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Chip Saye

Region 4-AAAAAA girls championship: McEachern 72, Hillgrove 60

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The McEachern girls basketball has dominated the series with Powder Springs rival Hillgrove over the past three seasons, winning seven of nine games – most in lopsided fashion – heading into the Region 4-AAAAAA championship game at McEachern.

The result turned out about the same way on Wednesday, but this time the Hawks put up a much better fight.

Caliya Robinson scored 10 of her game-high 22 points in the third quarter as McEachern (24-2) gradually pulled away for a 72-60 victory to capture their second region title in three seasons. The Indians also won the region in 2012, when they went on to win the state championship with a perfect record, beating Hillgrove four times along the way.

McEachern, the top seed in the tournament, won the two earlier meetings this season by 37 and 26 points, but there would be no rout this time. Fourth-ranked and second-seeded Hillgrove (23-4) jumped out to an early lead behind the hot shooting of freshman Ja’lyn Reese, who made three 3-pointers in the first quarter. Hillgrove’s lead was 22-13 at the end of the first quarter and reached 11 points early in the second.

But McEachern stayed close despite playing much of the second quarter without leading scorers Te’a Cooper and Taylor Gordon, who picked up their third fouls. The Indians fought their way back into the game and took their first lead at 32-31 on two free throws by KlinTisha Martin with 1:47 to play in the half before settling for a 34-34 tie at halftime.

Robinson took over from there, hitting two key 3-pointers in the third quarter as the Indians outscored Hillgrove 27-16 to take an 11-point lead into the fourth. Hillgrove stayed within 10 points until Jada Lewis’ 3-pointer made it 64-52 with 5:50 to play in the game.

Cooper finished with 18 points and Lewis had 14 for McEachern. Reese scored 18 points and Tene Thompson had 14 for Hillgrove. Hillgrove’s Mackenzie Engram, who received the region’s Player of the Year award after the game, finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

McEachern will open the state playoffs this weekend at home against Rockdale County, while Hillgrove will host Alcovy.

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