There was no such thing as a sophomore slump for West Hall’s Anna McKendree. The 5-foot-8 shooting guard completely went the opposite way and achieved second-year success.
McKendree, The Times’ 2015-16 Girls All-Area Player of the Year, pulled off three things no other Lady Spartan has ever done: she scored a lofty 678 points in a season, finished with 40 points in a game and hit 89 3-pointers in 2015-16.
Her 678 points broke the previous school record by 209.
The school record for points in a game was 30, which McKendree broke in the first round of the state playoffs against Adairsville.
Her 3-point mark eclipsed the previous standing record by 20.
“For her sophomore season, I’d say it was really tremendous,” West Hall coach Bryan Richerson said. “And for a sophomore who can do those things and be up at the top of our list in rebounds. For a sophomore to do that, it’s pretty special.”
West Hall’s final seven games included back-to-back games against East Hall and Dawson County, both of which were ranked in the top 10 for Class AAA teams at the time, to close out the regular season.
The Lady Spartans (21-9) would win all seven by an average margin of 16.9 points. In the final two, West Hall and East Hall went to double overtime in a 65-62 win for the Lady Spartans. Against Dawson County, West Hall won 69-57 on senior night.
McKendree scored 27 against the Lady Vikings and 29 against the Lady Tigers. She also grabbed 11 rebounds both nights for back-to-back double-doubles. The two wins pushed the team’s winning streak to seven in region play to round out the regular season.
Then the region tournament came.
The hot-handed sophomore went for 22 points against Fannin County to open the Region 7-AAA tournament. The next night, against East Hall, she had 23. In the championship game against Dawson County, she scored 33.
Behind McKendree, the Lady Spartans won their first region title since 2002, and were destined for the state playoffs for the first time since 2005.
In the opening game, she went for a school-record 40 points in a 25-point win against Adairsville for a trip to the second round for the first time since 2001.
As Round 2 came, she scored 32 in a 60-48 win against Washington County to send West Hall to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1999.
“We just had to keep pushing and pushing because I didn’t want the season to end,” McKendree said.
In the third round of the postseason, the Lady Spartans played Maynard Jackson, which had already defeated West Hall in Oakwood earlier in the season.
West Hall was down 23-8 after the first quarter and by as many as 20 in the contest. McKendree ended up with another 32-point performance in the season-ending loss, but her most notable basket came early in the second quarter to put her over 1,000 career points.
“It was special. It was really special. It’s going to be special to anybody who hits 1,000 points,” McKendree said. “I just knew that I couldn’t focus on it too much because it would throw me off my game.”
McKendree said she wasn’t focused on hitting the mark, but knew she was close going into the contest. After she hit it, some of her family had cutouts of the number and jumped up to cheer. It was at that point McKendree realized she’d done it.
“I felt like a sigh of relief because I finally got past it and knew I had to keep going,” she said.
Richerson, who scored over 2,300 points as a player in high school, keeps telling McKendree not to break his records.
“He tells me all the time not to worry about records,” she said. “Worrying about records distracts you from the game.
“He told me not to break his records for how many points he scored in high school,” McKendree continued. “He wants me to break his records, but he doesn’t want to admit it because he doesn’t want to get beat by a girl.”
Richerson said he can’t think of anyone to compare McKendree to. “Anna is Anna, and she has a lot to offer us.”
Regardless of any comparisons he could make about his shooting guard, one thing is for certain – he’s never seen or coached anyone who can score the way she does.
“I’ve been doing this 13 years or so with boys and girls and I’ve never seen anybody that can score like that,” Richerson said. “She can score in bunches and she can score quick. It’s amazing she was only a sophomore. That’s exciting to see.”
With a dream of one day playing at the University of Alabama, McKendree knows she can’t be complacent with her sophomore year.
“I know that I can’t let my sophomore year override my junior or senior year,” she said. “I have to keep working harder and training harder. I don’t necessarily need to forget my sophomore year, but build on it and keep playing.”