By SARA PAUFF firstname.lastname@example.org
Hundereds lined the streets in Phenix City and Columbus Saturday to honor the Lady Cherokees of Kendrick High School, winners of the AAA state basketball championship.
"It's great. It's the best thing," said principal Ed Barnwell as students and faculty lined up at the Columbus Bank and Trust in Phenix City to begin the parade. "They're very proud. There's a lot of blue and gold out here today."
Kendrick finished the 2008 season with a 32-0 record en route to the Class AAA state championship. The Lady Cherokees defeated Carrollton 79-67 in the championship to claim the state title.
The Cherokees became the first Muscogee County girls basketball team to win a state championship. The Cherokees and other Bi-City teams have come close in previous seasons. Kendrick played in the 2005 AAA final and Columbus High played in the 2004 final, but both teams lost.
Leading the parade was 1983 Kendrick graduate and member of the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame, Vannessa Graham-Jenkins.
Graham-Jenkins played a number of sports while at Kendrick, including basketball, track, cross country and softball and said she remembers "having fun," as well as the fan support.
"The fans were very active," she said. "We used to have a lot of support."
Kendrick high teachers and students said the atmosphere at the high school had been exciting and hectic this week.
"Everyone's kind of pumped up," said Doris Means, who teaches German at the high school. "It's a fun event for the girls basketball team. They really earned it and deserved it."
"I love it," said senior Marquese Averett. "I'm so proud of the girl's basketball team. I support them in the best way I can."
The Cherokees were led by Janae McKinney, who has signed with Western Carolina. McKinney, a 5-foot-10 forward, was named the AAA Player of the Year and was the All-Bi-City Player of the Year. She averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds and 4.5 steals this season.
All six of Kendrick's seniors signed a basketball scholarship. Ashlee Barley and Kym Stamps signed with Savannah State, while Keondra Barnes and Mukia Myrick signed with Lander. Lacee Hollis is headed to Chattahoochee Valley Community College.