The matchups for the Class AAAAAA finals are set. Harrison will take on Mays in the girls final, Thursday at 6 p.m., at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, while Brunswick will face Langston Hughes in the boys final at 8 p.m.
Girls Game 2: Mays 50, Lovejoy 42
After a comeback/collapse reminiscent of the Patriots and Falcons in the Super Bowl, Mays senior Kamiyah Street stared down the Lovejoy stands and pointed to the letters on her chest: Mays.
“They were talking about cutting down the nets,” Street said. “I wanted to let them know that we’re here.”
Street’s fellow senior, Sierra Lovings, put it more bluntly afterward: “Put some respect on our name.”
Claiming to have been overlooked all season, the Raiders – led by Street – roared back from a 16-point deficit midway through the third quarter and claimed a 50-42 win over Lovejoy in the second Class AAAAA semifinal at Fort Valley State University. Mays will take on Harrison in the finals, Thursday at 6 p.m., at Stegeman Coliseum on the UGA campus in Athens.
It will be Mays’ second trip to the state finals in the last three seasons, as the Raiders lost in the 2015 Class AAAAA championship game to Stephenson, 65-56. Mays head coach Chantay Frost, in her fourth season at the southwest Atlanta school, said her team – led by a core group of four seniors: Street, Lovings, Kendall Pack and Brandi Heard – called on that experience as well as a tough early season schedule to claw its way back into the game.
“We went out to California and Tennessee and faced some tough competition,” Frost said. “We got beat up a little bit, but it helped us. I think it showed tonight.”
Indeed, the young but talented Wildcats took it to Mays for the better part of three quarters and led 24-17 at halftime. Lovejoy came out smoking in the second half, going on a 10-1 run to build a 34-18 lead with a little over five minutes left to play in the period.
That’s when Street and her fellow seniors heeded Frost’s message to them at halftime.
“I told them, this is it. They’ve done some great things in their careers. Kamiyah has about 2,900 points. But I told them did they want to be great, or did they want to be legendary.”
Street chose the ladder. Starting with a driving layup, Street went on a personal 16-0 run while Lovings, Pack, Heard and sophomores Jade Bell, Kyra McWhorter and Natoria Hill took over the floor on defense. During the run over the last four minutes of the third quarter, Lovejoy turned the ball over four times as Mays went to a half-court trap.
Wildcat head coach Cedric King thinks his team’s youth – five freshman and a sophomore play significant minutes – took its toll.
“I think it got to them a little bit tonight,” said King. “I didn’t want to call timeout [during the run] because we were getting in foul trouble and I thought we would need our timeouts later. But we’re playing with house money. We’re such a young team and we had a great season.”
With the game tied at 34-34 to start the fourth quarter, Mays took at 38-34 lead after buckets by Hill and Street, and the Raiders never looked back. Mays outscored Lovejoy 16-8 in the final period.
“We didn’t want our season to be over,” Heard said. “We knew we had to turn it on.”
Boys Game 2: Langston Hughes 59, Allatoona 57
It wasn’t pretty, especially at the end, but Langston Hughes was more than happy to leave Fort Valley knowing that it will play in its first state final in school history.
The Panthers won a game of big runs, saving theirs for late in the third quarter, and hung on to nip Allatoona, 59-57. Langston Hughes (24-8) will take on Brunswick (24-8) in the Class AAAAAA final, Thursday at 8 p.m., at Stegeman Coliseum on the campus of UGA in Athens.
Langston Hughes was bolstered by the big-time play of junior guard Landers Nolley, who led all scorers with 34 points, including hitting seven-of-nine from behind the arc. But it was his clutch free throws with just five seconds left in regulation that provided the margin of victory for the Panthers.
Langston Hughes has opportunities to salt the game away from the free throw line much earlier, but in the game’s final four minutes players other than Nolley combined to go one-of-six from the line.
“Our plan is to try to get the ball in the hands of the guy who’s been in the best rhythm from the free throw line,” Panther head coach Rory Welch said. “But sometimes you just have to get it to the man that’s open. It got kind of crazy there, but we were able to pull it out. I’m proud of this team.”
Langston Hughes held a 38-32 lead early in the third quarter, but Allatoona went on a 13-2 run to take a 45-40 lead after a bucket by junior guard Trey Doomes, who finished with a team-high 31 points. But the Panthers countered with an 11-0 spurt to close the period, and Nolley added a triple on the opening possession of the fourth quarter to give Langston Hughes its largest lead of the game, 54-45.
