The matchups for the Class AAAAA finals are set. Cedar Shoals and Buford will meet in the boys final on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Stegman Coliseum in Athens. Southwest DeKalb and Buford will play in the girls final on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Stegman Coliseum in Athens.
Boys: Cedar Shoals 59, Miller Grove 38
Cedar Shoals dethroned defending champion Miller Grove and did it in a resounding way.
The Jaguars were making their third straight trip to the Final Four and finally got over the hump. Cedar Shoals eliminated Miller Grove 59-38, stopping a program that had won seven state titles over the previous eight years.
“They have a great program and they’ve done a lot of great things,” Cedar Shoals coach L’Dreco Thomas said. “We’ve seen that through the years and it made us hungrier and hungrier. It really didn’t matter the opponent today. They understood we’ve done this three times and if we didn’t get it done this time, it’s hard to get here and there’s no guarantee you’ll get back. You have to seize the moment and that’s what we did.”
No. 2 Cedar Shoals (27-4) was led by senior Phlandrous Fleming, who scored 25 points and led a determined defense that limited Miller Grove to 12 points in the first half. The Jaguars also got 15 points from Stavion Stevenson.
No. 4 Miller Grove (21-9) was led by George Wilson and Maurice Harvey with nine points each.
Miller Grove had a 7-5 lead after Wilson made a 3-pointer. From that point the game belonged to Cedar Shoals.
“They did exactly what we asked them to do offensively and defensive and that’s what won the game,” Thomas said. “They see what can happen when you listen and do what to do. They were very calm, very focused. They weren’t rattled. The understood what needed to be done and they played that way.”
The Jaguars went on a 15-0 run, which included a 3-pointer and a three-point play from Fleming. Arthur Jones nailed another trey to make it 20-7 and the unexpected rout was on.
“Defensively we threw a lot on them and kind of rattled them a little big,” Thomas. “It kind of made them think. The big thing we got rebounds. We rebounded well and it let to some buckets.”
Cedar Shoals aggressively drove the ball to the basket and began drawing fouls by the bushels. Of their 15 points scored in the second quarter, seven came at the line.
The Jags came out in the second half and pressed their advantage with back-to-back buckets by Stevenson. The lead maxed out at 26 points late in the third quarter when Quenjarvis Hall made a 3-pointer to make it 42-16.
Boys: Buford 83, Fayette County 60
No. 1-ranked Buford got off to a fast start and rolled to an 83-60 win over No. 6 Fayette County in the other semifinal game.
The Wolves (28-2) put the game away with a 13-4 run in the third period, going ahead by 13 after Donell Nixon’s steal and layup made it 58-45. Buford continued to build the lead, which hit 20 points on Marcus Watson’s basket with 3:52 left in the game.
“It’s been important for us to get out of the blocks quick,” Martin said. “But it’s a 32-minute game and you’ve got to play all 32 minutes. They almost came back and took the lead even though we got out of the blocks quick.”
Watson scored 24 points and Alex Jones added 23 for the Wolves. David Viti scored 16.
Fayette County (23-8) was led by Austin Nesmith with 19 and Furman-signee Noah Gurley with 13.
Buford got off to a quick start, taking a 21-7 lead midway in the first period, but could not shake the Tigers. Fayette County closed the margin to 33-31 in the second quarter on a 3-pointer by Josh Dupree, only to have the Wolves respond minutes later with a 7-0 run that included consecutive treys by Jones and Watson. Buford led 42-35 at halftime.
Girls: Southwest DeKalb 66, Flowery Branch 63
Southwest DeKalb’s erased a six-point second-half deficit and used its prowess at the free throw line for a chance to defend its state title.
The No. 3-ranked Panthers made 9 of 12 free throws to break a 57-57 tie and beat No. 6 Flowery Branch 66-63 in the earned a chance to defend its state championship with a 66-63 win over Flowery Branch on Saturday.
SWD will be going for its sixth state championship in the last nine seasons.
The Panthers (27-4) were led by senior Jada Walton, who scored 23 points, Ruona Uwusiaba with 13 points and Chantz Cherry with 10. But key contributions were made by reserves Kennedy Mormon (six points) and Desiray Coulter (four points).
“(Flowery Branch coach Courtney Newton-Gonzalez) had her players ready to play,” SWD coach Kathy Walton said. “They came out and executed. Our kids have been here before and they looked like deer in a headlight. The second half they settled down and got with the game plan.
Flowery Branch (24-7) had a 35-31 lead at halftime, largely because of Worth. She was able to drive the ball effectively to the basket, twice converting a three-point play, and scored 17. Worth finished with 33 points and Julianne Sutton scored 10.
Southwest DeKalb was able to get little going on offense, other than Walton. She scored 17points, including the last eight the Panthers scored in the first half. That enabled the Panthers to trim the Flowery Branch lead, which reached nine points when Worth scored to make it 32-23.
“I’m happy for our kids,” Walton said. “They’ve really worked hard. We’ve got a good group of kids and the community is really supportive.”
“You have to get here to get the experience,” Newton-Gonzalez said. “We did that. I thought we played well for the most part. The girls are heartbroken right now, which is understandable. The seniors set a new standard for the program making history and I feel this could be the start of big things. Who knows, maybe in 10 years it’s us who has been eight times. That’s what we’re trying to build here.”
Girls: Buford 88, Griffin 50
No. 2-ranked Buford overwhelmed Griffin with its pressure and rolled to an 88-50 win over the No. 1-ranked Bears.
The Wolves (28-2) led 39-27 at halftime and put the game away with a 15-2 run to open the third quarter.
“Where we really put the game away was the beginning of the third quarter,” Buford coach Gene Durden said. “We always talk about fast start in the first quarter and the third quarter and make sure finish game in fourth quarter. The third quarter really broke their backs and put us is a good situation to win.
Buford had 11 players score points, led by Div. I prospect Tori Ozment with 14. Pamela Johnson added 11 points and Jessica Nelson scored 10.
Griffin (28-2) got 16 points from Cincinnati signee Andeija Puckett and 15 points from Daisya Reed.
“I think our press really hurt them,” Durden said. “I don’t think they every got used to full-court pressure and we did a great job turning them over and getting easy transition buckets.”