March 9, 2019 Macon - Tri-Cities players celebrate their victory in GHSA State Basketball Championship game at the Macon Centreplex in Macon on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Tri-Cities won 46-43 over the Tucker. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Class AAAAAA blog: Lanier girls, Tri-Cities boys earn schools’ first state titles

Most of the games in the Georgia high school basketball championships in Macon last week were tight, competitive contests, but perhaps no classification had a better pair of games than AAAAAA.

The Lanier girls team outscored defending champion Lovejoy 21-8 in the fourth quarter for a 52-45 victory Saturday afternoon, and the Tri-Cities boys followed with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Tucker 46-43. 

The state championships were the first in any sport for both schools. Lanier opened in 2010 as a new school in Gwinnett County. Tri-Cities opened in 1988 as the consolidation of the former Woodland, Russell, College Park and Hapeville high schools in south Fulton County. 

Tri-Cities trailed 37-30 entering the fourth quarter and did not retake the lead until a layup by Demetrius Rives made it a 43-41 game with 25 seconds remaining. Tucker’s Nick Watson was fouled with 6.9 seconds left and made both free throws to tie the game. The Bulldogs then inbounded the ball to Da’Marcus Johnson, who dribbled up the court and let the championship-winning 3-pointer fly from halfway between the half-court circle and the 3-point line as time expired. 

“Our coach [Omari Forts] told me, if they miss the free throw, don’t let them get the rebound,” Johnson said. “And if they make the free throw, he told me to hit the game winner.” 

Johnson finished with 13 points to lead the Bulldogs. Tucker’s Montae Hall scored a game-high 14 points. 

The victory capped a 26-6 season for the Bulldogs, who entered the state tournament ranked No. 1 after winning the regular-season and region-tournament titles in 5-AAAAAA. Tri-Cities then rolled through the playoffs with victories over Lanier (84-68), Chattahoochee (75-64), Mundy’s Mill (77-72) and Brunswick (83-74). 

Tucker, the Region 4 champion, finished the season 28-5. 

Lovejoy’s girls led by eight points in the third quarter and 37-31 in the fourth, but Lanier scored the first seven points of the final period – on a 3-pointer by Nala Lawrence and two baskets by Kalen Surles – to takes its first lead since the first quarter, at 38-37. Lovejoy scored the next four points to go back up 41-38, but Lanier outscored the Wildcats 14-4 in the final 4:33 to pull away. Surles scored seven of her nine points in the quarter. Lawrence led the Longhorns with 10 points, on three 3-pointers and a free throw. 

The game was similar to Lanier’s 44-38 victory over second-ranked Forest Park in the semifinals. Lanier shot 8.3 percent from the field in the first half of that game and trailed 26-18 entering the fourth but outscored the Panthers 26-12 in the final eight minutes to secure the victory. 

Lanier (29-3), which had never reached the state tournament until last season, went undefeated in Region 8 play this year, including victories over Gainesville and Winder-Barrow in the region tournament. The Longhorns were ranked No. 4 entering the state tournament and beat Alexander (69-35), Sequoyah (61-37), Glynn Academy (42-31) and Forest Park to reach the final. 

The loss ended Lovejoy’s 45-game winning streak against Georgia opponents that dated to December of 2017. The Wildcats (29-4) had been ranked No. 1 all season. Lovejoy’s Anaya Boyd, the Region 4 player of the year, scored a game-high 15 points. 

“We knew Lovejoy was a heck of a team and coach [Cedric] King does such a good job,” said Lanier’s Tim Slater, in his first season as the Longhorns’ coach. “Obviously they have tremendous players, and we knew it was going to be a battle. We just had to stay calm. There were a lot of times where it kind of got away from us, but in the end, just having those girls that believe in themselves made the difference.” 

Championship game statistics 

Boys 

Tri-Cities 46, Tucker 43 

Tri-Cities (26-6) 

Da’Marcus Johnson 3-15 4-4 13; Peyton Daniels 4-17 0-0 12; Titus Hunter 3-5 5-8 11; Demetrius Rives 3-3 0-0 6; Alex Bean 1-2 0-0 2; Davon Cottle 1-1 0-0 2; Simeon Cottle 0-0 0-0 0; Eli'Sha King 0-0 0-0 0; Jackson Watson 0-1 0-0 0; Mario McIntosh 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-44 9-12 46. 

Tucker (28-5) 

Montae Hill 5-8 4-4 14; David Giddeon 4-6 1-3 9; Raylan Barrion 2-7 4-6 8; Braelon Seals 2-8 0-0 4; Torezz Alexander 0-1 2-2 2; Jaquan Rush 1-1 0-0 2; Nick Watson 0-4 2-2 2; Nate Ogbu 1-9 0-1 2. Totals 15-44 13-18 43. 

Tri-Cities – 9-9-12-16 – 46 

Tucker – 6-16-15-6 – 43 

3-point goals - Tri-Cities 7-24 (Peyton Daniels 4-12; Da’Marcus Johnson 3-9; Jackson Watson 0-1; Titus Hunter 0-2), Tucker 0-6 (Montae Hill 0-1; Raylan Barrion 0-2; Nick Watson 0-3). Fouled out - Tri-Cities - None, Tucker - Montae Hill. Rebounds - Tri-Cities 31 (Demetrius Rives 7), Tucker 31 (David Giddeon 9). Assists - Tri-Cities 7 (Da'Marcus Johnson 3), Tucker 1 (Torezz Alexander 

1). Total fouls - Tri-Cities 19, Tucker 15. Technical fouls - None. 

Girls 

Lanier 52, Lovejoy 45 

Lanier (29-3) 

Nala Lawrence 3-5 1-2 10; Kalen Surles 4-10 0-0 9; Lizzie Campbell 4-5 0-2 8; Mekala Fuller 1-7 5-8 8; Christabel Ezumah 2-3 3-4 7; Taylor Stanley 2-4 0-0 6; Mya Williams 2-5 0-0 4; Olivia Leazer 0-0 0-0 0; Kiara Johnson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-40 9-16 52. 

Lovejoy (29-4) 

Anaya Boyd 5-11 5-7 15; Genesis Bryant 3-11 0-0 8; Mariah Spain 4-7 0-2 8; Bryana Hardy 2-3 3-4 7; Avanna Preston 2-5 0-0 5; J'Auana Robinson 1-6 0-1 2; Sage White 0-0 0-0 0; Kaziah Terrell 0-0 0-0 0; Asha Shareef 0-0 0-0 0; Mariah Rivera 0-0 0-0 0; Lashanti Blount 0-4 0-0 0; Keyra Peterson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-47 8-14 45. 

Lanier – 7-14-10-21 – 52 

Lovejoy – 7-19-11-8 – 45 

3-point goals - Lanier 7-16 (Nala Lawrence 3-5; Taylor Stanley 2-4; Mekala Fuller 1-4; Kalen Surles 1-2; Kiara Johnson 0-1), Lovejoy 3-25 (Genesis Bryant 2-10; Avanna Preston 1-4; J'Auana Robinson 0-4; Lashanti Blount 0-3; Mariah Spain 0-2; Anaya Boyd 0-2). Fouled out - Lanier-None, Lovejoy-Genesis Bryant. Rebounds - Lanier 30 (Lizzie Campbell 8), Lovejoy 25 (Avanna Preston 

5). Assists - Lanier 11 (Kalen Surles 7), Lovejoy 10 (Anaya Boyd 3). Total fouls - Lanier 17, Lovejoy 21. Technical fouls – None. 

*Statistics provided by West Georgia Sports Information Services

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

X