Class 2A: Semifinal coverage from Georgia College

Westside-Augusta boys to play Toombs County, Mount Paran Christian girls to play Josey, both can 3-peat

Credit: Adam Krohn

Credit: Adam Krohn

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Josey Eagles are back in the championship game for the second time in four seasons, beating Central-Macon 45-38 on Saturday at Georgia College.

The No. 2 Eagles (28-3), a No. 2 seed from Region 4, will play Mount Paran Christian 1 p.m., March 7 at the Macon Coliseum.

It was the fourth season in a row the Eagles reached the semifinals, where they were eliminated on this court each of the last two seasons. Eagles third-year coach Nichelle Chapman is a win from her first title, and the program’s second since 2020, when they won 2A under Juwan Bailey.

“For me, this is huge,” Chapman said. “The job is not done yet, but this is a big step.”

The Eagles were led by junior KeAsia Henderson (18 points) and sophomore Kerri Fluellen (14), but it was their effort on the defensive end that held the No. 3 Chargers (26-5), champions of Region 2, to their second-lowest point total of the season. The Chargers entered the game averaging 58-6 points.

“We just wanted to slow (Chargers senior Alaya Grane),” said Chapman. “We understood the mission coming in. She was the motor that kind of got that engine going, so if we could try to put a little bit of pressure on her, we could make it a little bit more difficult for them.”

The Eagles started slow, trailing by as much as 17-11 with 3:21 left in the first half, but rallied to tie the game at 17 by halftime. They scored the first four points of the third quarter to take a 21-17 lead they’d never relinquish. Henderson had eight points in the quarter, including two 3-pointers, while the defense held the Chargers to six points for the quarter.

Sophomore Za’miyah Jenkins’ basket to open the fourth quarter’s scoring gave the Eagles their first double-digit lead of the game at 32-23, and that lead would swell to as much as 41-29 with 53.4 seconds remaining, a hole too deep for the Chargers to dig out of.

The Chargers were in the semifinals for the first time in program history after reaching the quarterfinals each of the past two seasons. They were led by Grane’s 14 points, followed by Jazlyn Johnson’s 11.

Toombs County boys 47, Butler 42: Toombs County is in its first championship after winning its first-ever semifinals appearance, and will play the winner of Saturday’s night cap, Westside.

The championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m. March 7 at the Coliseum in Macon.

With the win, No. 4 Toombs County, champions of Region 3, improved to 29-2. Previously, it’s best finish came in 1998, when they reached the quarterfinals.

“This is great for our program,” Toombs County coach Jared Goodwin said. “These seniors, three years ago, Butler knocked them out. In 2022, they knocked them out. So for them to get back to this point, it’s good for them because they’ve put in a lot of work and helped us get to where we are today.”

Toombs County took a 30-20 lead into halftime, but by the end of the third quarter, Butler had pulled to within 35-32. With 5:45 remaining, Butler took a 36-35 lead, it’s first since going up 11-10 to start the second quarter. From there, however, Toombs County closed the game on a 10-6 run to close out.

“The third quarter wasn’t pretty for us at all,” Goodwin said. “We got into a little bit of a lull there, but we still had the lead. We had to continue to try to do what we wanted to do, which is attack the basket and make couple of shots. We had to continue to guard, and our defense carried us in that third quarter.”

Toombs County was led by senior Dominic Eason who was the team’s only double-digit scorer with a game-high 21 points. He ignited the crowd with a series of highlight plays. His two-handed dunk with 3:52 left in the second gave Toombs County its first double-digit lead at 26-16, and on Butler’s ensuing possession, he ran the court to block a transition lay-up, and when Butler grabbed the loose ball and attempted another post shot, he blocked the shot at its peak, halfway up the backboard. He then drove the other end of the floor for a lay-up to make it 28-16.

“He’s a heck of an athlete,” Goodwin said. “He does a really good job in a lot of different ways for us. He’s a special player and we’re fortunate to have him. He can make a lot of plays that others can’t.”

No. 3 Butler (24-7), a No. 3 seed from Region 4, was trying to return to the championship for the second time in three years. It finished runners-up to Westside in 2022. Butler had just five players who scored, led by sophomore Kwamane Bridges (13 points) and junior Marcus Scurry (11).

Mount Paran Christian girls 72, Murray County 44: The top-ranked Eagles (28-3), champions of Region 6, are one win away from a third consecutive championship, and third overall, under coach Stephanie Dunn.

The Eagles never trailed, and with 3:09 left in the first quarter they took a 15-5 lead and continued to build it from there, leading 41-20 at halftime. They led 54-27 after the third quarter and the game had been well out of reach by then.

The Eagles were led by junior Jessica Fields (22 points), senior Ciara Alexander (21) and junior Jacalyn Myrthil (19).

“I wanted to see us come out and set the tone of the game with defense,” said Dunn, who is aiming to win her sixth title overall after winning three for St. Pius X from 2004-07. “I felt like we did that, and that we were aggressive full court for 2 1/2 quarters, which is what I wanted. Offensively we moved the ball as a team and took advantage of our bigs inside, which led to us hitting some outside shots.”

Now the Eagles will head to Macon and try to finish the season on a championship-winning note once again.

“We’re very locked in,” Dunn said. “We have team goals, and this is right where we wanted to be. We’ve worked hard. I think they feel they deserve to be in the finals, and their going to go all out, I know.”

The Indians (24-7) were champions of Region 7 and the last surviving unranked team of the tournament. They reached the semifinals for the first time since finishing runners-up of 2A in 1966. They were led by sophomore Callan Ledford (14 points), and senior Skyler Mahoney (12).

Westside boys 70, Columbia 59: For the third year in a row, the Patriots eliminated Columbia in the state tournament, and for the third year in a row, they can win a championship. If they can beat Toombs County next week, they’ll become the first school since Mitchell-Baker (1998-2000) to win three consecutive 2A titles.

The top-ranked Patriots 28-4, champions of Region 4, maintained a healthy lead throughout the game. They led 21-13 after the first quarter, 39-32 at halftime, and 52-45 after the third quarter. The Eagles pulled to within 64-59 with 1:23 left in the game, but the Patriots closed out on a 6-0 run by going 6-for-6 from the free throw line.

“The plan tonight was to play together and be the better team,” Patriots coach Jerry Hunter said. “Right now, we’ve been up and down here lately, so we just wanted to come together at the right time, and whatever we do, let’s do it together.”

Hunter said his Patriots closed the game out by not giving it away.

“We took care of the ball,” he said. “We struggled from the free throw line early, but we were able to take care of the ball and limit the unforced turnovers.”

As winners of the last two state titles, the Patriots’ goal all along was to return to Macon.

“At the beginning of the season, we just kind of hung our hats on being successful, and that we’d rather fail at trying to do something impossible than succeed at doing nothing,” Hunter said.

The Patriots won with a balanced scoring attack from senior Demarco Middleton (14 points), sophomore Dontrell Jackson (13), junior Aldrion Jones (11), senior Bobby Blackwell (10) and junior Jarious Adkinson (9).

The No. 5 Eagles, the No. 2 seed from Region 6, finish 28-4, having been eliminated in the semifinals by Westside in each of the last two seasons. Westside beat them in the second round of the 2022 2A playoffs. They were led by senior Quay Wallace’s game-high 20 points. Their only other double-digit scorer, senior Ja’Marcus Hatcher, finished with 18.

Sources: Georgia High School Basketball Project, MaxPreps