Class 3A girls: Hebron Christian 68, Lumpkin County 36

Hebron Christian players celebrate their 68-36 victory over Lumpkin County in the Class 3A girls basketball championship game at the Macon Coliseum on March 10, 2023.

Credit: Chip Saye

Credit: Chip Saye

Hebron Christian players celebrate their 68-36 victory over Lumpkin County in the Class 3A girls basketball championship game at the Macon Coliseum on March 10, 2023.

Hebron Christian took control of the Class 3A girls basketball championship game Friday with a 7-1 run in the first four minutes and blew the game open in the second half for a 68-36 victory over defending champion Lumpkin County at the Macon Coliseum.

The victory capped a 32-0 season for top-ranked Hebron Christian, which was the only team in the state - boys or girls - to go undefeated this year. The title was the 15th for Hebron Christian head coach Jan Azar, who won 13 titles at Wesleyan between 2002-18 and has won two more with the Lions the past three seasons. Hebron Christian lost to Mount Paran Christian in the Class A Private final in 2022.

“I’ve never had an undefeated team,” Azar said. “So they’ll go down in history for that. And they’ll all come back next year.”

Hebron Christian’s roster is made up of four juniors, eight sophomores and one freshman. Two of those sophomores, Kerra Butler and Aubrey Beckham, led the Lions with 16 points each. Butler also had 13 rebounds. Amiya Porter scored 12 points and Nicky Daniel had 11. Both are juniors.

“Coming out in this arena with such a young group of girls, and for them to fight the way they fought and not get flustered … Lumpkin County brought a fantastic crowd that did a great job cheering on their players,” Azar said. “We brought a great group also cheering on all of our kids. It was a packed house, and these girls are so young, for them to get out there on that stage and compete the way they did, I just couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Daniel’s jumper from the free-throw line about a minute into the game put the Lions up 2-0, and they would never surrender the lead. After a free throw by Lumpkin County’s Mary Mullinax, the Lions scored the next five points to go up 7-1. The lead only grew from there.

Fourth-ranked Lumpkin County (26-5) stayed within reach throughout the rest of the first half but still trailed 30-19 at halftime. Averie Jones helped keep the Indians close by scoring 10 of her team’s 12 second-quarter points. Jones was Lumpkin County’s only double-digit scorer with 20 points.

The Lions began to put the game out of reach in the third quarter, outscoring Lumpkin County 16-6, behind seven points from Butler, for a 46-25 lead. Hebron Christian added 22 fourth-quarter points, with its largest lead coming at 65-31 on a 3-pointer by Daniel with 3:03 remaining.

Lumpkin County tried its best to run with Hebron Christian, but eventually the Lions’ defensive pressure took its toll. The Lions forced 18 turnovers leading to 14 points, had a 37-26 advantage in rebounds, outscored Lumpkin County 32-14 in the paint, and limited the Indians to 22.9-percent shooting from the field (11-for-48).

Hebron Christian also held Lumpkin County to a season low in points, 11 fewer than they scored in a 47-36 victory over Class 6A quarterfinalist Sequoyah on Nov. 22.

“We came into the locker room last year after a loss in the state championship, and I reminded them that we do not want to do that again,” Azar said. “We kept up the defensive pressure [in the second half], we closed out better on their outside shooters, we did a better job defensively getting through screens and switching when we needed to. Ultimately, though, they really just fought for it. They wanted it.”

Lumpkin County - 7-12-6-11 - 36

Hebron Christian - 15-15-16-22 - 68

Lumpkin County (36): Ciera Brooks 4, Averie Jones 20, Lexi Pierce 3, Mary Mullinax 5, Kate Jackson 4, Elizabeth Walker.

Hebron Christian (68): Kerra Butler 16, Aubrey Beckham 16, Aniya Moodie 4, Amiya Porter 12, Nicky Daniel 11, Lily MaCrina, Camryn Register 7, Alanna Beckham, Jayden Watts, Ali Champa, Kayla Lane 2, Megan Kim, Emma Flowers.