Greenforest makes statement with state title sweep

Greenforest-McCalep Christian Academy’s boys’ and girls’ basketball teams won Georgia High School Association (GHSA) state title games by double figures on March 6 in Macon.

The Greenforest Lady Eagles defeated Montgomery County 39-28 at Macon Centreplex to open the sweep; the boys’ team bested Manchester 68-39 on the same court afterward. The wins completed 27-win seasons for both teams, with the boys’ team finishing on a 21-game winning streak and the girls’ team winning its last 15 games.

“This means everything to our program,” said boys’ head coach Rory Griffin. “We’re so humble to get back to Macon. We don’t always expect to be here at the beginning of the season.”

Griffin added that the dominant playoff runs for both teams show that Greenforest has created a system that will keep its teams in contention for state titles and big wins.

“This is the year that we want the program to receive the notoriety for the culture we’ve built and the system we have for developing and training. I want people to see that we’re onto something; this school knows how to win and get kids into college,” said Griffin.

Greenforest’s girls’ team dominated the paint against Montgomery County, making 26 two-point shots compared to its opponents’ 10 makes. Arek Manoon and Milica Lazarevic led the charge for Greenforest. Manoon’s play at center gave her a 10-point, 14-rebound double-double.

Lazarevic was Greenforest’s highest-scoring guard with 11 points, and Ndate Ndiaye added seven points and five assists.

Greenforest—which has increased its win total in each of the past three seasons—won all of its playoff games by double digits to reach the state title game, after also winning its region with a perfect 8-0 mark.

The win marked the first GHSA girls’ basketball state title for Greenforest—which is led by head coach Edward Culpepper and assistant coach Edward Ravenel—and preceded the boys’ team winning the school’s fifth boys’ basketball state title since 2013.

Greenforest’s boys’ team proved that the results aren’t a product of playing in a small classification by playing a non-region slate full of powerhouses from the state’s top classifications such as Kell, Pebblebrook, Meadowcreek, Grayson, Berkmar, and Milton. Greenforest also regularly competes in the southeast’s top showcase events—such as Holiday Hoopsgiving in Atlanta—where some of the best teams from across the country compete.

“We schedule a national schedule so we can get back to Macon,” said Griffin. “We do that so we can get here and get our kids into college. We want to be prepared so we can win and impress.”

Griffin—who has won two state titles at Greenforest in the past three seasons—noted that this year’s team accomplished its goals without some of the big-name recruits that he’s accustomed to coaching at Greenforest.

It was senior guards Elijah Lewis, Russ White, and Michael Robinson who led the way against Manchester. Lewis led all scorers with 18 points, White added five assists and nine rebounds to his seven points, and Robinson commanded the offense and defense and finished with eight points and two steals.

Caleb Kawela anchored the Eagles in the post with an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double.

Griffin—who has been at Greenforest for all five state titles—is now the third head coach to win a state title for the Eagles, after David Jones and Larry Thompson won three while Griffin was an assistant. He said the program’s success with different coaches speaks to the system and culture at the school.

Griffin said the school and its basketball programs require that all students have a college acceptance letter to graduate and places an emphasis on helping athletes get to the next level.

Alums such as Lamar Oden has started more than 40 college games, and Jalen Forrest averaged 11 points per game as a freshman at Presbyterian before transferring to Georgia Tech. DK Dut and Gai Chol joined college teams at Georgia State and Mississippi State this past offseason, and the list goes on with the school regularly sending multiple athletes to the college ranks every season.

Griffin said he has an uphill battle ahead of him for next season, but that underclassmen contributors from the state title team such as Orion Wilson, Ryan Kerr, Daniel Daramola, and Kevin Harper will provide talent and experience.

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