Excitement returns with Madness

jheeter@macon.comMarch 9, 2011 

Few weeks in the long high school sports season hold as much excitement as what we here call Macon Madness.

The four-day long event is a celebration of prep basketball at its highest level and is an event that The Telegraph sports staff looks forward to every year.

With every new edition of Macon Madness, we are greeted with fresh story lines and new faces. But sometimes, the names and the faces are the same, and that’s OK too, particularly in the case of Alvin Copeland.

Copeland is a juggernaut in high school girls basketball, a legendary figure who has helped take the sport to new levels in his 40-plus years at Northeast.

The man who has won more games than most will ever coach in leads his Raiderettes into the Final Four for the ninth time Thursday. He has led his team to five state championships, and it’s hard to imagine a coach in the state in any sport more synonymous with a school than Copeland.

Although very good, this Northeast team probably doesn’t have the firepower that Buford and Greater Atlanta Christian bring to the Macon Coliseum. Still, Crazier things have happened than Northeast advancing to the championship game.

But regardless of whether the Raiderettes lose Thursday or advance to Saturday, I can’t imagine a better ending to Copeland’s career than coaching his final game in front of the community that he has given so much to through the years.

Copeland is joined by other familiar faces this week.

Jan Azar brings her Wesleyan Wolves to the Coliseum for the 10th time in 11 years. They’ve won the championship seven times, and Azar believes this could be her best team. I find that hard to believe after watching the Whitney twins, Anne Marie Armstrong, Sarah Delk, Kelly Hall, Erin Hall and others. If Azar is right, however, no one else in Class A stands a chance this weekend or even next year (the Wolves have only one senior).

Gene Durden and Buford come back to Macon after winning two championships in a row. The Wolves are probably the favorites again this year in Class AA, led by sensational point guard Andraya Carter, who has committed to Tennessee and will likely be a McDonald’s All-American in 2012.

The Buford boys are here too, along with the Greater Atlanta Christian boys and girls, the Laney boys and girls and the Columbia boys and girls.

Wilkinson County makes its return to the Coliseum after a two-year absence. That seems like a short time to most, but it has felt like an eternity to the Blue Storm. The Warriors are joined by perennial visitor Whitefield Academy in Class A.

I mentioned earlier that every Final Four brings a fresh set of stars and story lines to Macon. Two players making their Macon Madness debuts stand out to me more than the rest.

Greenville guard and McDonald’s All-American Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the most high-profile player in town this week.

The Georgia signee would probably be the Bulldogs’ best scorer right now if he was on campus. He has no conscience and will pull up from any spot across halfcourt. If his teammates rise close to his level of play, Greenville could be a dangerous team.

Washington County sophomore Allisha Gray has the potential to be one of the best girls basketball players in Middle Georgia history. She is already a scoring machine -- she has more than 1,000 career points -- and leads an undefeated Washington County team in the Final Four.

Every team brings a unique story to the Coliseum: The Crisp County girls finished fifth in their region but managed to make it to the Final Four; Eagle’s Landing is the first boys team in Henry County history to make the semifinals; Leroy Jordan brings Swainsboro back for the first time since winning it all in 1996.

There are plenty of others, and new stories will unfold as the week plays out. If you’re a fan of high school basketball or high school sports, then there is little reason to not find your way to the Coliseum at some point this week.

Contact Jonathan Heeter at 744-4401 or jheeter@macon.com

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