Milton, Pace Acadmy and Westlake To Represent Georgia In Geico Nationals
Although the high school basketball season has officially come to an end with the completion of the state championship games this past weekend, the show will go on for three Atlanta metro area teams. The Westlake Lions’ girls, who captured their fourth consecutive state championship, the Pace Academy Knights boys, who are coming off back to back state title wins, and the Milton Eagles boys, who won their first state title since 2010, will all be representing Georgia in the 2021 GEICO Nationals which will begin at the end of this month in Fort Myers, Florida.
On top of capturing state titles this season, all three teams had remarkable championship seasons. After dropping two of their first four games, Milton won 26 consecutive games, including wins over 2020 runner up Grayson and eventual 2021 GHSA 6A champs, Wheeler, to cap the season with the GHSA boys 7A title. Westlake not only ended their season with a perfect record to claim the GHSA 6A championship, the season also came to an end with the Lady Lions winning over 100 consecutive games versus Georgia opponents. Pace Academy opened their season with a loss to 2021 Class 3A runner up, Sandy Creek and never looked back as they would win 28 straight to claim the GHSA 2A championship marking back to back title wins for the Knights.
For the Lady Lions of Westlake, this marks the second time in three years they have been invited to the Nationals. In a note from Westlake head coach, Hilda Hankerson, she stated that the team is "very excited to be given another GEICO invitions." Hankerson added that it was an honor for them to receive another invitation in the midst of their 4-peat state championship run "means that our hard work didn't go unnoticed. We are truly blessed." The Lions last appeared in the Nationals following their 2018 GHSA 7A state title win, the first of their 4-peat.
Speaking with Pace Academy head coach, Sharman White, who now has nine state title wins, said he told his players following the season opening loss that “all was not loss” as recalled the team having conversations about wanting to play in the GEICO Nationals. “We didn’t realize we would run off 28 straight, but they did and that’s just a testament to how they were able to respond and do what they need to do for us to be in the position to win those games. And not only win those games, but get this national bid, which is awesome,” White said.
While it may be the first trip to the National tournament for the Knights’ players, for White, this marks his second trip. In 2016, White led the Miller Grove Wolverines to the GHSA 5A state title, their seventh in eight years, as they earned a bid to the Nationals that year.