Class A Division I: Semifinal coverage from Georgia College

All-Region 6 matchups with Galloway, St. Francis girls; King’s Ridge, Mount Pisgah boys
ajc.com

Credit: Adam Krohn

Credit: Adam Krohn

MILLEDGEVILLE — For the Galloway Scots girls, the third time’s a charm.

In their third consecutive trip to the semifinals, the Scots broke through this time, defeating the Elbert County Blue Devils 70-57 on Friday to advance to their first championship in program history.

The No. 4-ranked Scots (28-4), a No. 2 seed, will play top-ranked St. Francis in an all-Region 6 matchup, which will be played 11 a.m. Saturday, March 11 at the Macon Coliseum.

“It feels like a wall breaker,” said Scots coach Kiesha Brown, who guided the program to the 1A Private semis in each of the previous two seasons. “I think it’s just maturity and discipline from our girls. We had to start reinforcing that space in who we are. Sometimes we can be uncharacteristic to ourselves. So, the whole process this postseason is being true to who we are, regardless of our opponent. I think in the second half, in particular, we showed it and they bought into it.”

The No. 2 Blue Devils (26-5), champions of Region 8, saw their season end at 26-5 after winning the 2A title last year. They took control early, opening the game on an 8-2 run and led nearly the entire half, with the Scots taking a 13-12 lead early in the second quarter before giving it right back.

Elbert County led by as many as nine in the second quarter before taking a 30-27 lead into halftime.

The Scots never fell too far behind, and tied the game their first possession of the second half on junior Tianna Thompson’s 3-point play. After trading baskets, the Scots began to pull away, with freshman Taryn Thompson’s 3-pointer with four seconds left in the third quarter giving them a 53-45 lead.

The Scots led 60-49 with 6:09 left, and senior Kyla Cain’s turnaround jumper as the shot clock expired all put the game away, giving them a 66-57 lead with 1:10 remaining.

“We’re a fast team, but Elbert County is really fast,” Brown said. “It’s one thing to see that on video, it’s another thing to actually live it. So the shock absorbency, we had to get through that piece of it. That was huge for us. We settled down and owned our defense. We didn’t settle for mid-range jumpers tonight. We were driving to the basket, staying true to who we are.”

Tianna Thompson led the Scots with a game-high 25 points on 9-for-13 shooting and had seven steals. Cain scored 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting, including 2-for-3 from 3-point line, and pulled down 11 rebounds. Taryn Thompson 10 points and four steals. Sophomore post Danaya Stokes had 15 rebounds.

The Blue Devils were led by senior Aaniyah Allen’s 18 points. Seniors Niya Moon and Terrace Hester chipped in 14 apiece.

Mount Pisgah boys 53, Swainsboro 49: The No. 3 Patriots (23-8) controlled the game from start to finish, never trailing, and are a win a way from their second title in three years.

A No. 2 seed from Region 6, the Patriots opened the game on a 14-1 run, led 16-6 after the first quarter, and 29-16 at halftime. They stretched the lead to 43-24 after three quarters.

The Patriots will play King’s Ridge in the championship, which will be played 1 p.m. on March 11 at the Macon Coliseum.

“We wanted to play the game on our terms and dictate it,” Patriots coach Matt Hixenbaugh said. “I thought early, we did a really good job of that, of attacking them when we had chances, attacking them in transition, and them making them score from the perimeter. Until the fourth quarter, we were successful at that.”

Sophomore Micah Tucker led the Patriots with 23 points, followed by junior Tyson Pittman, who had 16. Pittman is one of two players remaining from the 2021 1A Private championship team, which delivered the Johns Creek private Christian school its first title in program history.

Win or lose next week, Hixenbaugh is proud that his team will play in the season’s final game once again.

“Our experience overall really helps us,” he said. “We played a lot of good games against a lot of good teams and our goal is to play as long as we can, really so that we can practice and be around each other because we love being around each other. So, getting to play in that last game is what you work for all year, and then you take your chances with one game.”

The unranked Tigers (15-10), who won Region 2, outscored the Patriots 25-10 in the final quarter, but trailed 52-43 with 45.3 seconds left. They closed on a 5-0 run in the game’s final 10 seconds, but ran out of time.

