Central head coach Sheila Toombs remembers seeing Jada Clowers, Tyleia Williams, and Jenya Wilder as sixth-graders and even then Toombs could see that they were something special.
That was six years ago, and now the three are seniors, and all three will play college basketball, but before that happens, they will try to become the first team from Macon to win a state championship since the Northeast girls won in 2002.
Despite her team’s loss in the finals of their region tournament last weekend, Toombs insists she has faith they can make a run at a state championship. “Oh, I know we can win it all, said Toombs whose team made a run to the Elite Eight a year ago. “I feel like the loss was a wake-up call for us and it shows that we have to play with energy for the entire game. We have got into the habit of not playing our best basketball until we get behind and that’s what happened in the region tournament against Peach County. We found ourselves down by 11 in the second half and then we turn that switch on and catch them but couldn’t hold on. We know now that we can’t do that because we will be playing the best teams in the state.”
Central plays only six players, all seniors, in most games. Nakayia Greene is a solid defender who averages five rebounds a game, while ReNesha Goolsby has returned from last year’s ACL injury to become a deadly 3-point shooter. Zaren Harris is a two-year starter who has been solid for the Chargers.
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But it is the other three players that other teams fear.
“Well we have Jada who is a true rim protector and shot blocker who has become a much better scorer this year, Toombs said. “Then we have out little engine in Jenya and every team needs one of her because she can score, rebound and get a steal when we need it. Tyleia is our leader and our quarterback of the team and she can score inside or out. These girls aren’t going to be satisfied with anything less than a final four trip and to be honest, neither will I.”
Central (22-4) opens up at 6 p.m. Friday night athome against Jenkins County, which has a 15-10 record on the year. “I am sure these girls will be ready and I am hoping to see some of that hunger they had last year in the playoffs.” Toombs said. “We have had a great year but it is definitely time to turn it up a notch or two.”
Here are other state playoff girls games involving local schools:
Northeast (8-17) at Laney (27-0)
Islands (14-14) at Peach County (20-7)
Jenkins County (15-10) at Central (22-4)
Rutland (15-11) at Johnson County (18-6)
Perry (10-16) at Americus Sumter (21-7)
WRHS (15-11) at Wayne County (15-8)
Veterans (18-9) at Ware County (25-2)
Houston County (7-17) at Bradwell (17-9)
Northside (18-9) at Glynn (14-12)