Kendrick High’s Kahlia Lawrence wasn’t surprised when she heard the news.
It wasn’t that she expected to get recognized on the state level. Only that those kinds of personal accolades come with the territory her Lady Cherokees have found themselves in after winning a state title over six-time defending champion Wesleyan.
“It’s a lot easier when you win it all,” she said with a smile after learning she had been voted the Class AA girls player of the year by the Georgia Sportswriters Association.
It’s true. Teammate Deja Cheatham was recognized as well, earning a first-team nod, and coach Sterling Hicks was named the classification’s coach of the year.
“They earned it this year,” said Hicks, who noted that he thought Lawrence could have been named the state’s top player a year ago. “We just didn’t win, and I understand that comes with it. But she earned it this year.”
While Kendrick was the only state champion, voters felt a number of others from the Columbus area had earned a nod, as well. Overall, three players, including Lawrence, were voted boys or girls first teams, one to second team and 10 players to honorable mentions.
Columbus’ Alexia Manning joined Lawrence and Cheatham as first-teamers, while Manning’s teammate Jacqueria Gunter was the lone second-teamer.
Despite Lawrence’s assertion that winning the title is what earned her the award, her numbers did their part as well. She averaged 26.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and six steals per game to lead the Lady Cherokees, notched a single-game record 45 points, a single-season record 759 points and finished with a career-record 2,086 points.
Perhaps none of those numbers were as important as the 25 she scored in the season finale to help Kendrick to a 69-58 win over a team many had begun to believe was unbeatable in a state championship game. Wesleyan had won six straight before running into Kendrick, but the Lady Cherokees picked up the win, their first title since 2008 and second overall.
Hicks commended Lawrence’s performance in that game, but noted that it was important for players like Cheatham to play well around her.
“We knew we weren’t going to win with just her,” he said. “Everyone else had to step up. Cheatham deserved it, too. I was more proud of her than anybody because she stepped up and played like a senior’s supposed to play even though she wasn’t totally healthy.”
Injuries limited Cheatham for a large chunk of the season, but she came back late and gave Kendrick the interior presence it needed.
Lawrence also stressed how well-deserved Hicks’ selection as coach of the year was.
“He deserves that title almost every year,” she said. “He’s the best coach I’ve had so far. He’s been a tremendous help improving my game and everything. But things that people see, we’re used to that. That’s what we do every day. He does (demand a lot), but we’re just used to it. When you come in and do that every day, it’s just repetition. You build your body to take it.”
Manning and Gunter came up just short of a team championship in their senior years, losing to Redan in the Class AAAA state championship. Still, on the biggest stage, voters recognized the impact they had in leading the Lady Blue Devils to a 30-2 record.
Manning averaged 14 points, four assists and three steals per game and notched over 1,500 points and 300 assists for her career. Gunter averaged 12 points, five assists and four steals per game, passing 1,200 points and 400 assists for her career.
“I would trade everything for the state championship,” Manning said with a laugh. “All-Bi-City, All-State, everything. But it is nice after such a low note to end the season on this high note.”
2014 Georgia Sportswriters Association All-State Basketball Teams
Mr. Basketball: Tookie Brown, Morgan County, Jr.
Miss Basketball: Te’a Cooper, McEachern, Jr.
Player of the Year: Tadric Jackson, Tift County
Coach of the Year: Eric Holland, Tift County
Tadric Jackson, Tift County, Sr., 6-2
TeMarcus Blanton, Luella, Sr., 6-5
Kyle Castlin, Hillgrove, Sr., 6-4
Jaylen Brown, Wheeler, Jr., 6-7
Ty Hudson, Pebblebrook, Jr., 6-2
Devontae Cacok, Alpharetta, Jr., 6-6
Sam Daniel, Camden County, Sr., 6-7
Marcus Sheffield, Chattahoochee, Jr., 6-5
Eric Hamilton, Duluth, Sr., 6-8
Joshua Okogie, Shiloh, Soph., 6-4
Justin Bridges, Douglas County, Sr.; T.J. Howard, North Gwinnett, Soph.; Shaun Jones, Central Gwinnett, Sr.; Mo Lewis, Milton, Sr.; Ricky Madison, Norcross, Jr.; Devin Mitchell, Collins Hill, Sr.; Doral Moore, Luella, Jr.; Avery Patterson, Wheeler, Sr.; Raymond Saunders, Westlake, Sr.; Kevon Tucker, Dacula, Soph.
Player of the Year: Jakeenan Gant, Effingham County, Sr.