After missing the playoffs last year, the Tigers were in the semis for the first time since winning 2A in 2020. They were led by freshman guard L.J. Morgan’s 13 points. Junior Damello Jones had 12 points before fouling out with 4:06 remaining.

Saint Francis girls 76, Woodville-Tompkins 36: The top-ranked Knights (26-6) dominated from beginning to end, and they’re in the championship for the third time in four years. If they can beat their Region 6 rivals Galloway next week, which they’ve done twice this season, they’ll have the program’s fourth championship and first since 2016, all of which have come under long-time Knights coach Aisha Kennedy.

“I’m so happy for this group,” said an emotional Kennedy after the game. “They got us back in the championship, baby. This group fighting without (star point guard, senior Erica) Moon all year and last year, for these seniors, it means a lot. So we’re excited.”

Senior post Anaja Hall’s basket with 5:01 in the first quarter gave the Knights a 5-4 lead and they never trailed again, leading 17-4 after the first, and 38-15 at halftime. That momentum carried over to the second half, where their lead was never slimmer than 21. Sophomore guard Ari Higgins drilled a 3-pointer with 37 seconds remaining, which gave the Knights their biggest lead of the game while bringing the score to its final margin.

Sophomore guard Desi Taylor led the Knights with 16 points. Freshman guard Camryn Golston (12 points) junior guard Nya Young, junior forward Sa’Mya Wyatt, and senior guard Alli White (11 apiece) were their other double-digit scorers. Golston had five steals and six rebounds, Wyatt had six rebounds, Young had six steals, and Hall had eight rebounds and four blocks to go with her six points.

The Knights beat Galloway 71-63 on Jan. 13, and 71-55 in the region championship on Feb. 18.

“I’m a true believer that it is hard to beat somebody three times,” Kennedy said. “I told my girls a couple of weeks ago that they have that look in their eye like they’re ready to go and win a state championship. I know what that look looks like. If everyone comes to play and everyone can stay healthy, this is a special group and I feel like we’re going to be alright.”

The Wolverines (24-6), winners of Region 3, were in the semifinals for just the second time in program history, the furthest they’ve been, with the other time coming in 2017. They were led by senior guard Sanai Chisholm’s 12 points.

King’s Ridge boys 53, Mount Vernon 48: The No. 4 Tigers (22-10) edged their Region 6 rivals as a No. 4 seed to reach the championship game for a second year in a row, in search of their first title in program history.

Tigers senior guard Isaac Martin was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the game’s final 12 seconds to keep the top-ranked, top-seeded Mustangs (23-9) at bay. Martin’s free throws came on 1-and-1 bonuses.

Tigers coach Robert Martin said the team was ready for the tough, final stretch. They led the entire fourth quarter, but that lead, which was at eight points with 3:48 left, dwindled to three twice in the game’s final 36.7 seconds.

“We like to give the guys freedom to make decisions,” Martin said. “Instead of feeding them, we like to teach them how to fish. So, in those moments, the things we do in practice, the schedule we put in place, it’s all about them becoming good decision-makers. So, the poise comes from tough practices, playing McEachern and getting your head kicked in, playing Grayson at the beginning of the year, and all of these other great teams we’ve had to play this year, like Mount Vernon that we’ve had to play a couple of times already this year. It’s just one of those things I’m super proud of, because those boys, they work very, very hard and they deserve that.”

From a scoring standpoint, it was a true team effort for the Tigers, who were led by Martin and Jayden Cole (12 points), and Zak 32 Thomas and Jack Thomas (10 points). With the exception of Cole, a sophomore, all are seniors.

The Tigers avenged a 53-48 loss to Mount Vernon in the region semifinals, which pitted them with the No. 4 seed and made the become road warriors during the playoffs. With Friday’s win, the Tigers took the season series 2-1, also beating them 73-63 on Dec. 9.

Next is another region rival, Mount Pisgah, which beat them 74-65 on Dec. 2.

“That’s going to be tough,” Martin said. “Micah Tucker, you’re not going to stop him. You can only hope to contain him a little bit. Grant Randall and Max Tucker are phenomenal rebounders. They’ve got 2-3 other guards there that can knock down shots and get the ball up the floor when necessary. It’s not going to be easy, but why would we want to expect anything else?”

The Mustangs, who had never been past the second round before this year, were led by junior Xavier Shegog and senior Keith Williams, who each had 16 points.

About the Author