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Lady Gators into semifinals
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Bulloch Academy coach Chandler Dennard celebrates with his team as the final seconds tick off in the Gators' GISA state quarterfinal matchup with Tiftarea Friday in Macon. - photo by JOSH AUBREY

The Bulloch Academy Lady Gators have advanced to their first final four since winning back-to-back back state titles in 2013 and 2014, as they knocked off Tiftarea 69-43 Friday night at Tattnall Square Academy in Macon.


The Gators have battled injuries, and illnesses for the past three weeks, but Friday night showed what a healthy Gator team could do, as they never trailed in the contest, and led by as many as 29 points.


“This is the way I felt this team could play all season long,” said Bulloch Academy coach Chandler Dennard. “We haven’t been healthy, but I feel like we are finally there. It was so nice to see the offense, and the defense ran the way we have worked on it all season.”


The Gators raced out to an early lead, and never looked back. Senior Abby Newton scored 12 of her 14 points in the first quarter helping the Gators to a 23-11 lead. Sophomore Kacie Ricketts added 13 of her team high 15 points in the first half, including three from behind the arc.


The Gators continued to pull away in the second quarter. A Kacie Ricketts three pointer extended the lead to 33-13 with 4:27 left in the second. The Gators went on for a 40-20 lead at the half.


The Gator motion offense continued to click in the second half. Junior Leah Williford had six of her 14 points in the third, and senior Regan Ellis added six points as well.


The Gators were able to clear their bench midway through the fourth quarter, as they cruised on to the state final four net week at Georgia Southwestern University.


“I’m so happy for the girls,” Denard said. “To overcome the kind of injuries we have, and suck it up the way they did was so impressive.”


“Making it back to the final four for the first time since their back-to-back titles means so much to them,” Dennard said.  “The looks on their faces at the end of the game showed it all.”


Ricketts led the way with 15 points, while Newton and Williford each had 14 points. Tiftarea was led by Carlie Sterenth with 13 points. The Gators will play in the final four Friday night at 7:30 p.m. against Deerfield-Windsor.

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