The Shelby County Intercollegiate Athletic Association crowned its Class A champions on Saturday, with Booker T. Washington’s Lady Warriors taking the girls title and the Douglass Red Devils emerging as the boys’ champs.
The Lady Warriors (24-4) defeated the Oakhaven Hawks 61-52. The Red Devils beat the W.E.B. Dubois Lions 105-79. Both games were played at White Station High School.
Steven McKinney has been the head coach of the Lady Warriors for the last five years and has guided his team to the SCIAA championship game each year. This was their first title.
“My seniors have played in this game every year, but we came up a little short,” McKinney said. “I think the best basketball is played in the city of Memphis. So if you are the SCIAA County Champions that means you are one of the best in the state. That is important to me. I take pride in being able to get to this game. To be able to win it is something special.”
Next comes district play.
“There are some things we need to work on. I like the way we battle through some stuff and battled back and played our style of ball,” McKinney said.
Camessia Griggs, who finished with 14 points and controlled the tempo for the Lady Warriors’ offense, was named Most Valuable Player.
“There is so much growth with Griggs,” McKinney said. “She signed with Jackson State and I think she is one of the best point guards in the state. She controls the balls and makes good assists.”
The boys Class A championship game got off to very slow start. Four minutes into the game only eight points had been scored, with Douglass holding a 6-2 lead. With 75 total free throws, the game took nearly two and a half hours to play
For the Red Devils (22-1), victory meant back-to-back county championships. And while they jumped out to an early lead, the Lions (21-4) came roaring back. Robert Mitchell tied the game up (27-27) for the Lions with 4:30 left in the half. A late run pushed the Red Devils to a 49-37 lead at halftime.
Douglass is ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press Class A boys poll. The game’s MVP, Antavious Buford, scored 34 points. Devin Payne also helped the cause for the Red Devils.
The Lions were led by Jamery Sanders. He dropped in 26 points and KenShun White added 20 for WEB Dubois.
Although the Lions run an up-tempo style, they could not match the defensive intensity of the Red Devils. The full court pressure caused numerous turnovers by the Lions and led to easy baskets.
Red Devils coach Gregg Williams said, “We teach our guys to keep going hard and keep playing defense. We have to stop so much fouling, that will help us tremendously. All year long we have been pushing defense, defense, defense. Defense creates easy baskets. We got a lot of easy baskets off of our defense.”
While winning the championship “feels good right now … this not our goal,” Williams said. “Our goal is to get that gold ball (state championship). Last year we fell short. We are focused on that gold ball, one game at a time.”
Williams called MVP Buford “a coachable guy. We have had him for the last two years. He is a floor general. He knows how to get the team going and involved with what we are doing. He has been great for us the last two years.”
Asked about scoring 100 points after such a slow start, Williams said, “That comes from defense. Our guys understand, if you play defense you get easy baskets. That created some easy offense.”