Class 2A: Semifinal coverage from Georgia College

Region 8′s Elbert County, Rabun County girls; Region 4′s Butler, Westside boys to meet in championship

After a 56-40 win over Josey, the Elbert County Blue Devils are headed to their first title game since 1957.

The No. 3 Blue Devils (28-4) will play No. 2 Rabun County in an all-Region 8 title game. The girls’ 2A championship will be played 1 p.m. Thursday at the Macon Coliseum.

The Blue Devils, who broke onto the 2A scene last year as sophomores and ultimately lost 46-45 to Josey in the quarterfinals, got their redemption against the Eagles this year. However, the score isn’t reflective of just how dominant they were from start to finish.

With 3:02 left in the game, Aaniyah Allen — one of the many talented juniors that form the team’s nucleus — stole the ball and took it the other end for a lay-up, plus the foul, to push the score to 56-33 after she made the free throw. The Blue Devils quickly regained possession, dribbled two minutes off the clock and then took their starters out. From there, The Eagles closed the game on a 7-0 run.

Niya Moon scored 15 points for the Blue Devils, including the 1,000th for her career, which came with 3:58 in the first half on a pair of free throws that pushed their lead to 20-12.

The Blue Devils led 29-17 at halftime.

“We knew we had to come out with confidence because they’re a second-half team,” Moon said. “They don’t give up, and we didn’t forget what happened last year.”

The Blue Devils outshot the Eagles from the field (22-of-57 to 14-of-47), the 3-point line (5-for-15 to 2-for-13) and free-throw line (7-for-10 to 10-for-19), and out-rebounded them 36-25, including 14-11 on the offensive end. They never trailed.

Allen led the way with a game-high 22 points, 10 rebounds and five steals.

“We wanted to push the pace,” Blue Devils coach Josh Jones said. “We felt like we could use our quickness to our advantage if we just attacked the basket. We did that. We wanted to keep them out of the middle lane, which we did a pretty good job of for the most part. We rebounded the ball well, which we had to do.

“We were ready today.”

The defending-champion Eagles finish as Region 4 champions with a 24-6 record. Their high-scorer was senior Aqoyas Cody, who finished with eight points.

Rabun County 50, Northeast 39

The No. 2 Wildcats controlled the game from start to finish and are in the title game for the second time in five years, with only their region rivals, Elbert County, standing in the way of their first title in program history.

Sophie Woodard and Carley Haban, two of seven seniors on the team, paced the Wildcats with 14 points each, with another senior, Gracie Deetz, adding 13. Haban had three steals and Deetz had five rebounds and three blocks.

“We did great and I just don’t have words,” Woodard said. “I’m very proud of my team.”

The Wildcats led 22-4 after the first quarter and 27-14 at halftime. The Raiders never got any closer than 10 in the second half. Perhaps more impressive than the Wildcats’ balanced attack was their defense, which held 2A’s leading scorer Jakia Little to just eight points. She came in averaging 22.4 points.

“We wanted to limit turnovers, limit transition points and keep them off the offensive glass,” Wildcats coach DeeDee Dillard said. “Those were our three focus points and I thought we did a really good job with that.”

Now it’s onto Macon for another battle with the Blue Devils. The Wildcats beat them 47-40 in the region championship on Feb. 18, after the Blue Devils won 51-47 on Jan. 21. The Blue Devils went 3-0 against Rabun County last season.

“We’ve been rivals since I can remember,” Woodard said. “It will be fun.”

Said Dillard, “I think it’s going to be more of maintaining the hunger to win. Don’t be satisfied with the region championship, because they’re going to want to exact a little bit of revenge for that, I’m sure. I think that’s what’s fueled them to play so well in the state tournament. So, we know they’re going to give us their best shot and so we have to be prepared for that. Hopefully, we rise to the challenge. They’re a very good team.”


Westside 73, Northeast 55

The Patriots took control early, withstood a late Raiders run to push their lead back over 20 and are on their way to the state finals for the first time since 1995.

The No. 4 Patriots (26-3) were led by junior post Khalon Hudson, who energized the fan base with a highlight reel of steals, breakaway dunks and shot blocks that reached the seats. He finished with a game-high 24 points.

“We’re locked in,” Hudson said. “People were counting us out, saying we weren’t even supposed to be here. We’ve used that as motivation to get to the championship game. We’ve still got work to do. We’ve still got stuff to improve on, but today was a great outcome and we worked together as a team.”

The Patriots led 22-12 after the first quarter and 45-23 at halftime.

Toward the end of the third quarter, the Raiders finally started to show signs of life, closing on a 7-2 run to pull within 54-37 heading into the fourth. That run would bleed into the fourth quarter and eventually become a 21-6 run that pulled the Raiders to within 61-53 with 4:47 remaining.

However, the Raiders were running on fumes by that point and the Patriots never lost their composure, outscoring Northeast 22-4 to close the game.

“Our goal was to sustain,” Patriots coach Jerry Hunter said of fending off the Raiders’ run. “We had to make sure everyone understood what it’s going to take to advance, which is playing team basketball — but most importantly, collective defense.”

Now the Patriots will play Butler 3 p.m. Thursday, at the Macon Coliseum, in an all-Region 4 showdown. Westside beat the Bulldogs 52-38 Feb. 18 in the Region 4 championship, but lost to them 74-52 on Jan. 25 and 50-49 on Dec. 17.

The No. 6 Raiders (21-10) were led by senior Travion Solomon’s 20 points.

Butler 66, Woodville-Tompkins 45

The Bulldogs used a 22-6 third-quarter run to break the game open and punch their ticket to the championship for the first time since 2011, putting them a win a way from their first title since 1966.

The No. 3 Bulldogs (22-6) had four double-digit scorers, led by Kendrell Glanton, who had 13 points with six rebounds. Elijah Martinez had 12 points adding five rebounds and four assists, and Chance Finklin and Malik Sivell-Smith each scored 11. All are seniors.

Martinez, who scored a team-high eight points in the decisive third quarter, said the team came out after halftime — the score was 27-21 — committed to muting the Wolverines’ offense.

“We really locked in on defense,” Martinez said. “We started playing together and being more calm about the game.

The unranked Wolverines (18-11) overcame a 20-point deficit the previous round, but couldn’t get closer than 54-40 in the fourth quarter, and was with a little more than three minutes remaining. It was at that point where 6-foot-7, 290-pound Sivell-Smith beat Woodville’s press by himself, going coast-to-coast for a contested lay-up that send the crowd in a frenzy and signaled the end of the game.

For Bulldogs coach Cervantes Boddy, whose took Butler to the 3A title game his first season in 2011, the all-Region 4 showdown is a testament to basketball in Augusta. In the second round, the Bulldogs traveled to Atlanta and toppled No. 1 Pace Academy 60-56, and Westside hosted and beat No. 2 Columbia 82-72.

“It speaks the level of talent in the city,” Boddy said. “The level of coaching, the level of hard work, the level of the kids. Everything in Georgia is not all Atlanta. There are other cities and other schools that can play ball. I’m most proud of that part.”

Woodville was led by senior Lukas Platuana’s 12 points. Julles Spruill and Alfonzo Ross each had 11.