Jenean Cooper-Bolston had thoughts entering the season that this Wilkinson County girls basketball team could do some special things.
At a school where boys basketball championship banners are in abundance, the Wilkinson County girls have yet to raise a GHSA championship trophy. The Warriors came close a couple of times, going 23-8 and reaching the Class 1A public school semifinals in 2012-13 and going 22-7 and reaching the quarterfinals a year later.
While the Warriors beat FPD for region titles in 2012-13 and 2013-14, the road to success became much more difficult in 2015 when Stratford and Tattnall Square joined Region 7A-1A. Two sub-.500 seasons, including a 6-19 mark last year, followed.
This time around, however, Wilkinson County is mixing it up quite comfortably with Macon’s private schools. The Warriors are right in the mix in region competition, with first place in the sub-region a distinct possibility. Wilkinson County (11-8 overall) is 6-1 in the sub-region, tied for first with Stratford and a game ahead of FPD.
“This is a team that we’ve been working on for about four years,” said Cooper-Bolston, the team’s head coach. “It’s good to see that they are actually able to go out and compete and do the things that we’ve been trying to put in place for the last four years.”
The Wilkinson County boys, who own eight GHSA championships, have an interest in how the girls fare. The final rounds of the Region 7-1A tournament this season will be hosted by the girls champion from Wilkinson County’s sub-region, and The Palace carries quite a home-court advantage with it.
Wilkinson County’s starting five has plenty of experience, with three seniors in the lineup. It’s a group that has been groomed for success for awhile, Cooper-Bolston said, and so far that preparation has paid off.
“I don’t want to say they’re buying into it because I think they bought into it before, but I guess they just had to wait until that time came,” Cooper-Bolston said. “Now they’re seeing what we’ve been telling them all along does work.”
Senior point guard Zhakire Simmons is among the team’s top scorers, putting up 19 in a 48-42 victory Jan. 20 over Tattnall Square and consistently scoring in double-figures against sub-region opponents.
The Warriors also have a young contributor who is doing a lot: Ahnila Owens, a freshman guard who scored 17 in that game against Tattnall.
“We’re just keeping a level head, keep encouraging each other,” Simmons said. “We just stay focused, know our goals.”
That group is putting up a strong fight in the Region 7A-1A race. The Warriors swept the regular-season series against Tattnall and beat FPD in Macon, with the only sub-region loss coming to Stratford.
Wilkinson County’s remaining sub-region games include a home date Friday with FPD and a trip Tuesday to Stratford, as well as a home game Feb. 3 against Mount de Sales.