Published March 9, 2017
ATLANTA—After leading the Holy Spirit Preparatory School basketball team to the elite eight of the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) state tournament in his first season in 2016, Coach Greg McClaire and his team returned to the tournament and won the championship with a 63-44 victory over The Heritage School of Newnan.
It was the fourth meeting between the two teams this season. Each school won one game apiece when they met during the regular season games in January. Then they met a third time in the Feb. 17 region championship, where number one seed Holy Spirit Prep defeated number two seed Heritage 53-48, which made Holy Spirit Prep back-to-back region champions.
In the championship game, Holy Spirit Prep held a three-point lead of 18-15 at the end of the first half, which indicates the defensive battle at the start. Holy Spirit extended their lead to 36-22 at the end of the third period. Heritage scored 22 points in the final period, but the team could never overcome its deficit.
Holy Spirit Prep forward Kamani Johnson had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He also had four assists, two steals and two blocks. Michaiah Jeremiah, selected as an all-state honorable mention, added 12 points and senior Jerique Walker scored nine points. Center George Maslennikov pulled down 16 rebounds.
For McClaire, GISA coach of the year, winning the Atlanta school’s first state basketball title was a special moment for a number of reasons, but particularly because of the close bond he has with some of his players, including point guard Walker.
“Our family ties go back a long way,” said McClaire, speaking of Walker. “I held him the day he was born nearly 18 years ago.” The coach is like a godfather to Walker. Before high school Walker attended McClaire’s basketball camps when he was the head coach at Atlanta’s Marist School.
“I always wanted to play for Coach McClaire if the opportunity presented itself,” said Walker. “It was a blessing to play under him, and my senior year was a special run. To win it all felt like destiny.”