Class 4A: Semifinal updates from Fort Valley State

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Spencer, Westover boys, Luella, Marist girls advance to finals

BOYS

Spencer 44, Marist 36

Spencer led Marist 11-10 after the first quarter and went into the half with a 19-15 lead before pulling away in the third quarter. The Greenwave held Marist to just two points in the third quarter and grew their lead to 29-17 before closing out the victory. Spencer (29-2) now sits one win away from the program’s first-ever state championship and remains undefeated within the classification this season.

Spencer opened up the third quarter on a 10-0 run and late baskets by Ryan Mobley, Gary Gaithers and Dray Duncan pushed the lead to 29-17 heading into the final frame. Marist opened the fourth quarter with a Grant Erickson field goal and two free throws by Quinn Damm to cut the deficit to 29-21. The teams traded baskets before Spencer’s Wydarius Scott made a three-pointer that grew the lead to 34-23. Damm hit a three-pointer with just over a minute left to cut the deficit to 42-34. Spencer has limited all four playoff opponents to fewer than 42 points and carries a 33.1 average margin of victory into the championship.

Westover 42, McDonough 39

Westover sits one win away from the program’s first state title since 2001 after toppling No. 1 ranked McDonough 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, with both teams tallying just three points in the second quarter and Westover closing out a 7-2 scoring advantage in the third quarter. 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.

GIRLS

Luella 62, Baldwin 53

Luella earned its first-ever state championship appearance on Friday and defeated Baldwin for the second time 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 head coach LaToya Brown utilized a 2-2-1 zone and the Lions continued to find success and went into the half with a 27-17 lead.

“It was huge,” Brown told the Henry Herald about the fast start. “Hats off to Baldwin, a very young group, a talented group. They played very hard, a special group of kids I’m sure, so it was important for us to go out and hit first. It was very important for us tin this game to come out and give everything we had those first three minutes of the game and we preached that to the kids all week… and they were able to do that.”

Baldwin battled to 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.

Marist 38, Pickens 35

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 senior Lauren Kim made seven crucial free throws in the fourth quarter to lift the War Eagles to victory. Carolina Mullis led Pickens with a game-high 21 points, while Faklaris paced Marist with her team-high 11 points. Fletcher and Kim both finished with seven points for the War Eagles. Marist will take on Luella in the championship next Saturday at 5 pm. Neither team has lost within Class 4A this season and both programs have the opportunity to win first-ever titles.