Drew coach Candence Jackson called the second region championship in program history “special” as her team heads into the first round of the state playoffs. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
Evans at Drew
When: 7 p.m. today
Records, seeding: Evans has a 17-8 record and is the No. 4 seed from Region 2-AAAAA; Drew is 22-5 and the top seed from Region 4-AAAAA.
Scouting report: Evans is led by senior Jasmine Stone, who is averaging 22.8 points and 2.5 assist per game. Knights guard Autumn Johnson is averaging 7.4 points and 2.9 assists. Lakiah Sims is averaging 21 points and 13 rebounds for Drew. The Titans have won 11 straight games.
What’s next: Winner plays the Lee County-Richmond Hill winner on Monday.
RIVERDALE - Drew girl’s basketball team has been in this before. In fact, this will be the third time that the Titans will take part in the Georgia High School Association basketball playoffs since the school opened in 2009.
This will be the second time Drew has gone into the first round of the playoffs as a top seed after winning its region tournament.
The Titans will be hoping from better results than their previous two trips into the state playoffs.
In the other appearances, Drew lost in the first round to end its season.
Will the third time be the charm for Drew as it host Evans tonight in a 7 p.m. contest?
“We got to get over that jinx,” Drew coach Candence Jackson said. “This group is dedicated to reach our goal, but we have to take in one at a time. Our focus has been totally on Evans after we won the region title.”
Senior Lakiah Sims is the lone Drew player that has some state tournament experience. She was sophomore on the Titans squad that lost 66-65 to Hephzibah in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs. That Drew squad feature all-state guard Precious Person, an all-state player that is now a reserve as Rutgers.
The program’s only other state playoff appearance ended with a 61-51 loss to Westside-Macon on the heels of winning the first region champions for any of the school’s sports.
Despite the program’s recent failures in the postseason, it hasn’t dampened any of the players enthusiasm.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to still be playing,” Sims said. “We just have to stay humble and give it our best shot. We know that we are not better than any other team in the playoffs. We just have to play our game.”
And that game has been to get Sims that basketball. The all-state candidate is averaging 21 points and 13 rebounds per game. Titans guard is averaging 11 points and four steals to help lead the Titans, who are 22-5 on the season.
But Jackson said the team must elevated its game in the postseason.
“The playoffs are a different game,” Jackson said. “You are the same team, but you are a different team. We only have one player with playoff experience, so we will have to raise our level of play.”
Evans will be making its second straight playoff appearance. The Knights are 17-8 overall and the No. 4 seed from Region 2-AAAAA.
Prior to last season, Evans hadn’t made the postseason since 1982 when it reached the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.
“It has been special to reach our goal of winning our region, but we have to put that behind us now,” Jackson said. “Winning the region was a celebration for the commitment and sacrifice this group has made. Our goal all season was to make the state playoffs after what happened to us last season. This group has never forgotten that hurt of not reaching the postseason.”