Coach of the Year: Jamaal Garman, Warner Robins
Jakeenan Gant, Effingham County, Sr., 6-8
Keith Pinckney, Miller Grove, Sr., 6-1
Marquez Callaway, Warner Robins, Soph., 6-2
Phil Cofer, Whitewater, Sr., 6-8
Kamar Baldwin, Apalachee, Soph., 5-11
D’Haire Haney, Osborne, Sr., 6-1
Alterique Gilbert, Miller Grove, Soph., 5-10
Cameron Johnson, Clarke Central, Sr., 6-4
Armel Potter, Sprayberry, Sr., 6-0
Daniel Fowler, Allatoona, Sr., 6-3
Malik Benlevi, Jenkins, Jr.; Darrin Clark, Northside-Warner Robins, Jr.; Tyree Crump, Bainbridge, Soph.; Raasean Davis, Paulding County, Sr.; Paul Jackson, M.L. King, Sr.; Josh Lay, Villa Rica, Sr.; Sharieff Medlock, Ware County, Sr.; Shembari Phillips, Tucker, Jr.; Maleek Taylor, Drew, Jr.; Cody Williams, South Paulding, Sr.
Player of the Year: Hassani Gravett, Alexander, Sr.
Coach of the Year: Dan Maehlman, Jonesboro
Hassani Gravett, Alexander, Sr., 6-2
Quincy January, Riverdale, Sr., 6-4
Maurice Rivers, Columbia, Sr., 6-6
James Walker, Jonesboro, Fr., 6-4
K.J. Smith, Perry, Jr., 6-0
Joe Bob Charles, Gilmer, Sr., 6-5
Ty’lik Evans, Rutland, Jr., 5-7
Don Coleman, Butler, Jr., 6-2
Jordan Sessions, Eagle’s Landing, Sr., 6-8
James Hodges, Johnson-Gainesville, Sr., 6-1
Costa Anderson, South Atlanta, Sr.; Treyvon Francis, Eastside, Sr.; Montae Glenn, Carrollton, Jr.; Mike Green, Westover, Sr.; Tracy Hector, Jonesboro, Jr.; Aubrey McRae, Glenn Hills, Sr.; Zaquavian Smith, Statesboro, Sr.; Dante Sterling, Fayette County, Sr.; Tyrius Walker, Grady, Sr.; Marquise Williams, Baldwin, Sr.
Player of the Year: Rakim Lubin, Buford, Sr.
Coach of the Year: Charlamagne Gibbons, Morgan County
Tookie Brown, Morgan County, Jr., 5-10
Rakim Lubin, Buford, Sr., 6-9
D’Marcus Simonds, Buford, Soph., 6-4
Jamario Duggan, Douglass, Sr., 6-4
C.J. Turman, Morgan County, Sr., 6-8
A.J. Gray, Washington County, Jr., 6-2
Marc Moon, Elbert County, Sr., 6-4
Chris Cokley, Savannah, Sr., 6-8
Adrian Bonds, Johnson-Savannah, Sr., 6-1
Nick Harris, St. Pius X, Sr., 6-10
Spencer Adams, White County, Sr.; Omar Bandeh, Douglass, Sr.; Jacara Cross, Cedar Grove, Soph.; Kyvon Davenport, East Hall, Jr.; Ryan Davis, Cartersville, Sr.; Ryan Kelly, Thomson, Sr.; Patrick Lamar, Blessed Trinity, Sr.; McKel Miller, Washington County, Sr.; Corey Tobin, Cartersville, Sr.; Kimiun Woods, Carver-Columbus, Sr.
Player of the Year: Isaiah Wilkins, Greater Atlanta Christian, Sr.
Coach of the Year: Eddie Martin, Greater Atlanta Christian, Sr.
Isaiah Wilkins, Greater Atlanta Christian, Sr., 6-7
Jacori Payne, Dublin, Sr., 5-9
Kaelan Riley, Calhoun, Soph., 6-3
Darius Williams, Josey, Jr.
Davy Fisher, Model, Sr.
Troy Morrison, Greater Atlanta Christian, Sr., 5-10
Austin Byrd, Calhoun, Sr., 6-3
Jashawn Brooks, Laney, Jr., 6-3
William Jarrell, Crawford County, Soph., 6-4
Ramel Thompkins, Vidalia, Sr., 6-7
Isaac Bradley, Coosa, Sr.; Avery Cagle, Riverside Military, Jr.; Chandler Curtis, Calhoun, Sr.; Jordan Hall, Kendrick, Jr.; Kejuan Johnson, Hapeville Charter, Jr.; L.D. Jones, Jordan, Soph.; Santez Kinder, Northeast-Macon, Sr.; Jontavis Miles, Kendrick, Sr.; Jordan Oliver, Rabun County, Sr.; V.J. Saxton, Model, Jr.
