The Georgia 5A championship game was already out of hand, and so with the Forest Park defense running back in transition, Woodward Academy star Sydney Bowles made a decision.
“It’s showtime,” she said to herself.
Bowles passed the ball behind her back to the trailing MacKenzie Moring, who finished the layup to the delight of the War Eagles’ fans in attendance at the Macon Centreplex last Thursday. Bowles looked at the crowd, and then the Woodward bench, and shook her head. It was all too easy for the University of Georgia commit, who scored 19 points and recorded seven rebounds and six assists in the War Eagles’ 72-44 victory.
Bowles’ performance helped Woodward (College Park, Ga.) claim its second straight state title and earned her JWS Player of the Week honors.
“That was our goal from the beginning of the year,” she said.
Sydney Bowles gets buckets, drops dimes and makes it look easy 😤😤 🎥: @egbhoops pic.twitter.com/wAXYOVULPc— Ballislife Womens Basketball (@ballislifewbb_) July 16, 2021
Sydney Bowles gets buckets, drops dimes and makes it look easy 😤😤 🎥: @egbhoops pic.twitter.com/wAXYOVULPc
From the first practice of the season, War Eagles coach Kim Lawrence preached a guiding maxim. “This is another day on our road to Macon,” she’d say, referencing the site of the championship game.
The message stuck. Woodward romped through the regular season, recording just two losses, including a 74-70 defeat to Lake Highland (Fla.) on Jan. 8. The War Eagles could have a chance for revenge, as both programs earned bids to the State Champions Invitational.
When she reached the state title game, Bowles, a four-star recruit per ESPN, said she felt not nervous but calm. The lights had been brighter last season, she said, and besides, she was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for the trajectory of her high school career.
Since her freshman season, she had taken it upon herself to become a leader. It was then, Bowles said, that Lawrence challenged her to be a more effective communicator. She recalled one day in practice when she became frustrated by teammates who kept missing layups and started barking at them. Lawrence told her all players respond differently to criticism.
“Some people you can really get on,” Bowles said. “Some people you need to really lift up while saying other things. You should say one encouraging thing, but also, ‘Make sure you’re working on this, too.’”
The plan worked, and that was never more clear than in the title game. The War Eagles led just 18-17 with 5:06 left in the first half, but then Bowles knocked down a 3-pointer to ignite a 20-point run to end the half.
The stretch turned the final two quarters into a formality, and gave Bowles the space to put on a show.
Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.