Griffin senior guard Leah Turner scored all 17 of her points in the second half and made five 3-pointers, including the game-winner with 31 seconds remaining, in the Bears’ 51-47 victory over Baldwin in the Class 4A girls basketball championship game Wednesday night at the Macon Coliseum.
The victory, against their Region 2 rival, gave the third-ranked Bears (27-4) the first state championship in program history. No. 5 Baldwin (23-9) was seeking its first championship since winning three consecutive titles from 1986-88.
Griffin trailed 43-36 after a short jumper by Baldwin’s Janaye Walker with about six minutes to play. A driving layup by the Bears’ Aaliyah Duranham cut the deficit to five points, and Turner’s fourth 3-pointer of the half made it 43-41 with 4:14 remaining.
Baldwin still led 47-43 with 1:25 left, but a 3-pointer by Zamiyah Hosley cut the lead to one point and Turner hit another 3-pointer to put Griffin in the lead for good. Turner’s two free throws with 10.4 seconds left sealed the victory.
Griffin was 9-for-22 from 3-point range in the game, while Baldwin missed all nine of its attempts.
“Leah has been doing that her whole career,” Griffin coach Roy Johnson said. “She is definitely one of the best players in the state. She knew when she was letting them go that she was going to make those shots. She believes in herself and she believes in her team. I trusted her when she made the decision to let them fly.”
Griffin had trailed for much of the game after Baldwin went on a 15-3 run in the second quarter that turned an 11-9 deficit into a 24-14 lead. The Braves made the most of their size advantage on the front line, continually feeding the ball inside to Walker and Kassidy Neal. Duranham and Kasey Smikes kept the Bears close with 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the first half that cut Baldwin’s lead to 25-20.
Walker scored 21 points and had 19 rebounds as the Braves enjoyed a 40-26 rebounding advantage. Neal had 12 points and four rebounds.
Duranham led Griffin with 20 points and seven rebounds.
This was the fourth meeting between the teams this season.They split two regular-season games before Griffin won 51-48 in the region tournament championship game on Feb. 17. All three of Griffin’s wins were by four points or less.
“It was kinda great that our first opportunity [in the state finals] was against somebody we knew instead of playing somebody unknown,” Johnson said. “We knew we had to box out. We knew that Janaye Walker was a beast inside. So it was easy for us to make those adjustments knowing that we’ve seen these young ladies three other times. They just wanted to fight so bad, and win. It was great.”
Baldwin - 7-18-12-10 - 47
Griffin - 9-11-16-15 - 51
Baldwin (47): Janaye Walker 21, Kassidy Neal 12, Jamya Easley 5, Zykeria Paschal 4, Madison Ruff 3, Morgan Ruff 2, Emily Adside 0-0 0-0 0, Jasmine Williams, Jordyn Bolston.
Griffin (51): Aaliyah Duranham 20, Leah Turner 17, Zy Thompson 5, Kasey Smikes 3, Zamiyah Hosley 3, Rinayah Harris 2, Samiah Puckett 1, Camiya Starks.
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