The McEachern Lady Indians (29-2) capped their 2013-14 season winning their second state championship in three seasons with a 81-62 victory over the Archer (GA) Tigers in Georgia’s 6A girls title game. The Lady Indians were 23-0 against Georgia teams, went wire-to-wire as the No.1 team in state polls and defeated six teams either in the regular season or playoffs that were in the final top 10 of the state polls. McEachern won their first title in 2012 with a perfect 33-0 record and finished No.2 in the final national polls.
Nationally, McEachern began the season ranked No. 20 in the preseason briefly falling out after back-to-back losses in late November. They posted a 5-2 record against national opponents and have been ranked as high at No. 14 this season. They currently are No.15 in both major polls (Max Preps and USA Today).
“We set up a national schedule. We went and played everybody we could play from Tennessee to Florida to New York. We’ve been everywhere trying to play the best teams in the nation to get us to this point (winning the state championship),” head coach Phyllis Arthur said after winning the state championship.
Are the Lady Indians worthy of another Top 10 finish when the final polls come out?
McEachern’s first lost came to Blackman (TN) 74-67. Blackman (34-1) is currently ranked No.1 nationally, won the Tennessee Division-I 3A championship and look to be in prime position to lock up the national championship. Blackman suffered their only loss to Incarnate Word Academy (MO) (27-1)-ranked No.2 nationally. Blackman revenged that loss by beating Incarnate Word Academy three weeks later.
Marian Cathloic (IL) defeated McEachern the next night as one of two teams to hold the Indians under 50 points in a 47-29 victory. Marian Catholic is unranked and lost in the Illinois 4A semifinals to eventual champion Whitney Young. Whitney Young (32-3) is currently ranked as high as No.10 nationally.
McEachern defeated Florida champions Ribault (FL) and Edgewater (FL). Ribault (29-5) won class 6A, Edgewater (26-6) won class 4A and both are unranked.
The Lady Indians swept two games in the Rose Classic Super Jam in Brooklyn, NY defeating Nazareth (NY) and Capitol Christian Academy (MD). Nazareth (21-7) finished as the New York State Catholic School runner-up losing to St. Anthony (NY) (25-5) in the finals. Capitol Christian Academy (25-7) finished third in the NACA (National Association of Christian Athletes) Nationals.
Their final national game was against Hoover (AL) in a game played at Wesleyan High School in Norcross, GA. The Indians used a 23-1 run in the first half on their way to the 75-53 victory. Hoover lost in the 2nd round of the Alabama 6A playoffs to Sparkman (AL). Sparkman lost to Blackman (TN) twice during the regular season and were the Alabama 6A runner-up losing to Shades Valley (AL). Shades Valley defeated Archer (29-4) during the regular season.
The drawback for the Lady Indians is none of their national wins were against nationally-ranked opponents. Despite the national schedule the Lady Indians were 0-1 against nationally-ranked teams. Southwest Dekalb (GA) was the only other Georgia team to make it into the national polls. Southwest Dekalb (GA) was ranked No. 23 (by Max Preps) the week they lost the Georgia 5A championship game to Tucker.
McEachern finished the season on 26-game winning streak and were led by a pair of juniors ranked in the top 15 in the 2015 recruiting class by ESPN’s HoopGurlz in T’ea Cooper and Caliya Robinson. Cooper (verbal to North Carolina) averaged 19.6 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 steals this season. Caliya Robinson averaged 13.0 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 3.3 steals, 6.6 blocks recording four triple-doubles this season (all with blocks). Senior Taylor Gordon (Wake Forest signee) averaged 12.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals and sophomore Jada Lewis averaged 9.6 points, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals.
History is mainly unimportant when it comes to national rankings for the current season yet the Lady Indians did accomplish some historic feats this season within Georgia. They became one of only two girls teams to score 100 points or more in a state playoff game since the inception of the girls tournament in the mid 1940’s scoring 104 against Rockdale County. Early County (GA) scored 101 on the same day and were eliminated in the next round of the 2A state playoffs after being held to 39 points. McEachern also became the first girls program from Cobb County (GA) to win multiple state championships.
For the season McEachern averaged 71.6 points, scored 70 points or more 19 times (including 100 or more twice) and won five state playoff games by an average of 32.4 points.
The season did not come without talk swirling around the program of recruiting and undue influence.
“In spite of all the negative things said about us we still won it, they motivated us,” Arthur said.
It may be a stretch for the Lady Indians to finish in the Top 10 yet as far as the Lady Indians are concerned they did their part, they played all comers and won their state. With a chuck of the team returning next season it’s safe to say McEachern will be in the national rankings to begin next season and depending on how they set up their schedule could contend for a top 10 finish and possible national championship.