“He’s the one. He’s the man,” Welch said. “Early on, we didn’t follow our game plan against their 3-2 matchup zone and we were rushing, taking the first shot available. We finally started to slow down and be patient and we got some better looks.”
Allatoona wouldn’t go away and a three-point play by Doomes with 44 seconds left trimmed the Panther lead to 57-56. After a missed free throw by Langston Hughes, Doomes was called for a charge on the Buccaneers’ next possession.
Nolley nailed his two free throws at the other end to make it 59-56. The Panthers then fouled Doomes in the back court, sending him to the line with just one-point-nine seconds left. Doomes hit the first free throw to make it 59-57, but his attempt to intentionally miss the second did not hit the rim.
Langston Hughes senior Ahmid Bryant was fouled grabbing the rebound and went to the other end to shoot two free throws. He missed the first and the Panthers were whistled for entering the lane too early as he missed the second, and Allatoona still had life. The Buccaneers inbounded the ball and Doomes fired a deep three-pointer that was off the mark at the buzzer.
“This is just unbelievable,” Welch said, looking at the crowd of supporters who made the trip south from Fairburn. “Everybody has just bought in, the players, the parents, the teachers, the administrators, the custodians. Everybody is supporting us. It’s incredible.”
Boys Game 1: Brunswick 67, South Cobb 61
Brunswick used its four-guard offense to perfection against South Cobb. Literally.
Junior Marcus Scott was a perfect 14-of-14 from the free throw line, including four-for-four in the final 30 seconds, and senior Dereck Lampkin was able to get to the rim almost at will as the Pirates held off South Cobb, 67-61, in the first Class AAAAAA boys semifinal at Fort Valley State University.
Brunswick led throughout most of the game, but never by more than seven points as South Cobb’s tight defensive pressure kept the contest close. With the game tied at 36-36 late in the third quarter, after a follow-up dunk by South Cobb senior Ralueke Orizu, Brunswick closed the period on an 8-2 run and never relinquished the lead again. The spurt was punctuated by a buzzer-beating, 30-foot three-pointer by Lampkin to give the Pirates a 44-38 advantage going into the final period.
Brunswick head coach Chris Turner said his guards have been the catalyst this season. After winning the Class AAAAA championship in 2015, the Pirates missed the state playoffs last year.
While Lampkin and Scott led the way Saturday, Turner said juniors Jaylen Jackson and Daquan Humphreys – along with starting post player Kyami Dunham – have had their nights as well.
“Our guards played great tonight, and they had to. South Cobb is the best defensive team we’ve seen all season,” Turner said. “Every time we wanted to pass they were in the passing lane, so there was a lot of pressure on our guards but they were able to meet the challenge.”
South Cobb head coach Gregory Moultrie said his team as scrapped all season. Even though he only plays seven players, his team prides itself on its tight man-to-man defense.
“That’s how we’ve played all year,” Moultrie said. “We never get tired. Never wear down. Our kids keep fighting.”
The Eagles cut the lead to 63-61 with :20 seconds left after a three-pointer by senior Nick Dubois. But those were the last points South Cobb would score as Scott and Lampkin drilled four straight free throws to seal the win.
Girls Game 1: Harrison 57, Northview 39
Harrison head coach Steve Lenahan had a plan for Northview.
Even though the Titans (28-4) hadn’t lost a game to a Georgia team since late November, and hadn’t lost period since December 30, Lenahan was confident going up against a Northview squad with a front line averaging over six feet.
“I thought we could use our speed and quickness against their height,” Lenahan said. Turns out he was right.
The Hoyas (26-5) jumped out to an 18-11 lead after one quarter and never looked back, en route to a 57-39 win in one Class AAAAAA quarterfinal on the campus of Fort Valley State University. Harrison used its superior speed and shooting ability, led by senior guard Sydne Wiggins, who paced all scorers with 21 points, including nine in a decisive fourth quarter in which the Hoyas outscored Northview 21-13.
“I thought if we shot the ball well, we could make them come out of that zone and guard us, which is something they hadn’t had to do all season,” Lenahan said. “We were able to do that.”
Two big stats were glaring in the win for Harrison, the No. 2 seed from Region 6. The Hoyas knocked down six three-pointers in the game to the Titans’ two, and Harrison was 17-of-26 from the free throw line while Northview was just 3-of-10.
The Titans were led by senior Shannon Titus with 17 points, while Audrey Jordan and Jazzy Foster each added 10 for Harrison.