South of Atlanta in the city of Hampton, Georgia, a 23-and-a-half-mile ride down I-75, is the best basketball team you might not have heard of. While the Lovejoy High School Lady Wildcats don’t always receive the most press, the defending 6A State Champions are quickly becoming a basketball dynasty. The Lady Wildcats haven’t lost a game to a team in their home state in more than 450 days.
The Lady Wildcats boast two of the most highly recruited girls basketball players in the state, if not in the country, in juniors Genesis Bryant—a guard of the highest caliber, good enough to have earned All-State and All-County recognition last year as a sophomore—and Anaya Boyd, a forward so versatile that she often runs the team’s offense from the high-post and is one of the Lady Wildcats’s best passers and three-point shooters.
Co-captains Bryant and Boyd may be the headliners, but the 26-3 Lady Wildcats host talent throughout their roster. Fellow juniors Lashanti Blout (a forward who has also received plenty of attention from college basketball programs), Jordyn Jackson, Kaziah Terell, and Mariah Rivera are joined by seniors Avanna Preston, J’Auana Robinson, and Sage White. All of the players had a role in last season’s title run and the majority, including sophomores Mariah Spain and Asha Shareef and freshmen Bryann Hardy and Keyra Peterson, will be back next season.
“It felt good to have made history last season,” said Bryant about winning the school’s first-ever state basketball title. “It made all of the preparation worth it but now we have a target on our backs, so a consecutive title would mean more.”
The pressure of defending their state title hasn’t gone unnoticed by head coach Cedric King, who is in his fourth year at the school after spending more than a decade coaching at Carver High School in Atlanta and Sandy Springs High School. “If [another state title] happens for us, that happens for us, but right now we’re going to take it one game at a time,” he said.
On Friday night, the Lady Wildcats opened the 2019 Georgia High School Association (GHSA) state playoffs with a home game against the Houston County High School Lady Bears. Minutes after the game began, the Lady Wildcats were ahead 13-3. The team’s unique mix of talent and depth gives King and assistant coaches Tiffany Pippens and Cal Robinson the option of putting on a full-court trap-style defense. (This season, the Lady Wildcats have kept nine opponents from scoring more than 24 points during a game.) Bryant made the most of the turnovers, a frenetic style produced by scoring seven consecutive second quarter points, and scored 19 points total during a late second quarter run. Boyd also scored majority of her 18 points during that span, making two three-pointers in the process. The home team would be ahead 40-3 at halftime and 51-11 after three quarters. Both Boyd and Bryant, along with the rest of the starters, sat out the fourth quarter.
Following the 62-15 victory, King and his co-captains were clear about the challenges ahead. “It’s just one step towards our goal,” King said.
“This is just us getting prepared for the next round and taking it game by game,” Boyd agreed. “This is just a different stage, and we like the big moments.”
Their next stage: Hosting Grovetown High School in the second round of the GHSA state playoffs on February 20. The Lady Wildcats are undefeated at home this season.