Player of the Year: Ahmed Hill, Aquinas, Sr.
Coach of the Year: Cabral Huff, St. Francis
Ahmed Hill, Aquinas, Sr., 6-3
Malik Beasley, St. Francis, Jr., 6-3
Willie Jackson, Athens Christian, Jr., 6-4
Eric Lockett, Whitefield Academy, Sr., 6-3
Jordan Harris, Seminole County, Soph., 6-3
Demetrius McWhorter, Athens Christian, Jr., 6-3
Kobi Jordan-Simmons, St. Francis, Soph., 6-5
Eric Williams, Athens Academy, Jr., 5-10
Kendall Crute, North Cobb Christian, 6-2
Kaiser Gates, St. Francis, Jr., 6-7
Jamari Baker, Dooly County, Sr.; Fred Davies, Brookstone, Sr.; Bryan Foster, Pacelli, Sr.; Muhammad Hamilton, W.D. Mohammed, Sr.; Khaliq Hughes, Calvary Day, Sr.; Nate Martin, Turner County, Sr.; Garret McAllister, Gordon Lee, Sr.; Jackson Schultz, Landmark Christian, Jr.; Torico Simmons, Wilkinson County, Sr.; Ditalion Williams, Hawkinsville, Sr.
Player of the Year: Anriel Howard, Westlake, Jr.
Coach of the Year: Phyllis Arthur, McEachern
Te’a Cooper, McEachern, Jr., 5-8
Anriel Howard, Westlake, Jr., 6-0
Caliya Robinson, McEachern, Jr., 6-3
Sarah Myers, South Forsyth, Soph., 5-11
Jenna Staiti, West Forsyth, Soph.. 6-5
Mackenzie Engram, Hillgrove, Sr., 6-2
Autumn Newby, Archer, Fr., 6-2
Tashia Brown, Lowndes, Sr., 5-11
Andreona Keys, Roswell, Sr., 5-11
Makeba Ponder, Colquitt County, Sr., 5-8
Faustine Aifuwa, Dacula, Soph.; Destiny Alston, Brunswick, Sr.; Maya Benham, Douglas County, Jr.; Alexandra Frazier, Central Gwinnett, Jr.; Brianna Moore, Luella, Sr.; Madison Newby, Archer, Jr.; Katie Powell, Duluth, Sr.; Precious Price, Newton, Sr.; Amber Skidgel, Archer, Jr.; Aneysa Williams, Mountain View, Jr.
Player of the Year: Erykah Davenport, Tucker, Sr.
Coach of the Year: Robin Potter, Tucker
Erykah Davenport, Tucker, Sr., 6-2
Tynice Martin, Southwest DeKalb, Jr., 5-10
Lakiah Sims, Drew, Sr., 6-0
Ayanna Mitchell, Salem, Jr.
Kyesha Lewis, Effingham County,
Faith Sanders, Jenkins, Sr.
Davion Wingate, Southwest DeKalb, Jr., 5-7
Kierra Henry, Pope, Jr., 5-9
Zutorya Cook, Osborne, Soph., 5-7
Jasmine Stone, Evans, Sr., 5-7
Dee Blankenship, Creekview, Sr.; Miesha Brooks, Harris County, Sr.; Terriana Cave, Stephenson, Jr.; Jada Coggins, Whitewater, Jr.; Taylor Jakes, Northside-Columbus, Sr.; Breasia McElrath, Forest Park, Jr.; Mallory Myers, Greenbrier, Jr.; Keisha Shy, Paulding County, Sr.; Morgan Taylor, Greenbrier, Jr.; Cassidy Williams, McIntosh, Jr.
Player of the Year: Brea Elmore, Redan, Sr.
