Carver-Columbus broke open a close game by outscoring defending state champion Spalding 11-2 in the third quarter and went on to beat the Jaguars 56-44 in the Class AAAA girls basketball championship game Friday at the Macon Coliseum.
The victory capped off a perfect 31-0 season for the top-ranked Tigers and provided the first state title in program history. It also ended a three-year journey to the top that had included a loss in the championship game in 2017 and a loss to Spalding in the semifinals last season.
“It’s just a different breed of girls,” Carver coach Anson Hundley said. “They believed in it the whole way, and they worked their heart out to get it. There’s been a lot of great teams at Carver High School. But right now, this team’s the best one to ever go through there. That means a lot.”
Region 1-AAAA player of the year Olivia Cochran scored 11 of her team-high 15 points in the second quarter, and her three-point play with 5.9 seconds remaining in the half gave Carver a 32-26 lead after Spalding had cut a 15-point deficit to three points.
Carver scored the first eight points of the third quarter, on two layups by Kionna Gaines and one each by Jailyn Shaw and Jaya Love-Hill to increase the lead to 40-26, and Spalding never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way. Carver’s biggest lead came on a layup by Cochran with 5:37 remaining in the game that made it 49-32.
Cochran was one of four Tigers scoring in double figures. Shaw had 13 points and 14 rebounds, Gaines scored 11 points, and Sadrea Mabry added 10.
It was a physical game throughout – with 44 total fouls, two technical fouls and a number of injuries – and that worked against fourth-ranked Spalding (24-6). The Jaguars came in allowing just 31.3 points per game in the playoffs, and Carver had more than that by halftime.
Spalding’s Corriana Evans, the team’s leading scorer, picked up her third foul with 46 seconds to play in the first quarter after scoring six of her team’s first nine points. Teammates Kayla Milner and Kierstyn Milner picked up their fourth fouls midway through the second, not long after Carver had built the lead to 24-9. However, Evans returned to the court with about five minutes remaining in the half and scored six more points to help the Jaguars close the gap to 32-26 by halftime.
Love-Hill, the Tigers’ all-region guard, was carried off the court by Hundley in the third quarter after suffering a knee injury. She finished with two points and four assists.
“She has been the captain, our leader, and you hate to see her go out like that,” Hundley said. “She’s the heart and soul of this team, and she deserved to be lifted up.”
Evans also missed a couple of minutes in the third quarter after landing hard on her back, but she finished with a game-high 21 points, 18 rebounds and four blocked shots. Aniaya Jester had 12 points and six rebounds.
Spalding (44): Aniaya Jester 12, Kayla Milner 5, Corriana Evans 21, Kierstyn Milner 4, Elicia Threatt 2, Shelby Berry, Gabby Ponder, Jaylin Barkley, Maya Collier.
Carver (56): Malasia Howard 1, Kionna Gaines 11, Jaya Love-Hill 2, Jailyn Shaw 13, Olivia Cochran 15, Sya Hall 1, Sadrea Mabry 10, D’Miya Beacham, Jordan Morgan, Shani Riles.
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