Longhorns Win Back-to-Back 5A State Titles


Winning a state championship is a difficult task. It takes dedication, determination, and focus, and for a team sport like basketball, it also takes endurance. The season begins in the fall and runs until nearly spring. It also includes many distractions like Thanksgiving, Winter Holidays and Winter Break, NFL playoffs, and college basketball games, to name but a few. It would be easy for any team to lose sight of the goal. The Kell Longhorns kept their eyes locked on the target all season and are champions for the second year in a row.

When the Kell Boys and Girls teams both won the 5A state title last year, they entered a rare category of schools to have accomplished such a feat. Now that the Boys have back-to-back titles, they have entered another elite category in Georgia high school sports. Exceptional basketball is now a tradition at Kell High School.

"This has been an awesome run," said Kell Head Coach Jermaine Sellers. "I am blessed to have a great staff starting with my top assistant Theron Cooper. I’m extremely proud of my players. They embraced our coaching and led us on the floor. To go back-to-back in the way we did, winning 27 games in a row and beating teams by an average of at least 10 points, makes it special. This has been our best group thus far here at Kell; it was truly a player-led team."

To claim their second championship in a row, the Longhorns had to beat the same team they played in the finals a year ago, Eagles Landing. In last year's game, the Longhorns entered the final quarter down by 4 points after a disastrous third quarter where they were outscored 24-10 by the Eagles. They recovered in the fourth and won by eight with a final score of 61-53. 

The memory of that third quarter still lingered with Kell coach Jermaine Sellers, and he had no interest in repeating it. In this year's game, the third quarter—and every quarter, for that matter—belonged to the Longhorns.

After a slow first half filled with defensive stands and little scoring from behind the arc, Kell took a slim halftime lead into the locker room, 26-24. The Longhorns uncharacteristically made zero three-point shots in the first 16 minutes. Outside shooting is usually just a dish away for seniors CJ Brown, Jaylen Colon, and Cannon Richards, but the Eagles executed their defensive game plan well and took those away from Kell's ringers. That would change in the third quarter.

Junior Chris McClavish got the three-point party started in the second half with a perfect air mail from behind the line, followed soon after by Colon knocking down one of his own. But it was junior Connor Staphylaris's triple from the left corner before the end of the quarter that lit the fuse, giving the Longhorns a comfortable 45-37 lead heading into the final quarter. 

With the confidence gained from his first long ball, Staphylaris positioned himself at the left corner twice more and drained back-to-back 3-point shots in the fourth to extend the Longhorn lead to 13. These three shots came at just the right time to put the game out of reach for Eagles Landing. The Longhorns won the rematch, 62-51, and claimed their second 5A trophy in as many seasons. 

The three Longhorn seniors combined for 43 total points: Brown 21, Colon 14, and Richards 8. The trio also snagged 25 rebounds: Richards 10, Brown 9, and Colon 6.

"While this is the second championship in a row, these opportunities are rare, and for our teams to excel, it takes a special community to lift them up and allow them to be their best and taste sweet victory," wrote Kell Athletic Director Jeff Burch after the win. "Congratulations to Coach Sellers, Coach Marcusky, Coach Cooper, and Coach Watts! Winning a championship requires hard work, dedication, and talent, but it also requires strong leadership, and these guys are some of the best in the business!"

"I give glory to God for blessing us and giving us this opportunity. Also many thanks to our great community, administration staff, and supporters," Coach Sellers said after winning his second title in a row.


(Image credit: GHSA)