MACON - Things looked bleak for the top-ranked Baldwin girls basketball team in the third quarter of the Class 4A basketball championship game Wednesday night in the Macon Coliseum.

The Braves trailed by 16 against second-ranked Hardaway and had trouble making a shot - any shot.

Then the game turned completely around. Baldwin (29-2) outscored the Hawks 38-12 over the final 13 minutes, led by nine fourth-quarter points from leading scorer Madison Ruff, for a 47-39 victory to claim the program’s first state title since winning three straight from 1986 to 1988. Baldwin was the runner-up in 2023. Hardaway (27-5) was making its first appearance in a state final.

Baldwin made just four of 20 shots in the first half while falling behind 15-9 and did not make another field goal for the first three minutes of the third quarter. Hardaway, on the other hand, scored the first 10 points of the second half, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Adazha Burrell and Mikayla Johnson gave the Hawks a 27-11 lead with 5:20 left in the period.

“I was discouraged, but after we came into our huddle [during a timeout], we said ‘We got this,’” Ruff said. “We still had two more quarters left, and I knew that we could push each other to put some points on the board.”

The momentum began to swing when Baldwin’s Janaye Walker made a free throw and scored in the lane, kicking off a 14-2 run that got the Braves back within 29-25 by the end of the quarter.

Baldwin finally pulled even at 36-36 on a three-point play by Ruff with 3:22 left. Johnson made another 3-pointer to give Hardaway the lead back at 39-36, but those would be the Hawks’ final points.

Walker had five points and Ruff made four of six free-throw attempts in the final 2:31 as the Braves pulled away.

“We were down by 16, and we knew that we had to change our ways to get back in the game,” Ruff said. “It all started with turnovers and defense.”

It was the second girls championship game of the day in which both teams struggled from the field. Greenforest Christian and Montgomery County combined to make just 25 of 115 shots (21.7%) from the field. Baldwin and Hardaway fared slightly better but still managed to make only 28 of 98 (29.6%).

“That wasn’t us at all,” Ruff said. “I just think we were a little nervous and a little shaken up because it was such a big crowd. But as we got used to it, as we kept talking to each other, as we knew the experience we had last year, in our heads we knew we could do this.”

Ruff led all scorers with 17 points and added eight rebounds. Walker finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Burrell scored 13 points to lead Baldwin, and Akilah Shelton had 12.

Hardaway - 8-7-14-10 - 39

Baldwin - 6-3-16-22 - 47

Hardaway (39): Akilah Shelton 12, Adazha Burrell 13, La’Niya Meeks, Mikayla Johnson 9, Jenaiya Hardy, Julia Johnson 1, Kennedi Mundy, Rhianna Boynton 4, Chloe Patterson.

Baldwin (47): Madison Ruff 17, Janaye Walker 15, Jasmine Williams, Kassidy Neal 9, Jamya Easley 2, Donasia Cannie, Zykeria Paschal 2, Suri Clark, Zuri Grant, Morgan Ruff 2.