The stars were out at the second annual Queens of the Hardwood Classic. On Saturday, elite programs gathered at Whitewater High School to showcase their talent and battle for bragging rights.
The action was fierce from the jump as Sandy Creek and Fayette County competed in the first two games of the day. Whitewater closed out the event, on a celebratory note, as two seniors eclipsed 1000 points in their career.
In between, Class AAAAAA state champs Lovejoy High School and Class AAAA champions Spalding High School also hit the court. There was also a matchup of Alabama powerhouse Hoover High School and St. Francis.
Here are four takeaways from the showcase.
1.) Whitewater’s dynamic senior duo reaches 1000 points
Over the years, Whitewater seniors Jada Claude and Courtney Smith have shared a lot of moments together. On Saturday night, they added another memory as both players reached 1000 points in their careers. Smith reached the milestone and finished with 23 points and 6 rebounds in a 55-52 defeat against Douglas County. Claude posted 21 points and 12 rebounds.
The duo has paced the Lady Wildcats all season. Together, they average over 45.7 points per game, which is nearly 75 percent of the entire offense. Smith now sits at 1015 points in her career. Claude has 1001 points. She also has a chance to reach 1000 rebounds this season. The talented forward needs 90 more boards to reach the plateau.
According to head coach Rashad Muhyee, the girls will be counted on to produce during a tough region slate.
“It’s a tough region this year,” Muhyee said. “We got to in and fight (to win it).”
2.) Fayette hangs tough with state champs
All eyes were on the Fayette County Lady Tigers as they faced off against Spalding High School. The Lady Tigers gave the 2017 Class AAAA state champions a run for their money in a tightly-contested defensive battle. In the end, the Tigers came up just short. They fell 47-45 after a last-second heave bounced off the rim.
Despite the loss, the Tigers silenced all their doubters and found a recipe for success moving forward. Several coaches were left buzzing about their performance. They noticed that head coach John Strickland still has his mojo with a revamped roster.
Sophomore guards Ghylissa Knowles and Derique Donigan led the Tigers throughout. Knowles had 16 points and Donigan scored 11 points. Both have stepped up to help out senior captain Sydney Sims.
There were also question marks regarding Fayette’s frontline. Those questions might’ve been answered as Strickland went to center Celine Thomas. The 6-foot-1 sophomore showed great energy and hauled in several rebounds. She also displayed solid footwork around the rim that led to easy buckets.
“It’s good to have her in as a sophomore,” Strickland said. “She is coming in and getting some good minutes.”
If the sophomores continue to produce, the Tigers will once again wind up in region title contention. After a performance against Spalding, they are well on their way.
3.) Sandy Creek searches for consistency against Tucker
Sandy Creek won its third straight game by dispatching Tucker 58-34 on Saturday. Three players scored in double figures as the Lady Patriots improved to 4-3 on the season. Daija Powell continued her hot start with 17 points. Paris Thompson added 14 points.
However, the Patriots struggled to get into a solid rhythm. At times, the offense looked stagnant and out of sync. Sandy Creek allowed Tucker to hang around into the fourth quarter. They saw a 15 point lead dwindle to single digits. At one point, head coach Janie Hodges pleaded for more aggressiveness at the rim.
“I don’t think they have met my expectation of growth yet,” Hodges said.
Hodges mentioned that communication is key to development. She wants to see the team gel and get a killer instinct. Sometimes, the Patriots play a little too passive and that causes other teams to sneak back into games.
“Yeah, we won a little bit, but before January gets here we definitely got to build our chemistry amongst each other,” Hodges said.
The Patriots have another chance to bond against East Coweta and Newton High School this week.
4.) Top prospects shine on the court
Several top players were on display in the showcase. 2020 ESPN Top 60 prospects Anaya Boyd (No.35) and St. Francis Amirah Abdur-Rahim (No. 60) were in attendance. Joining them was top seniors Aniaya Jester (Spalding), Jada Claude (Whitewater), Genesis Bryant (Lovejoy), Georgia commit Jordan Issacs (St. Francis), Skyla Knight (Hoover), and Clemson signee Amari Robinson (Douglas County) among others.