Class AAA girls basketball: Jefferson 84, GAC 68

Article and photos courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution –> Original Article Here

The Jefferson Lady Dragons dominated at the charity stripe and were effective against the press on Wednesday in Round 2 of the Class AAA state playoffs, coasting to an 84-68 road win in the process.

The No. 2 Lady Dragons (25-3) advance to the quarterfinals, where they will host Johnson-Savannah on either Feb. 26 or 27. Both are No. 2 seeds, but Jefferson is on the top half of the bracket, which won the GHSA’s universal coin toss. Johnson beat Morgan County 66-44, also on Wednesday.

The No. 5 Lady Spartans’ season ends at 17-12.

The Lady Dragons ended the third quarter with a 54-40 lead and distanced themselves from GAC further by going 19-of-21 from the free throw line in the final quarter alone.

Sophomore Livi Blackstock was 8-for-9 from the line in the fourth.

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“It’s a focus for us and something we take pride in,” said coach Greg Brown, in his first season at Jefferson after spending the previous seven at Northwest Whitfield. “We made them at the most important time.”

The Lady Spartans had jumped to an 18-9 lead early in the second quarter, but Jefferson closed on a 22-13 run to send the teams into halftime tied at 31. The Lady Dragons first began pulling away in the third quarter, opening a double-digit lead with 2:00 left on Blackstock’s corner 3-pointer.

The Lady Spartans pulled to within 38-36 with 4:36 left in the third but never got any closer.

“In this state of the tournament both teams are good and you just don’t know what’s going to happen,” GAC coach Lady Grooms said. “Hats off to them. They hit the free throws when it mattered, because when you’re down, you’re going to foul. So when they made those free throws, it’s like they put icing on the cake.”

Before beating GAC at the line, the Lady Dragons built their lead in the transition game, whether it was beating GAC’s press or pushing the up court after a defensive rebound.

“We all put our effort in and committed to what we do best,” freshman Deshona Gaither said. “We played our hearts out.”

The Lady Dragons, who are seeking their second state title in program history — they won Class A in 2001 — were led by Gaither’s 24 points, followed by Natalia Bolden (21) and Blackstone (15).

The Lady Spartans were led by Kayleigh Addie (20 points), Kennedi Williams (15) and Jaida Hall (12).

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