After losing in the semifinals in three consecutive years, the dominant group of girls from Stephenson finally put it all together in '08, defeating Redan 58-43 in Friday's State Championship showdown. Leading the way for Stephenson was senior Jylisa Williams with 15 points, while Yasheeka Jones and Hiydaayh Williams each scored 10 of their own. In the end, the Stephenson size and athleticism made the difference, as Redan simply could not keep up in the physical matchup. Another significant factor in the Stephenson win: The girls had more blocks against Redan than I have ever seen in a girls basketball game. In fact, LSU signee Taylor Turnbow blocked nine shots all on her own. And despite the final 15-point deferential, Stephenson's fluid team basketball and overall athletic play made the girls 5A Finals an exciting event to witness.
The boys final featured the two best teams in the State of Georgia, as Norcross defeated Wheeler 57-54 in what turned into an epic battle. For the most part, the game was played above the rim, with ferocious dunks numbering in the double digits. The victory also represented the third-straight championship for the Blue Devils. For Wheeler, Miami commitment, Dequan Jones, along with Ari Stewart kept the Wildcats in the game. Stewart led all scorers with 18 points, while Jones converted on a number of memorable dunks and played physical defense down low against Norcross star Al-Farouq Aminu, who with 17 points was held six below his season average. In the end, however, Aminu's physical all-around play made the difference, as the all-american also recorded six blocked shots. Forgetting about the outcome, the final quarter of play displayed two immensely talented teams playing basketball at a phenomenal level rarely seen in the high school game. And what a joy it was to watch that kind of play.
Scott Janovitz can be reached at SJanovitz@scoreatl.com