team won its fourth straight title, but Renee Breedlove’s girls won their first. Breedlove’s team is in a prime position to capture another after losing just one senior from the team. Miller Grove’s boys team reloaded after losing eight seniors, but looks to be on track to take home a fifth title and perhaps the distinction of yet another sweep.
Finally, Columbia could become the first school in GHSA to pull off the sweep for a third time. Columbia’s girls fell in the AAA semifinals to eventual-champion Washington County in 2011, otherwise this year would be an attempt at sweeping the titles for a fourth-straight year. The girls are led by Miah Spencer and Yaktavia Hickson, while the boys are after their own four-peat on the back of point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen.