Class 4A blog: Season recap

Marist's Lexy Faklaris (34) congratulates Marist's Avery Fantucci (25) as she reacts after scoring a 3-point basket to tie the game at the end of the 4th quarter during the 2022 GHSA State Basketball Championship game at the Macon Centreplex in Macon on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. Marist won 56-54 over Luella in double overtime. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

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Marist's Lexy Faklaris (34) congratulates Marist's Avery Fantucci (25) as she reacts after scoring a 3-point basket to tie the game at the end of the 4th quarter during the 2022 GHSA State Basketball Championship game at the Macon Centreplex in Macon on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. Marist won 56-54 over Luella in double overtime. (Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Marist girls, Spencer boys win first-ever titles

Marist senior guard Avery Fantucci will be playing softball at Michigan after graduation, but her name will go down in War Eagles’ history for her final varsity basketball game that included a pair of buzzer beaters to clinch the program’s first-ever state title. A thrilling four days of state championship action took place in Macon this past weekend and Fantucci’s viral heroics highlighted the action and were picked up nationally by various news outlets and hoops fans alike.

Fantucci’s epic 19-point performance included a halfcourt shot at the end of regulation to force overtime and then she forced a steal and beat the buzzer again on a well-defended layup to ice the 56-54 victory.

“It meant a lot, but I really couldn’t have done that without my teammates,” Fantucci said. “We had amazing defense the entire season. We held a team averaging 73 points a game to 54 in double overtime, and that wouldn’t have been possible without my teammates.”

Marist’s formula for success all season long was their tremendous defense and the War Eagles needed a player to step up in the spotlight against a Luella team—that like Marist—entered the finals without a single loss within the classification. At one point in the second half, Luella sparked an 8-0 run to go up 11 points, but Marist was able to chip away at that lead one possession at the time and stun the Lions late. Head coach Kim Hixon credits the leadership for her team’s triumph.

“We have six seniors, five that start, so our leadership is outstanding,” Hixon said. “You can tell, when we get down by nine or 10 points, we keep fighting and pushing. We fight for each other and love each other, and it shows on the court.”

Marist was able to keep its championship hopes alive also with the clutch play of Lexy Faklaris—who matched Fantucci with 19 points and also hauled in 13 rebounds. As a team, Marist had a 48-29 rebounding advantage. Luella’s season ended in disappointment, but Milani Smith had a tremendous effort in the defeat—leaeding the Lions with 20 points and scoring all eight of the team’s points after regulation.

On the boys side, McDonough spent most of the year ranked as the No. 1 team, but Westover was able to defeat the Warhawks 42-39 to matchup with Spencer in the championship game. Spencer went on to earn the state crown with an impressive 62-42 win over Westover in the finals to close out its season on a historic 28-game win-streak. The win was also made special by the fact that Westover ousted Spencer from the playoffs the previous year with a one-point win in the second round.

Spencer’s success throughout the 2021-22 season stemmed from the team’s long list of contributors and the Greenwave had nine different players score in the championship victory, with Randall Dicon (12 points), Tony Montgomery (11 points, six rebounds), Tycen McDaniels (11 points, nine rebounds) leading the way.

Like the Marist girls, Spencer was able to win its first-ever state title and the team did so under first-year head coach Quantavias Allen.

“I wasn’t here last year, but I was at the game last year so this was personal because I’m from Albany and I made a promise coming to the coaching staff and the school that we would finally get over the hump,” said Allen.

Allen’s first year leading Spencer will be a memorable one and the team rebounded from back-to-back losses early in the season to East Coweta and Dutchtown and went on to dominate the postseason. Spencer’s playoff victories include: (81-42 Spencer, 62-35 North Oconee, 56-34 Dougherty, 44-36 Marist and 62-42 Westover).

“We always said the most disciplined team was going to win,” Allen said. “We had to preach that at halftime and came out of the locker room and it paid off.”