Georgiana Panthers secure state championship

Published 1:24 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2024

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The Georgiana Panthers clinched a historic victory in the Class 1A State Basketball Championship, defeating the two-time defending state champions, Covenant Christian, in a nail-biting 55-44 overtime triumph at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham on Feb. 29.

Kirk Norris, who has coached the team for 17 years, expressed his pride and admiration for his players’ performance.

“We’ve never had a state champion team in Georgiana. So, for the community, the city, the school…this is just a huge deal,” Norris said. “We’ve been in the Final Four six times…this was our time.”

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The Panthers faced an uphill battle in the first half, falling behind by as much as 14 points against the formidable Covenant squad. Covenant’s Trey Kellogg and Jalen Chandler dominated the inside game, but both players, along with teammates Isaiah Patrick and Tucker McWilliams, fouled out during the intense match.

Georgiana also suffered losses, with key players Kaveon Miles and Nasir Cheatham fouling out, leaving junior Jacobie Morgan as the primary playmaker in the critical moments of the game.

Trailing 40-35 late in the game, Morgan showcased his talent and determination, scoring the Panthers’ final seven points in regulation. His free throw with just four seconds remaining tied the game, forcing it into overtime.

“We just kept playing hard. We kept fighting through the ups and downs and we made sure we stayed together as a team till the end,” Morgan said. 

Despite the absence of two key teammates, Morgan rose to the occasion, scoring a total of 20 points and leading Georgiana to a commanding 13-2 overtime victory over Covenant Christian, securing the Class 1A state basketball championship.

Georgiana Principal Deedra Benson shared Norris’s sentiments, emphasizing the work the boys put in to finally achieving victory. 

“The reality is, they put in the hard work, dedication and time and it paid off,” Benson said. “I’m very excited for each one of them.”

Reflecting on the team’s success, Norris highlighted the balance and unity of the Panthers.

“This is probably one of the most balanced teams I’ve ever had,” Norris said. “If somebody is having a rough day, there’s somebody else that can step up.”

Nasir Cheatham, another key player for Georgiana, expressed his elation at the win, emphasizing the team’s determination to claim the title.

“This feels amazing because we’ve never won before,” Cheatham said. “It seems like we always go to the Final Four and end up with a loss.”

The Georgiana Panthers’ victory not only secured a long-awaited state championship but also marked a historic moment for the school and the community, showcasing the team’s talent, resilience, and unwavering dedication.