Girls: GAC 48, Upson-Lee 35

The Greater Atlanta Christian went to midcourt to thank their fans after Saturday's Final Four win over Upson-Lee.

Credit: Stan Awtrey

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The Greater Atlanta Christian went to midcourt to thank their fans after Saturday's Final Four win over Upson-Lee.

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Greater Atlanta Christian will have the opportunity to win its second straight state title next week in Macon, but the Spartans had to knock off No. 1-ranked and undefeated Upson-Lee to get there.

GAC (15-7) used an 11-0 run that began late in the third quarter and took care of the Knights 48-35 on Saturday in the Class AAA semifinal in Norcross. It was the first setback of the year for Upson-Lee, whose season ended 28-1. Greater Atlanta Christian will play Cross Creek for the championship.

“Last year we came out of nowhere and nobody saw us coming,” GAC coach Jessica Guarneri said. “This year was completely different. We’ve had a target on our back. I tried to tell the girls today (Upson-Lee) had all the pressure. They were prefect; we aren’t perfect. We know what a loss feels like, so just come out and play basketball.”

Greater Atlanta Christian used its superior size down low to stifle Upson-Lee’s efforts to drive to the basket. And the Knights never found enough rhythm from outside, hitting only three 3-pointers all night, which allowed GAC to keep packing the zone.

Upson-Lee got in trouble when standout Jakera Ellerbee picked up her third personal foul with 35 seconds left in the first half. She had to sit out the first half of the third quarter and fouled out with 3:44 remaining, having scored 12 points.

GAC made its move when freshman Myla Benton finished a fast break basket. Addie made a 3-pointer and Benton followed with a 3, leaving the Spartans ahead 34-28. Addie’s 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter and pull away.

“That was absolutely critical,” Guarneri said. “That’s exactly what needed to happen.”

Upson-Lee got as close as five points on a basket by Montgomery, but GAC answered with Addie’s three-point play and Laurren Randolph’s baseline jumper restored the 11-point lead and turned out the lights.

GAC got 18 points from Kaleigh Addie, 16 from Jaci Bolden and nine from Randolph.

Upson-Lee also got eight points each from Alonzea Montgomery and Tyla Zellner.

“We knew they were going to be difficult,” Guarneri said. “Ellerbee is a dynamic player. She can score from anywhere on the court. We just tried to do our best at covering them from every angle and I think we did that.”