Class AAAA Blog: Stage is set for Elite 8

The second round of the GHSA Basketball State Playoffs concluded Thursday night and set the stage for the quarterfinals that will take place next Tuesday and Wednesday. The boys Elite 8 will feature all of the No. 1 seeds, while just four of the girls teams that advanced to the quarterfinals are top seeds. Sandy Creek, Woodward Academy and Americus-Sumter are the only schools that will have both boys and girls playing in next week’s quarterfinals. 

The Spalding girls showed their resiliency in the Jags’ 52-38 victory over Oconee County on Thursday. Oconee County jumped out to a 16-5 lead at the end of the first quarter and led 27-20 heading into the third quarter. Spalding sparked a 15-0 run in the final four minutes of the quarter to take a 35-33 lead into the final frame. Oconee County did not stop the scoring run until it grew to 22-0 with just 3:03 left on the clock and Spalding ahead 42-34. Spalding ended up outscoring Oconee County 32-11 in the second half.

The Woodward Academy boys picked up their 10th-straight victory in Thursday night’s 70-39 victory over Madison County. Woodward was led by a 21-point effort from 6-foot-5 junior guard Will Richard, who also finished with nine rebounds, two assists and three steals in the victory. Woodward was in control throughout the game, leading 22-6 after the first quarter, 36-21 at the break and 57-29 entering the final frame. Jacorrei Turner scored 12 points with nine rebounds and fellow senior Emory Lanier finished with 11 points, four assists, six rebounds and six steals. Woodward’s 7-foot, five-star UNC-commit center Walker Kessler finished with nine points, three rebounds and two blocks.

On Wednesday, the No. 3 seed Woodward Academy girls held narrow leads of 11-10 after the opening quarter and 26-25 at the half in its 55-46 victory over host St. Pius. The War Eagles’ 18-8 scoring advantage in the third quarter grew Woodward’s lead to 44-33 heading into the final frame. St. Pius cut its deficit to 49-42 with 3:51 remaining and 51-46 with 1:41 to go before Woodward closed out the road victory. Sydney Bowels finished with a game-high 27 points, nine rebounds and six steals to lead the War Eagles. Zoe Scott finished with 10 points, four steals and three rebounds and Woodward teammate Kai Lanier contributed six points and a pair of rebounds.

Additionally, Americus-Sumter senior Trinity Jones’ go-ahead basket with 21.9 seconds remaining gave the No. 2 seed Lady Panthers a 33-32 victory over Marist, snapping the War Eagles’ 11-game win streak and handing them their first loss against a Class AAAA opponent all season. Trailing 32-31 with 30 seconds left, Jones stuttered at the free-throw line, then spun past a defender and found an open lane on the right side of the key. Jones avoided another Marist defender and kissed the ball off the backboard and into the net to give the Panthers the lead. The Americus defense successfully held the Marist offense at bay in the final seconds to advance to the Elite Eight, where they will face the winner of Thursday’s match-up between Spalding and Oconee County. Jones finished with 12 points, two assists and a steal. Jelissa Reese finished with seven points and four rebounds and Deasia Ford scored six points with five rebounds and two blocks. Tyler Brazle scored seven points with five rebounds, three assists and two steals for Marist, and Maggie Thayer added seven points, two assists and two steals. Marist was 17-0 against Class AAAA opponents entering tonight’s game.

The No. 3 seed Burke County Bears made things interesting with a strong second-quarter finish, but top-seeded Denmark pulled away in the third quarter to earn the Danes their second quarterfinal appearance in the program’s two-year history with a 74-59 victory. Senior Adonnis Tolbert’s 14-point first-half performance put Denmark out front early; the Danes led Burke County 21-9 after the first quarter and 38-30 at the break, despite a 17-6 run by the Bears to close the half. Denmark will face the winner of Thursday’s game between North Oconee and Upson-Lee in the Elite Eight.

Also, Luella senior guard Keely Brown’s 26 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists led the Lions to a decisive 56-31 second-round victory over Gilmer. Luella led 19-12 after the first quarter and 26-19 at the break before taking control in the fourth quarter on an 18-7 run. Jada Session scored 18 points with 17 rebounds and three steals. Freshman Arianna Dyson scored six points with 11 rebounds.

Quarterfinals Schedule

Feb. 25-26

Boys

Class AAAA

R5 #1 Sandy Creek at R4 #1 Woodward

R7 #1 Denmark at R2 #1 Upson-Lee

R1 #1 Americus Sumter at R8 #1 St. Pius X

R3 #1 Cross Creek at R6 #1 LaFayette

Girls

Class AAAA

R5 #1 Sandy Creek at R4 #1 Luella

R1 #2 Americus-Sumter at R2 #1 Spalding

R4 #3 Woodward at R1 #1 Carver-Columbus

R5 #2 Troup at R4 #2 McDonough

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