The Sprayberry Yellow Jackets hosted the Forest Park Panthers in a second-round 6A playoff game on Thursday, February 20, 2020. The Yellow Jacket girls knew they were in for a fight going against a Panther team ranked 8th in the state. Yellow Jacket fans piled into the Sprayberry gym to show their support despite the wet and wintry conditions outside.
Sprayberry Head Coach Kelly Avery has done a phenomenal job with the team. In just two seasons, she has redirected a program that was 2-23 when she took over. The current team is 19-10 and 12-4 in regional play. They won the 6-6A Region Championship earlier in the month, as well as Coach Avery winning Co-Coach of the Year honors. The Yellow Jackets are ranked 7th in 6A and 96th in the state.
Unfortunately the team’s pursuit of a state title came to an end Thursday evening. The Yellow Jackets fought hard against the Panthers, even capturing the lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Panther scoring machine outlasted the Yellow Jacket advance.
“I told them how proud I was of them,” Coach Avery said. “They competed hard for four quarters against a very good team. We had a chance to win, but just couldn’t finish.” The Yellow Jackets posted 55 points despite a swarming Panther defense that excelled in stealing the ball and guarding the lanes. “Our effort was great,” Coach Avery said. “The effort defensively by Stormie Brown and offensively by Flau’Jae Johnson was all I could ask of them.”
This Sprayberry team has nothing but open road in front of them. The team is made up almost entirely of underclass players; there are only two seniors on this year’s roster. “We now have some experience at the state level and we will be defending the region crown,” Coach Avery said. “We are going to make that our platform for next year. We will have some confidence going into next season. We are going to work hard in the offseason to prepare us for our goals next year.”
Coach Avery recognizes that she didn’t do it all herself. She is quick to give thanks to the entire support team that exists at Sprayberry. “I would like to thank everyone at Sprayberry for supporting us this year: from administrators, to teachers, to coaches, to our students. It was an amazing atmosphere in that gym Thursday night. I am so proud and honored to represent this school. This is what high school sports should be about: bringing everyone together to cheer on their team. It was amazing!”
Well said, Coach. We look forward to next season and what the Sprayberry girls have in store for Georgia high school basketball. Congratulations on a great season!