Sports writer Brian Paglia
Nearly every high school sport has an end destination in mind — whether to Albany or Jefferson for track or to Clayton County International Park for tennis. But there’s really only one — the state championship.
They’re almost here. Just a few more region track meets and then the state sectionals. Just a few more regular season baseball games and then even fewer region cross-over games.
And the Southern Crescent is right in the middle of all the action.
Here are 5 things I wouldn’t be surprised to see happen from Southern Crescent athletes and teams during the high school state playoffs:
Mariah Stackhouse wins third state golf title: This isn’t as set in stone as you might think. When the North Clayton senior won back-to-back Class AAAA individual titles as a freshman and sophomore, she won by one stroke each time. That’s a testament to how much girl’s golf talent is in Georgia. Sad thing is, Stackhouse could be making it a four-year sweep, but a scheduling conflict forced her to miss the state tournament last season. She’s back this year and should be the favorite.
Union Grove girl’s soccer reaches semifinals: The Lady Wolverines have been knocking on the door of a return to the semifinals ever since their 2008 run in Class AAAAA. It’s been quarterfinals appearances the past two seasons, including a 2-1 loss a year ago. But check out Union Grove’s credentials this season: 14-0-1 entering Friday’s game against McIntosh, ranked No. 5 in Class AAAA and ranked in the ESPN Rise Fab 50. That sounds like a semifinals team to me.
Luella and Union Grove baseball reach quarterfinals: It wouldn’t surprise me, but it wouldn’t be easy for either team. The Lions, ranked No. 8 in Class AAAAA, probably would have to go through No. 5 North Gwinnett, who they lost to, 9-3, earlier in the season. Union Grove, ranked No. 10 in Class AAAA, would be looking at a second-round series against Pope, who won it all in Class AAAAA in 2009. Luella and Union Grove have the pitching for a semifinals run, but will need production from the bottom half of their lineups to get past the second round.
Eagle’s Landing girl’s tennis returns to semifinals: All it takes is three wins, and the Lady Golden Eagles found a way to get them last season in their first semifinals appearance in school history. Having two ranked USTA players in Danielle Jones and Jessica Amero back will help to make it two straight. Eagle’s Landing has relied on them for wins in singles matches, leaving the Lady Golden Eagles to find one more win from No. 3 singles and two doubles matches. Having home-court advantage through the first three rounds should make these easier.
Drew boy’s sprinters put on a show at state meet: The Titans will arrive in Jefferson absolutely loaded with speed and ready to put it on display. They’ll have Jadarius West trying to win the 100-meter dash and 200. But his teammate, DeAndre McBride, has the fastest time in the 200 and 400 in Class AAA. After McBride and West go head-to-head, they’ll team with Andreius McBride and Timothy Barnes to see if Drew’s nationally-ranked time in the 4x100 can hold up as the fastest in Georgia. With all the success Drew’s athletic program has tasted this school year, there may be no stopping McBride, West and Co.
Brian Paglia covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Brian on Twitter (@BrianPaglia).