Saturday Class A-Private Roundup

Photo by Craig Sager II

With victories in both the boys and girls A-Private games, St. Francis becomes the 14th school in Georgia history to sweep titles in the same year.


A-Private Girls: St. Francis 47, Southwest Atlanta Christian 45

St. Francis used a Maya Dodson game-winning lay-up to hold off Southwest Atlanta Christian 47-45 and capture its second Class A-Private state championship in three seasons. After outscoring Southwest Atlanta Christian 18-7 in the third quarter, St. Francis built a 40-35 lead but the Warriors battled back and tied it at 45-45 with a Brooke Carthon free-throw with 44.2 seconds left. St. Francis guard Nichel Tampa took the Knights’ ensuing possession straight to the basket but after contact she was whistled for a travelling violation and the Warriors got the ball back with a chance to use the final possession to seal the victory.

“I told them we needed a stop,” said St. Francis coach Aisha Kennedy following the game. “We need one right now and they went out and got it.”

The Warriors dribbled off clock to look for a buzzer beater of their own, but Dodson intercepted Tiamya Butler’s pass and hit Tampa for a quick outlet. Tampa drove but lost the ball under the basket with the final seconds ticking off the clock. Dodson scooped up the ball and got the shot off before it rolled on the rim and dropped in on the buzzer.

“This means everything to Maya and our team,” said Kennedy about her sophomore guard. “That’s just going to boost her confidence for next year.”

Southwest Atlanta Christian finished the game with 14 turnovers to the Knights’ 11 and fatigue set in as St. Francis scored 10 of its 15 points off turnovers in the second half.

“We knew it was going to come down to the last seconds, the rebounds, the loose balls, who wants it more and I feel like my team did that in the second half and they earned this,” said Kennedy.

Southwest Atlanta Christian’s six-girl roster stresses importance on limiting fouls in any game they play, but even when St. Francis could get to the line, the Knights could not capitalize and shot a dreadful 2-of-12. Southwest Atlanta Christian got to the line 25 times but only hit 11-of-25.

Dodson finished with 15 points and added a team-high seven rebounds and four assists to go with her two critical second-half steals. Tampa also finished with 15 points and connected on the team’s only three-pointer of the game. Kasiyahna Kushkituah hit double-figures with 10 points but the rest of the team shot 3-of-17 from the field.

Nicole Martin led Southwest Atlanta Christian with 12 points and Dominiquie Banks, Butler and Sakyna Payne all finished with nine apiece.

Here is another look at the wild finish



A-Private Boys: St. Francis 96, Greenforest Christian 81


Greenforest (27-2) had the size inside, but St. Francis (29-3) had Florida State-signee Malik Beasley, Xavier-signee Kaiser Gates, and five-star junior Kobi Simmons as the trio dazzled and overwhelmed a competitive Eagles team en route to the Knights’ second consecutive state title, 96-81. With the win, St. Francis sweeps the Class A-Private state championships. With under four minutes to play in the first quarter Faisal Abdulmalik tied the game at seven, but from that point on Simmons and Beasley shined. In a 42-second stretch, the crowd was treated to back-to-back-to-back dunks courtesy of Simmons and Beasley.  The dunk fest sparked a 10-1 run and gave the Knights a 17-8 lead before finishing the exciting quarter up 24-15.

Plenty of fouls were called throughout the game with both teams entering the bonus late in the first quarter. With the Eagles trailing 33-20, Mo Abdulsalem made up for an earlier offensive foul with a bucket inside at the 3:39 mark. That bucket would ignite a 12-5 run that was capped by a John Ogwuche layup. Greenforest entered the half down 38-32. The two teams combined for 26 fouls and 35 free throws in the first half alone.

Less than a minute into the third quarter, Ogwuche would connect on an And-1 and bring the Knights lead down to 38-35. The three point deficit would be as close as the Eagles would get however. A 9-0 run paced by five points from Kaiser Gates who finished with 23 points and nine rebounds, would extend the lead to 47-35. Justin Forrest kept the Eagles in it with 10 points in the quarter and would finish with 19 points on the night before fouling out late.

After connecting on just two 3-pointers in the first half, the Eagles unleashed a barrage in the second half to stay within striking distance. They would shoot 7-of-15 from deep but it would make no difference as the Knights raced past. Ogwuche buried back-to-back threes early in the fourth to cut the St. Francis lead to 67-62, but the Knights would go on an offensive onslaught from thereon out. An 11-3 run would push the lead to 78-64 and put the game out of reach. The usual suspects were at the head of the St. Francis surge with Kobi Simmons dropping a floater over 7-foot-1 Ikey Obiagu while picking up an and-1. Simmons finished with a team-high 27 points and added five assists. He, Malik Beasley, and Kaiser Gates would combine to go 35-of-39 from the line as St. Francis finished 43-of-48 from the stripe while the Eagles would make just 24 of their 39 attempts. The FSU-bound Beasley scored 23 points and added seven rebounds in his final high school game and nearly brought the house down after missing a one handed slam over Obiagu.

St. Francis was not hindered by the presence of big men Ikey Obiagu, Precious Ayah, and Faisal Abdulmalik. The Knights slashed their way inside and outscored the Eagles 36-to-22 in the paint. The trio for Greenforest would combine for just 11 points. Obiagu was unable to protect the paint while he was in. He finished with no rebounds and five fouls as the quicker Knights negated his length.

Five Eagles would foul out on the night while two Knights did in the foul ladended game. Greenforest’s trio of guards did all they could to keep the Eagles in the game. John Ogwuche poured in a game-high 28 points.  Senior Justin Ravenel struggled from the field shooting just 3-of-14, but connected on 10 of his 12 free throws to finish with 17 points.

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