EDITOR’S NOTE: The COVID-19 pandemic closed local schools before they could hold their winter sports banquets honoring student-athletes, so coaches have agreed to announce postseason team awards here in the newspaper. Coverage continues today with GMC Prep boys and girls basketball and wrestling.
Other than its win-loss record, how deep a team makes it into the post-season is usually the best barometer for success.
By that measure, the 2019-20 GMC Prep girls basketball team put together one of the best, if not the best, seasons in program history. The Lady Dogs finished 20-6 and in the second round of the state playoffs came back to beat region opponent Lake Oconee Academy to make it to uncharted territory — the state quarterfinals. There, the Lady Dogs fell to then top-ranked Central-Talbotton, the team that finished as state runner-up.
“I’d say it was probably our best season yet,” Dennis said. “We were region runner-up for the second year in a row. We were hoping to do a little better there, but it didn’t quite work out for us. We’ve been stuck in the Sweet 16 in the state playoffs for a while, but we finally broke through and made it to the Elite 8. That’s a big accomplishment for the team and the school, so I’d say it was a pretty successful season.”
Coach Dennis and assistant coach Laurie Simpson announced the following awards for the 2019-20 GMC Prep girls basketball season.
Offensive Player of the Year: DeAndria Stephens
The junior Stephens earned First Team All-Region honors from her forward position where she led the Lady Dogs in both scoring and rebounds per game at 13.7 and 8.9, respectively. Her numbers were impressive across the board as she helped lead GMC Prep girls basketball to one of its best seasons in program history.
“She can score from anywhere on the floor — from the block to the three-point line,” Dennis said of Stephens. “She has a wide array of offensive moves that she can do and she’s obviously our best offensive player.”
Defensive Player of the Year: Kennedy-Paige Davis
Davis, a senior, had a heavy load to shoulder as the team’s point guard this season. Not only was she the chief ball-handler, but she often also had the biggest responsibility on the defensive end of the floor.
“KP stepped up big this year defensively,” said Dennis. “She led us in steals in several games where we needed her to guard the other team’s best player. Her basketball IQ allows her to know how to position herself to deny the ball, get in the passing lane and just be an effective defensive player.”
Davis, another first team All-Region selection, led the way with 3.2 assists per game in her final high school season, and her presence will definitely be missed when the Lady Dogs return to the court.
Coaches Award: Ju’Niah Beal
The GMC Prep girls basketball Coaches Award goes to post player Ju’Niah Beal, the only other senior on the squad. Her main job was to grab rebounds and guard opponents’ often taller post threats, both duties she handled well in her 12th-grade season.
Bulldog Award: DeAisha Stephens
If the Lady Dogs had three players score in double figures on a given night, chances were DeAndria Stephens, Davis and DeAisha Stephens were the culprits. DeAisha earned second team All-Region honors after putting up 10.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Other awards based on this past season include:
Varsity Co-Most Improved Players of the Year - Mary Katherine Lawrence and Emma Lewis;
JV Offensive Player of the Year - Jada Warren;
JV Coaches Award - Gabby Seals;
JV Most Improved Player - Josie Deason; and
JV Bulldog Award - Nyla Jackson.
The 2020-21 Lady Dogs will have a tough act to follow when the season begins in November. They will not have to deal with Stratford anymore in the region tournament with GHSA having split public and private schools into their own regions. That could open the door for another historical season, although Davis’ experience as a four-year starter and Beal’s post presence will not be easy to replace. Coach Dennis still believes he will be able to put a good product on the Cordell Events Center court once again.
“I think we should be able to compete,” he said. “We’re graduating two seniors with KP probably being the big name we’re losing. It’s going to be tough to replace what she does for us, but we’ll just have to have some other players step up and try to fill those shoes.”