Welcome to Macon.
Those who call this fine city home are glad to have you here this week for a day or two. The GHSA Final Four is one of our biggest events of the year for our sports department, and I know there are plenty of coaches, players and fans across Middle Georgia who are clamoring for that first tipoff at 4 p.m. today.
This is my favorite time of year, and I’m glad to live in a city that has hosted state championship basketball games every year since World War II. For the five years I have lived in Macon, this tournament has been a given me the opportunity to see some of the best basketball teams and players to come through Georgia. Players like Senario Hillman, Javaris Crittenton, Kammeon Holsey, Anne Marie Armstrong, Howard Thompkins, Tanner Smith, Chris Singleton and Ben Smith.
I know for those of you lucky enough to still be playing, this might be a week that you remember for the rest of your lives.
Some of you, like Wesleyan’s Jan Azar, have a lot of these weeks to look back on. Azar, a former Mount de Sales coach, has brought her Wolves to the Coliseum eight times since 2000. She has won championships six times and played for the state title in two other appearances.
The only person who can rival Azar’s championship experience is her counterpart in today’s game: Taylor County’s Matt Troutman. Troutman has won five state championships since 1988, but he brings his Lady Vikings to the Coliseum for the first time since 2003. It should be a good matchup between schools that dominated the past 20 years of small-school girls basketball.
This year, Azar is accompanied by the Wesleyan boys. The school will try to replicate its 2008 feat of winning both the girls and boys state championships.
Wesleyan won’t be the only team gunning for dual championships.
Columbia and LaGrange are seeking dual championships in Class AAA. The LaGrange boys are undefeated and considered the favorites by some.
Greater Atlanta Christian and Laney will be chasing dual championships in AA. GACS probably has the best chance at doubling up with its boys team being a heavy favorite led by a veteran coach in Eddie Martin that battled eventual champion Dublin tough last year. Its girls have two wins over Buford, the team that has stood atop the state rankings for much of the season. Vidalia, which is undefeated and led by Chunk Reid, will be another roadblock for the Spartans in what could be the deepest Final Four in any class.
Wilcox County can’t win boys’ and girls’ championships, but the Patriots can earn a dual championship of a different variety. Wilcox County is trying to become the first school since Mitchell-Baker in 1989-1990 to win the football and boys basketball state championships in the same school year.
No matter how things turn out for you, we’re thrilled that you’re here. We have no doubt you’ll put on a show for us this week.
Contact Jonathan Heeter at 744-4208 or firstname.lastname@example.org