Westover sits one win away from the program’s first state title since 2001 after toppling No. 1 ranked McDonough 42-39 with a 29-16 scoring edge in the second half. The Patriots previously dominated the first half in the quarterfinals—leading Jefferson 37-19 at the break before scoring the 63-55 win—and overcame a halftime 23-13 deficit Friday night to defeat the Warhawks. The pace stalled in the second and third quarters of the semifinals, with Westover and McDonough both tallying just three points apiece in the second quarter and Westover closing out the third quarter with a 7-2 scoring advantage. Westover’s Kamari Leverett finished with a 12 points and gave the Patriots their first one-point lead in the fourth quarter with a three-pointer. The Patriots’ comeback was not complete until Efren Smith closed it out with five-straight free throws to ice the game. Smith also finished with a team-high 12 points. Smith (11.6, Keshay Walton (10.9) and Leverette (10.6) are all averaging double-digit scoring and the team is collectively shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc this season (97-of-220). Westover opened up its playoff run with a 90-40 win over Islands and scored a 65-57 victory over Luella in the second round. Smith scored a game-high 21 points off 9-of-11 shooting in the victory over Islands and was one of 11 different players that scored points in the win.
Luella Lions 27-3 Region 5
Luella earned its first-ever state championship appearance with Friday’s 62-53 win over Baldwin in the semis—picking up its second win over the Braves this year. November’s meeting between the programs ended in a 55-54 Luella victory and the Lions were able to get off to a fast start in their semifinal rematch to sweep the season series. Luella opened up a fast 10-1 lead, but Baldwin was able to orchestrate a 6-0 run to make it a 10-7 game after the first quarter. Luella went into the half with a 27-17 lead. Baldwin battled to try and keep its 16-game win streak alive and overcome Luella’s fast start, but ran into trouble in the third quarter when sophomore Madison Ruff fouled out with 6:01 still left in the frame. Later in the third quarter, Luella’s Tamya Stevenson made a free throw that gave Luella its biggest lead of the game (43-24).
Baldwin answered with an 8-2 run to make it a 13-point game heading into the fourth quarter (45-32), but Luella was able to secure the victory in the final frame. Luella sophomore Miliani Smith scored 10 of her team-high 15 points in the third quarter, Evangelia Davlakou finished with 14 points, Trinity Layton scored 13 and Arianna Dyson finished with 10. Tamia Smith led Baldwin in scoring with 15 points. Luella’s playoff run also includes a 78-61 quarterfinal victory over powerhouse Carver-Columbus.
Marist War Eagles 27-3 Region 6
In Marist’s 38-35 semifinal win over Pickens, Marist did not take its first lead of the game until Lexy Faklaris put the War Eagles up 27-26 in the fourth quarter. Teammate Avery Fantucci added a three-pointer shortly after to push the lead to 30-26 and ultimately, the War Eagles outscored Pickens 16-10 in the fourth quarter to rally past the Dragons and move one victory away from the program’s first-ever championship.
Pickens opened up a 10-7 lead in the first quarter and went into the half with an 18-15 lead. Carolina Mullins scored 11 of the Dragons’ points in the first half, but Marist had five different players find points in the first half—including five points by Faklaris to remain in striking distance. Mullins scored all six of Pickens’ third quarter points, while Marist got two points from Alex Norris and Faklaris and a three-pointer by Kate Fletcher to shrink the deficit to 24-22 heading into the fourth quarter.Marist scored a 36-16 win over Heritage-Catoosa in the quarterfinals and showcased their defensive prowess that has been a key ingredient to its success this season. The win over Heritage was the second-straight round and seventh time this season that Marist held an opponent to fewer than 20 points. Fantucci led the War Eagles’ offensively with 21 points and teammate Kim finished with eight points.