Laney celebrates its second straight state championship.

Class AA girls: Laney 63, Josey 40

The Wildcats (32-0) defeated their Augusta rivals for the fifth time this season to give coach Otis Smart his third title in the last four years. All five losses for Josey (29-5) came against Laney, which extended its winning streak to 62 games. 

Laney was led by De’Sha Benjamin with 26, shooting 9-for-17 from the field, and adding 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocked shots. The senior guard scored 17 of the team’s first 21 points. 

“We put in work in the gym all the time,” Benjamin said. “We run and run. The effort paid off.” 

Laney also got 19 points and 11 rebounds from Jhessyka Williams and 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals from Jaiden Hamilton. 

Josey was led by Ebony Clark with 12 points and seven rebounds and Tykedra Rolland with 10 points and five blocked shots. 

The game was close in the first quarter, which Laney led 13-10. Josey took the lead at 16-15 with 5:01 left in the half on a basket by Clark. But Laney answered with a 12-0 run, punctuated by Hamilton’s 3-pointer, and surged to an 11-point lead with 2:26 remaining. Laney led 29-20 at halftime. 

Laney continued to build its lead in the third period. An 8-0 run bumped the lead to 17 and the Wildcats were never threatened. 

The 23-point margin was the widest among the five games between the teams this season. Laney won the Region 4 championship game by 15 points. 

“It means a lot,” Benjamin said. “This is my third one and I’m just happy.” 

Since taking over as head coach in 2012-13, Smart is 176-12.

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