Top-ranked Kell overcame a cold-shooting first quarter, took control of the game early in the second and beat Jones County 64-54 in the Class AAAAA girls basketball quarterfinals Tuesday night in Marietta.
Kell missed its first nine field-goal attempts, a streak that ended with a short jumper by Jamiah Gregory with 4:45 to play in the first quarter, and trailed 13-7 later in the period before going on a 9-0 run to take a 16-13 lead that they never surrendered.
Freshman Crystal Henderson scored seven of the nine points during the run and hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Kell a 29-21 lead at halftime. She finished with a team-best 18 points.
“She’s phenomenal,” Kell coach Tony Ingle said of Henderson, who was named first-team all-region in 7-AAAAA. “She’s just such an amazing player and has such a good feel for the game. At any moment she can take the game over, and you never know when it’s going to come. At the right time, she just takes over. She’s good, and she’s fun to watch, too.”
Kell improved to 31-0 and moved into the semifinals for the first time in program history. The Longhorns will face ninth-ranked Eagle’s Landing, which advanced with a 57-43 victory over No. 7 Veterans, at 6 p.m. Saturday at Fort Valley State. No. 2 Buford will play unranked Woodland-Stockbridge at 2 p.m. in the other semifinal.
A layup by Jada Green to open the third quarter gave Kell its first double-digit lead at 31-21, but Jones County stayed within reach, thanks in large part to the play of Jada Morgan, who made four 3-pointers and scored 17 of her game-high 21 points in the second half.
The Greyhounds closed the gap to 51-47 on a 3-pointer by Morgan with four minutes remaining but got no closer as Kell went 9-for-14 on free throws in the final 2:30 to put the game away.
Kell got big contributions off the bench from junior Makyah Favors and freshman Gregory. They combined for 25 points - Favors scored 13 points and Gregory had 12 - and gave the Longhorns a needed boost as they seized control of the game.
“They’re just so intense,” Ingle said. “They bring that intensity that we need. Jamiah’s huge on the boards, and Makyah’s huge on the ball pressure for us. I don’t know what to say other than they play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, physical, tough, they hustle, and it gets us going.”
Jones County came into the game as an unranked No. 4 seed, but that was misleading. The Greyhounds (24-6) were ranked as high as No. 5 in late January, but two losses in the region tournament knocked them out of the top 10 and into a lower seed. The Greyhounds play in the same region (4-AAAAA) as semifinalists Eagle’s Landing and Woodland.
“Every team’s great at this point. They’re a great basketball team,” Ingle said of Jones County. “They play tough and physical and fast. The way they play, they’re never out of a game.”
Jones County - 13-8-16-17 - 54
Kell - 10-19-16-19 - 64
Jones County (54): Lu Woolfolk 10, Kyah Walley 2, Madison Bennett 9, Toree Smith 7, Jada Morgan 21, Courtnee Wimberly 5, Shakiya Betha, Sikoya Hogan, Kimmya Epps,
Kell (64): Kya Williams 9, Brooklyn HIll, Jada Green 8, Crystal Henderson 18, Amaya Moss 4, Jamiah Gregory 12, Maliyah Davis, Mackenzie Franklin, Sylvia Kahoro, Makyah Favors 13.
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