Cherrone, Hicks, Lawrence, Pugh, Wright top All-Bi-City basketball

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comApril 5, 2014 

Central High boys basketball coach Bobby Wright and senior Devin Pugh led their team to an AHSAA Class 6A quarterfinal appearance, missing out on a trip to the semifinals by simple bad luck.

Columbus High girls coach Joe Cherrone took the Lady Blue Devils all the way to the GHSA Class AAAA state championship, where they lost to Redan after going toe-to-toe for the majority of the game.

Kendrick High girls coach Sterling Hicks along with one of the best girls basketball players in Columbus history, Kahlia Lawrence, got back to the apex of the high school basketball world with a Class AA state championship victory over six-time defending champion Wesleyan.

Together, they make up a particularly successful group of award winners for the 2014 All-Bi-City basketball team.

Because their accomplishments were separated by just 12 points, Cherrone and Hicks were awarded girls coach of the year, while Bobby Wright earned the nod for the boys.

After already earning Class AA state player of the year, Lawrence ends her high school career as the girls All-Bi-City player of the year, and Pugh won the award for the boys.

Sterling Hicks, Kahlia Lawrence and Joe Cherrone

Hicks had been in this position before. For Lawrence, it was new territory.

The Lady Cherokees' 69-58 over state powerhouse Wesleyan earned their first state championship since 2008 and second overall.

It was a nice way for Lawrence to end her high school career.

"We earned it this year," Lawrence said of the state title win and the individual accolades that come along with it.

She certainly did.

In 29 games, all wins, Lawrence scored 759 points, a single-season record for Kendrick. She owns the Nos. 2 and 3 scoring seasons for the Lady Cherokees, as well, and is the school's all-time leading scorer at 2,086.

The biggest number, though, was the 25 points she scored in the state championship to lead Kendrick to the win.

"She hit her average," Hicks said. "That's her normal night, but that was a bigger stage."

For Hicks, the state title win was validation of the countless hours he asks from his players.

"He demands a lot of his players, but we're used to it," Lawrence said. "He deserves (coach of the year) almost every year. He's the best coach I've had so far. He's been a tremendous help improving my game and everything."

Cherrone's Lady Blue Devils fell just shy of Kendrick's finish. They lost to Redan in the state title game after a season in which they had compiled a 31-1 record up to that point.

He took a roster led by a pair of seniors but featuring underclassmen in key roles, and led it to a position it hadn't been in a decade. It's a position that should be comfortable for the near future, as Columbus has the tools to make similar runs with its current roster.

Bobby Wright and Devin Pugh

Wright had a team he thought was capable of going the distance. Even though it didn't, it was still an impressive run for the Red Devils.

Central won nearly all of its games, losing just once before a half-court buzzer beater by Carver-Montgomery knocked it out in the Class 6A quarterfinals.

Still, Wright's job in leading the team prior to being sidelined for medical reasons as well as the team's resolve in playing well in his absence is enough to award him coach of the year.

Likewise, star senior Pugh's season was arguably the catalyst for the Red Devils' performance. He averaged 19.3 points and 7.3 rebounds to lead the team.

"It was fun," Pugh said of the season. "It was different because we didn't have as much talent and height last year. At first, the challenge was to figure everyone out. Once we got the chemistry, everything fell into place."

Pugh said he felt like he kept his composure throughout the season and was able to be the senior leader it needed.

"Even in close games, we were good," he said. "We were right where we needed to be."

And speaking about Wright, Pugh said his impact was immeasurable.

"He pushes us every day," he said. "He never lets us break. In mornings when we come in and we're tired, he pushes us to get through drills like we would in a game. He pushed us every step of the way."

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