Coach of the Year: Jerry Jackson, Redan
Brea Elmore, Redan, Sr., 5-8
KeKe Calloway, Mary Persons, Jr., 5-9
Ashleigh Outler, Cross Creek, Sr., 5-9
Michaelle Smith, Jonesboro, Jr., 5-11
Alexia Manning, Columbus, Sr., 5-7
Tianna Germain, South Effingham, Sr., 5-2
Yaktavia Hickson, Columbia, Sr., 5-8
Jacqueria Gunter, Columbus, Sr., 5-6
Shandrea Leverett, South Effingham, Soph., 6-2
Ra’Keta Shelton, Dougherty, Sr., 5-8
Vanessa Blagmon, Woodland-Stockbridge, Fr.; Jada Hubbard, Heritage-Catoosa, Jr.; Bridgette Kelly, Chestatee, Sr.; Aleisha Merriweather, Richmond Academy, Sr.; Nasheema Oliver, Crisp County, Sr.; Candace Rhodes, Chamblee, Sr.; Kayla Smith, Fayette County, Jr.; Lucy Stone, River Ridge, Sr.; Eboni Watts, Rutland, Sr.; Tiffany Wimpy, Ridgeland, Sr.
Player of the Year: Asia Durr, St. Pius X, Jr.
Coach of the Year: Kyle Snipes, St. Pius X
Asia Durr, St. Pius X, Jr., 5-10
Shon Kitchens, Washington County, Sr., 5-8
Camille Anderson, Buford, Jr., 5-8
Nausia Woolfolk, Peach County, Jr., 5-10
Sherae Bonner, Central-Carrollton, Sr., 6-0
Ginny Channell, North Oconee, Sr., 5-10
Kaelyn Irby, Cartersville, Sr., 5-4
Jasmine Carter, St. Pius X, Sr., 5-8
Carrie Cheeks, Sonoraville, Sr., 6-3
Jada Young, Beach, Sr., 5-10
Alexis Brown, Morgan County, Soph.; Shaineequah Fluellyn, Pike County, Sr.; Bree Horrocks, Buford, Sr.; Erica Jones, Chapel Hill, Sr.; Jarfaith Jones, Central-Macon, Sr.; Ladasha Prigeon, Tattnall County, Sr.; Sheyenne Seabolt, Dawson County, Jr.; Rachel Selph, Dodge County, Jr.; Daknequa White, Washington County, Jr.; Alexandria Williams, Woodward Academy, Sr.
Player of the Year: Kahlia Lawrence, Kendrick, Sr.
Coach of the Year: Sterling Hicks, Kendrick
Kahlia Lawrence, Kendrick, Sr., 5-8
Destiny Brewton, Laney, Sr., 5-9
Brianna Cummings, Greater Atlanta Christian, Sr., 5-10
Deja Cheatham, Kendrick, Sr., 5-10
Briunna Freeman, Pelham, Jr., 5-11
Wynetta Wright, Laney, Sr., 6-3
Makhala Jackson, McIntosh County Academy, Jr., 5-11
Nikki McDonald, Wesleyan, Jr., 6-0
Elesha Foster, Cook, Sr., 5-11
Sydni Means, Greater Atlanta Christian, Sr., 5-6
Jahmia Bradley, Westside-Augusta, Sr.; Mikayla Coombs, Wesleyan, Fr.; De’Audra Copeland, Manchester, Jr.; Miranda Davis, Greene County, Sr.; Abby Franklin, Jefferson, Fr.; Tatyana Griffin, Spencer, Sr.; Breanna Mullens, Putnam County, Sr.; JessAnn Nix, Armuchee, Sr.; Erin Wilder, Pepperell, Jr.; Sally Woerner, Rabun County, Sr.
Player of the Year: Brandie Buie, Randolph-Clay, Sr.
Coach of the Year: Jackie Cowan, Southwest Atlanta Christian
Brandie Buie, Randolph-Clay, Sr., 5-9
Erika Cassell, Holy Innocents’, Soph., 6-2
Marquita Daniels, Southwest Atlanta Christian, Sr., 5-7
Candice Williams, St. Francis, Sr., 5-6
Amy Griffin, Southwest Atlanta Christian, Sr., 6-1
A’Miracle Jones, Mitchell County, Sr., 5-6
Abby Grant, St. Francis, Jr., 5-9
Ivy Atkism, George Walton, Sr., 6-1
Kasha Austin, Charlton County, Soph., 5-10
Kiyanna Johnson, Greenville, Sr., 5-7
Maggie Beth Atha, Darlington, Sr.; Lexii Cassell, Holy Innocents’, Sr.; Eryn Cochran, Towns County, Sr.; Shonbreka Holton, Mitchell County, Sr.; Kasiyahna Kushkituah, St. Francis, Fr.; Tatiyana Malone, Central-Talbotton, Sr.; Que Morrison, Mount Paran Christian, Fr.; Syndey Spencer, Eagle’s Landing Christian, Jr.; Kobi Thornton, Randolph-Clay, Soph.; Quaneisha Tookes, Dooly County, Jr.