Girls: Holy Innocents' 70, Jeff Davis 16

After their 70-16 second round victory over Jeff Davis in the AA state tournament on Friday night, the Holy Innocents’ Lady Golden Bears are one step closer to their third consecutive championship appearance.

They started strong and finished strong, which was important because in the next round, the No. 1-ranked Lady Golden Bears face the state’s No. 2 team, Pelham, in the quarterfinals next Friday at Georgia College in Milledgeville.

The Lady Golden Bears defeated Pelham 78-70 last year in the semifinals.

“We’re definitely going after the next team we play,” said sophomore guard-forward Kennedy Suttle, who led all scorers with 17 points.

The Lady Golden Bears (26-3), a No. 1 seed from Region 6, finished the game with three scorers in double digits, including Shai Blanding with 16 points and Kaila Hubbard with 12. Holy Innocents’ never trailed and opened the game on a 11-0 run.

Lady Golden Bears coach Tony Watkins said it was important for the team to put together a complete game as they head into the tournament’s final rounds.

“At this point, every time you step on the floor there’s a chance it could be your last game,” said Watkins, in his eighth season as the program’s only coach. “We preach to our girls to get on it from the jump and I think we did that tonight.”

Watkins added that, after the team’s sluggish start in the first half of the season, he believes Holy Innocents’ has turned a corner lately. The Lady Golden Bears will need to continue at a high level if they’re to win their first state title in program history after coming up short in the title game the previous two seasons.

“We don’t really talk about (the past two seasons) very much,” Watkins said. “Our goal is to be playing the absolute very best we can right now in the playoffs and I feel like we’re doing that right now.

“But we’ve got a long ways to go before we play (in the title game) on Mar. 4.”

Added Suttle: “Since we’ve lost in the finals the last two years in a row, the drive and the effort is even more intense. We’re not giving up. We’re excited.”

For Jeff Davis (25-4), a No. 2 seed from Region 2, it was a disappointing road trip that totaled 400 miles. No Lady Jackets players finished in double figures, but two managed seven points.

CORRECTION: It was originally reported that Manchester beat Pelham.