Given a second chance to bring home the school’s’ first state championship in girls basketball, Marion County made the most of the opportunity.
The Eagles, ranked No. 1 all year, capped off a 28-1 season Wednesday at the Macon Coliseum with a 50-38 victory over No. 3 Calhoun County in the Class A public-school final. The victory helped soothe some wounds from losing to Region 4 rival Greenville 73-52 in the championship game last season.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Marion County coach Fran McPherson said. “These kids have worked super hard. Last year, being here was awesome, but when we left it was the most horrible feeling, not finishing what we thought we could do. I think that fueled our whole season.”
Marion County rode the play of its big three – senior twin posts Ansley and Ashley Whitley and junior point guard Jameisha Williams – who scored all but five of the Eagles’ points.
Ansley Whitley made an impact on both ends of the floor, scoring a game-high 20 points but also grabbing nine rebounds and blocking three shots. She made a living at the free-throw line, making 12 of 14 attempts as she got Calhoun County (29-3) in significant foul trouble.
Calhoun County scored the game’s first points in the first few seconds, but Marion County seized control with an 11-2 run over the next five minutes. The Eagles increased the lead to 12 by halftime, and Calhoun County never got closer than nine points in the second half.
Calhoun County’s best chance to make a game of it came late in the third quarter, Ansley Whitley left the game with a leg injury and cramping with 1:40 to play in the quarter, with her team holding a 36-22 lead. Calhoun County scored the next five points, but when Whitley returned about four minutes later, the lead had been cut by only one point to 40-27.
Both Whitleys were in and out of the game in the fourth quarter because of cramps, but Calhoun County couldn’t make up any ground.
“That was a scary sight,” McPherson said. “They had played their hearts out, like they had all year, but they were getting banged and then they caught cramps. It’s just one of those things that is what it is. They tried to play through it. Most kids would’ve quit and said, ‘Take me out.’ But they never say quit, ever. That’s why we’re here.”
Ashley Whitley finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Williams scored 13 points and had four steals.
With Marion County dominating in the lane, the Cougars’ offense relied on the 3-point shot, without much success. Calhoun County made just one of its first 20 attempts behind the line and finished the game 3-for-26 (11.5 percent). Destiny Hightower led the Cougars with 12 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Jateriah Winbush scored 10.
Marion County (50): Jameisha Williams 13, Ansley Whitley 20, Ashley Whitley 12, Diamond Franklin, Taylor Green, Molly Daniels 4, Jillian Walton 1.
Calhoun County (38): Jateriah Winbush 10, Kanashus Enocher, Maya Wims 6, Takia Davis 4, Atasia Wallace, Ja’Niyah Wimberley 2, Tyesha Curry 2, Ayani Masfield 2, Destiny Hightower 12.
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