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Fresh off a region championship, the Josey girls’ basketball team is ready for their respect

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 11:38 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - This time last year, the Josey girls’ basketball team entered the state playoffs as the second seed in the region.

After a blowout win in the first round over Fitzgerald, the Eagles had to come from behind on the road in each of their next three games. In the championship game against Fannin County in Macon, the Eagles mounted a second-half comeback once again and won a state title.

Fast forward a year, not a whole lot has changed. Much of the championship team is back, as is head coach Jawan Bailey.

But everything is different at the same time.

Winning a championship put a target on Josey’s backs. Every game felt like the biggest of the year. Josey had a tough non-region schedule to start the season. They took on last year’s AAA champions Cross Creek in the opener. They followed that up with games against Evans, Greenbrier, Elbert County, Thomson, and Statesboro. Outside of Evans, those teams went a combined 107-20 this year.

Through six games, Josey was 3-3.

Once region play hit, Josey reminded everyone why they’re the defending AA champs. The Eagles rattled off 13 wins in 14 region games, with their only loss coming to Laney by three points. They finished it off with a region title, they’re first under Bailey.

“It felt good to just finally give him something that he had been wanting for a long time,” said senior Ky’shonna Brown.

When asked about the similarities between this year and last year, Brown said the system was similar. They didn’t change things up too much. But she said this is a more talented team top-to-bottom than the state championship team.

And their attitude is different.

“I feel like we’re a little bit more hungrier because we still don’t get the respect that we deserve,” she said.

After winning a state championship. After running the region. After winning their first region championship in years. This team still feels slighted.

Assistant coach Jamal Bailey, Jawan’s brother, said when you’ve got a team with this much talent, individual accolades are sacrificed for team success.

“They get looked over because all our points and rebounds and assists are spread out,” Jamal Bailey said. “As far as an all-state team, all-region team, you’ll see our girls are maybe second team, third team, honorable mention. You don’t see them on that first team, which is odd for a state championship team.

“We have to let them know the thing about being on a good team, you’re going to lose some of those individual awards. But those big awards like a state championship, region championship, those are the things that we can get as a team.”

Sacrificing individual success for team success. That’s what this Josey team has done so well. You’ll rarely see one player dominate the stat sheet, yet the result is often the same.

A Josey win.

It’s a family atmosphere among the Eagles, both literally and figuratively. A lot of these coaches grew up together. Three of them, Jawan and Jamal Bailey included, graduated from Josey.

That family bond has trickled down to their players. They play for each other, and it motivates them to work harder.

“If you come to our practice and see how we work, you’d be like ‘Nah I can’t do this,’” said senior Aqoyas Cody. “We just outwork everybody. Our whole work ethic is just different from everybody else’s. We deserve everything that’s coming to us.”

What’s coming to Josey is the chance to defend their title. The Eagles (21-5) welcome Jeff Davis (5-20) to the Eagles’ nest Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m.

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