Girls: McEachern 90, Valdosta 33

The McEachern Lady Indians’ state title defense is off to a strong start with a 90-33 opening round victory over Valdosta on Tuesday night in the AAAAAA tournament.

A full-court press defense, timely 3-point shooting and an overall aggressive approach

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey

helped the No. 3-ranked Lady Indians (21-7), a No. 1 seed out of Region 4, put away the Lady Indians early in the second half. McEachern led 43-27 at halftime before going on a 27-6 third quarter run to seal the game.

If the Lady Indians are to win back-to-back titles and their third in the past four seasons, they’ll need to do so this year without Te’a Cooper, the AJC’s 2015 co-player of the year and an All-American who now plays at Tennessee.

Fortunately for them they still have Jada Lewis, the lone returning starting senior and team captain. She scored a game-high 27 points and added six assists and six steals.

“We feel like we have a great team,” said Lewis, a Georgia State commit. “We lost Te’a, but we’ve got other players and everybody is stepping into their role and we have a complete team that can win state again.”

Lewis was one of three scorers in double figures for the Lady Indians. Lyndsey Whilby had 17 points including three 3-pointers and Que Morrison added 16 points with a pair of 3s, six assists and five steals. Chanel Wilson had a game-high eight assists and two blocks.

The Lady Wildcats (13-16), a No. 4 seed from Region 1, were led by Desinee Arnold (12 points and Tykeria Holmes (10 points).

McEachern started slow in the first half, which allowed the Lady Wildcats to hang around. Valdosta held McEachern’s lead to single digits into the second quarter, but it was clear all it would take was a big run from the Lady Indians to put the game out of reach.

Though a run of 48-6 did happen in the second half - Valdosta didn’t score in the fourth quarter - Lady Indians coach Phyllis Arthur said the team can’t afford to come out flat in the first half moving forward.

“We can’t wait until the third quarter,” said Arthur, who’s led the Lady Indians to all three of their state titles. “I’m pleased with the second-half effort, but its important to come out of the gate sooner - especially with Archer coming up next.”

The Lady Indians will host No. 5-ranked Archer (25-4), a No. 2 seed from Region 8, in the second round. Archer defeated Etowah 62-33 in its first round matchup.