By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Gators a win away from state championship game
BA Basketball
Bulloch Academy senior guard Ryan Swanson drives past Southland Academy's Nathan Duke (14) Hudson Collins (4) and Carmello Volley (3) for two of his game-high 22 points as the Gators knocked off the Raiders 53-35 in the GISA quarterfinals in Milledgeville. - photo by JOSH AUBREY/staff

The Bulloch Academy boys' basketball team punched their ticket to the state Final-4 as they knocked off Southland Academy Saturday 53-35 behind a game-high 22 points from Ryan Swanson and 15 points from Rodney Hill.

Bulloch Academy had won their last three games in the final seconds of the game, so for Gator head coach Chance Cofield Saturday’s wire-to-wire victory was a much-needed break from the last second heroics.

“I told the team after the last game I can’t do that anymore,” said Cofield. “I’m so proud of them because we have been preaching to jump out to an early lead. I think we did that today and then we just kept that momentum going the rest of the game.”

Swanson outscored the Raiders by himself in the first quarter. Swanson connected on a trio of three-pointers, and two free throws for 11 of the Gators 13 first quarter points. Southland managed only six points in the first quarter.

Swanson added a pair of three pointers in the second quarter, and Rodney Hill heated up as well with eight second quarter points including two three pointers. Hill has missed much of the season off and on and was a welcome sight in the starting lineup for Cofield.

“Ryan slowed his game down which helped everyone, and Rodney benefitted from that decision,” said Cofield. “Rodney knows how to turn things up in the playoffs, and we saw that today. He is a great defensive player, and when he heats up, he can be a force on offense as well.”

The Gator offense was definitely on their game Saturday, but Cofield credits the defense and game plan for how to attack Southland Academy with the success as well as the Gator’s rebounding. 

“Southland is a great team and came in ranked No. 3, but we did a great job of containing Owen Exley and Max Foster today,” said Cofield. “A lot of teams have played a triangle and two on those guys, but I had confidence we could stick to what we do and played man-to-man. I also loved the way Chas Collins and Miller Pope did a great job of blocking out and controlling the glass.”

The Gators will head to the home of Southland Academy with a trip to Americus for their 5 p.m. semifinal tipoff against John Milledge.

“I think this year we are going in a little more optimistically than the last time we were her,” said Cofield. “This time we aren’t playing against a future NBA star like Anthony Edwards. We just have to continue to improve on a game like we had today, and I like our chances.”