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Janiah McKay hopes to lead GHS to Lakeland

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‘Canes face Pensacola tonight at home in the 6A regional quarterfinals

Britnee McCoyBy Britnee McCoy

Prayer and Promise.

Those are the two things that keep Gainesville High School’s Janiah McKay focused both on and off the court. McKay is a senior and has already signed to go play college basketball in the SEC at Auburn.

She began playing basketball at the young age of four. She said she used to run outside and jump in the middle of her brothers playing the sport and they would tell her to get out of the way because they didn’t think she was serious about playing.

But when she reached 5th grade, she knew that she was serious about the game and wanted to play.

“Coach Katina Williams found me and took me to the Gainesville Warriors to play AAU,” said McKay. “From then on I continued to play AAU and I really appreciated the opportunities that it gave me. It allowed me to play on the big stage and it landed me a full-scholarship to the school of my dream (Auburn).”

Aside from Coach Williams, McKay gives the credit for her successes to God and her mother. Before each game she and her mother get together and pray so that she won’t get injured, that she’ll stay focused, and that she’ll make the right decisions in the game.

Her mother is also the reason she has continued to wear the number 33 and hopes to continue wearing it throughout college.A to Z feature photo of Gainesville High girls basketball player Janiah McKay

“When I first got the number 33 I thought that it was too high of a number for a guard and that I needed something lower,” she said. “But after speaking with my mom, she looked up what the number meant and we found out that the number 33 means promise. The number instantly became a part of me and I see myself as a player with a promising future.”

Tonight, GHS (18-7) begins its quest for its first trip to the state tournament in Lakeland since 1987 with a home game against Pensacola in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.  It will feature of match-up of the top 10 teams in 6A.

McKay and the 6th-ranked Purple Hurricanes will face a 4th-ranked Lady Tigers’ team that they are very familiar with. Last year in the regional quarterfinals, the Lady ‘Canes defeated them, 70-61, at the Purple Palace.

With a win, they will likely face top-ranked and unbeaten Pine Forest (Pensacola), which hosts Oakleaf (Orange Park). However, with a loss, their season would be over.

“We’re really hungry to make it to Lakeland and if we continue to be aggressive and play composed, we’ll get there” said McKay.

Tonight’s tip is set for 7 p.m.

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