Westlake girls win GEICO national championship

It's the fourth consecutive state title for Westlake, which won the past three in 7A before moving down this season in reclassification.
It's the fourth consecutive state title for Westlake, which won the past three in 7A before moving down this season in reclassification.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

The Westlake girls basketball team, which has won four consecutive state titles in Georgia, added a national championship to its collection Saturday.

The Lions outscored Paul VI of Chantilly, Va., 17-4 in the second quarter and cruised to a 70-50 victory in the championship game of the GEICO High School Nationals in Fort Myers, Fla.

Ta’Niya Latson, Raven Johnson and Brianna Turnage combined for 59 points, including 15 of the team’s 17 in the decisive second quarter.

“Those three girls have been the leaders of this team all season, so they’re just doing their jobs,” Westlake coach Hilda Hankerson said at halftime. “That’s nothing unusual for us.”

Latson scored a game-high 31 points and averaged 28.5 during the Lions’ two tournament games. She also had three rebounds, three steals and two assists. Latson, an uncommitted junior, is the No. 39-ranked player in her class nationally and was a first-team all-state selection in Class 6A.

Johnson, the AJC’s all-classification player of the year for the second consecutive season, had 17 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals. She is the No. 2-ranked senior in the country, according to espnW, and has signed with South Carolina.

Turnage, an honorable mention all-state selection and a Virginia Tech signee, got the Lions off to a good start with nine first-quarter points. She finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots.

The Lions completed the season 22-0 and went 112-4 during their four-year championship run.

Westlake led 20-18 at the end of the first quarter before breaking the game open in the second. Paul VI, which was 8-for-10 from the field in the first quarter, made just two of its 14 shots in the second as the Lions increased the lead to 37-22.

Paul IV never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way. Westlake led by 23 points twice in the second half, the final time on a layup by Latson with 55 seconds remaining that made it 70-47.

The Panthers were led by Jaelyn Talley (17 points, six rebounds), Bella Perkins (14 points) and Duke signee Lee Volker (10 points, four assists). Paul IV, a 14-time defending state champion in Virginia, had not played a game since Feb. 9 before its semifinal victory Friday. The Panthers finished their COVID-shortened season 11-1.

Westlake - 20-17-15-18 - 70

Paul IV - 18-4-15-13 - 50

Westlake (70)

Brianna Turnage 11, Ta’Niya Latson 31, Raven Johnson 17, Camerah Langston 6, Misia McKinney 3, Rhyann Wilson 2, Shawna Chestnut, Cynthia Walton, Kennedy Jackson, Destiny Givens, Faith Bryant, Shawna Jackson, Kelsey Willingham.

Paul VI (50)

Bella Perkins 14, Alyssa Costigan 4, Lee Volker 10, Fiona Hastick 2, J. Talley 17, Corinne Eisner 3, Anna Kinzwiler, Katherine Holler, Maddy Duren, Laura Williams, Jada Jackson, Annie Shanley, Brooke Batchelor.

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