On Wednesday, the Shaw High boys basketball team pulled an impressive 4-over-1 upset in the first round of the Class AAAA state tournament.
Its reward: A date with highly-touted Marist (22-4) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Raiders coach Terry White knows the challenge that awaits his team on Saturday, but he also knows what his team has done this season to prepare for a moment such as this.
“We went through some battles in our region,” White said. “I’m sure (Marist) did too. This time of year, it’s all about who shows up that night.“It’s really stressful going through a tough schedule, but I really believe at the end of the day that it’ll help us.”
Its win over top-seeded Johnson-Gainesville in the first round was one of the more impressive wins for the Raiders so far this season. Coming off back-to-back losses in the region tournament, Shaw had its back against the wall and was missing key players Deionte Corprew and Roderick Wilburn.
Still, despite facing a team led by one of the better athletes they had faced all year, the Raiders managed to limit Johnson’s chances and come out with a five-point win.
White said that experience should help his team going forward, as well.
“It helps in terms of confidence,” he said. “Going on the road and winning in an environment like that, it helps guys zone in more with their focus. I saw that in practice (on Thursday). They take everything more seriously. It’s a good shot in the arm after two losses in the region.”
Marist features some of the more difficult matchup problems Shaw will encounter. It has athletic players who are tall and can shoot.
Facing Johnson’s athletic leader, Montrell McKenzie, however, has given Shaw an idea of how to defend that type of player.
“It’s going to help,” White said. “I think they’re close enough in size where we can be prepared for them.
“Hopefully we do whatever we can to stay in the game and give ourselves a chance to win in the end.”
Kendrick boys, girls to be tested
The Kendrick boys also pulled off an upset over a top seed in the first round, going on the road to defeat Jefferson. Its second-round game against Model (14-11) won’t be as difficult of a jump as Shaw’s but the challenge is still there.
The Cherokees entered their first-round game with Jefferson sporting a 9-18 record, which belied a talent that was overshadowed by a schedule full of stiff competition.
Kendrick has defeated Jordan once this season and played close games against Spencer on three occasions and Manchester once.
The girls team, on the other hand, sports an unblemished 28-0 record that will be tested when it meets Greater Atlanta Christian (21-7) on Friday. Three of GAC’s losses came against Wesleyan, considered by many to be the top team in Class AA.
Lady Cherokees coach Sterling Hicks said his team isn’t worried about who it faces, though, just how it performs.
“We can’t be concerned about the other team,” he said. “We’re concerned with what we do.”
What Kendrick does is press heavily, force turnovers and push the ball to the basket. It has been a winning formula all season. It relies on the prolific Kahlia Lawrence, but Hicks said he knows any of his players can step up when called upon.
“I can’t call on just a single player,” he said. “I feel like in each game, somebody different stepped up.”
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.