Class A-Private semifinals from UNG
DAHLONEGA — It’s the same old story on the girls’ side in Class A-Private. For the fifth season in a row, the Holy Innocents’ Lady Golden Bears and Wesleyan Lady Wolves will play each other for a state championship after both teams won on Saturday at UNG’s Convocation Center.
The top-ranked Lady Golden Bears defeated the Calvary Day Lady Cavaliers 70-30, while the No. 3 Lady Wolves beat St. Francis 66-52.
The championship game is set for 2 p.m. March 6 at the Macon Centreplex.
In the six seasons of matchups, the Lady Wolves have won all but one, with the Lady Golden Bears taking 2016 for the program’s only title. The Lady Wolves are in the title game for a 16th consecutive season, have won 13 state titles since 2001 and are currently two-time defending A-Private champions.
“Whoever it is (that we play in the title game), we want to play Holy Innocents’ brand of basketball,” said Lady Golden Bears coach Nichole Dixon, a Wesleyan alum, before Wesleyan played St. Francis. “That’s what our focus is going to be.”
Said Azar: “We’re going to enjoy this one because it was a tough game. Going to the final four is a big thing, so we’re going to enjoy that and then get to work on Monday and be ready for a few different things against Holy Innocents’.”
Holy Innocents’ girls 70, Calvary Day 30: The Holy Innocents’ Lady Golden Bears used a smothering defense, capitalized on ensuing fast break opportunities and then blew the game wide-open with a third-quarter scoring burst to advance.
For the top-ranked Lady Golden Bears (25-6), it’s their seventh consecutive trip to the championship game. It’s the second year in a row they’ll play the Lady Wolves in the title game after going undefeated against them heading into the tournament. They are 2-0 against them this season and were 3-0 against them last season before losing in the championship.
The Lady Golden Bears tallied 20 steals for the game, most of which came on a full-court press that they utilized the entire game. Sophomore guard Rachel Suttle had five of those steals.
They were in command from the get-go, leading 18-9 after the first quarter and 32-18 at halftime. They put the game out of reach at the end of the third quarter with a 15-0 run that gave them a 56-26 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The run included eight points in 30 seconds beginning with 0:56 left in the quarter — two 3-pointers from sophomore Charlsie Birkel with a Jada Farrell field goal sandwiched in between.
With 3:17 remaining in the game, the Lady Golden Bears pulled their starters.
Freshman guard Marya Hudgens had 13 points and six rebounds. Farrell had 12 points and nine rebounds and sophomore Jillian Hollingshead had 10 points and eight rebounds.
The No. 7 Lady Cavaliers (27-4), who traveled more than 300 miles and nearly five hours, were led by Jasmine Akins’ 14 points. It was their first trip to the semis since 2015.
Wesleyan girls 66, Calvary Day 52: The Lady Wolves overcame foul trouble and leaned on a dominant performance from Avyonce Carter, who finished with 25 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists.
The Lady Wolves (28-3) took charge early and were able to keep the Lady Knights (25-4) at arm’s length, leading 18-10 after the first quarter and 35-26 at halftime. Both quarters ended with Wesleyan buzzer beaters to pad the lead.
Though the Lady Knights never got closer than 3 points in the second half, the Lady Wolves had to overcome foul trouble. Callie Weaver and Izzy Larson fouled out and Carter and Nicole Azar were limited with four fouls.
“I’m really proud of our bench,” Azar said. “They did a really good job with two starters out. It was huge for us.”
Carter and Alyssa Phillip did all the scoring for the Lady Wolves in the third quarter, combining for 11 points to take a 45-37 lead into the fourth, where they closed on a 21-15 run.
Weaver pitched in 11 points and Azar added 10.
The Lady Knights, who were in the semis for a seventh consecutive year and seeking their first trip to the finals since 2016, were led by Savannah Samuel (17 points) and Jordan Isaacs (11).
St. Francis boys 65, Mount Bethel 63: The Knights are in the A-Private championship game for the second year in a row and sixth time in the last seven seasons, seeking their third state championship in that span.
They will play the Eagle’s Landing Chargers 4 p.m. March 6 at the Macon Centreplex.
The top-ranked Knights led 63-52 with 1:33 remaining and withstood a furious rally from their Region 6-B rivals, the Eagles, whom they were 2-1 against on the season heading into Saturday.
“It’s a tough battle because (the teams) know each other so well,” Knights coach Drew Catlett said. “I’ve just got some warriors. We didn’t do things perfectly and we (turned the ball over) there at the end there a couple of times. We’ve just got some guys with competitive spirit that get us over the hump.”
The Knights (27-4) were led by Dwon Odom and CJ Riley, who scored 19 points apiece. Odom, a Class of ‘20 four-star guard and Xavier commit, energized the crowd with three breakaway dunks, adding nine assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Riley served as the team’s marksman, nailing down five 3-pointers, including two late in the fourth quarter that stunted Mount Bethel runs.
Chase Ellis had 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks for St. Francis.
The Eagles (24-8) finished their first season in the GHSA after spending the program’s first three in the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association, where they won the Division 1-AA title in 2017.
They had just four scorers, led by Stanley Eze (27 points), Coleman Boyd (17) and Jordan Meka (15).
ELCA boys 60, Christian Heritage 44: The No. 2 Chargers (22-8) used their athleticism to overcome sloppy play and coast to a win over the unranked Lions (22-6), and are now one win away from their first state title since 2013, when the program won AAAA.
Though the Chargers struggled with turnovers and poor shooting from the field, they were in control from start to finish and led 26-15 at halftime and 42-28 after three before closing the game out.
The game got testy at times, with a technical called for each team and several instances in which players had to be separated by game officials.
In addition, Chargers senior guard Mekhi Cameron went down early in the second quarter with a right shoulder injury and didn’t return. Chargers coach Derrick Mason said his status for next week is questionable but Cameron said he’d probably play when asked.
The Chargers were led by Kamari Smith (20 points), Trevon Reddish (14) and Kelvin Jones II (11).
The Lions were led by AJ Kent, who scored 20 points.