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Lady Gators survive, and advance
Lady Gators survive and advance
Bulloch Academy senior guard Abby Newton drives in for a layup in the second half of the Gators opening round state playoff game against Heritage. - photo by JOSH AUBREY/staff

The Bulloch Academy Lady Gators punched their ticket to the GISA state quarterfinals Tuesday night, but it wasn’t an easy victory. The Gators had to hold off a late charge by the Heritage Hawks, before finally prevailing 42-37 Tuesday at Augusta Prep.

The Gators built a comfortable fourth quarter lead, but the Hawks started raining down three pointers, and eventually cut the Bulloch Academy lead to 39-37 with just under two minutes to play.

“I have seen plenty of tape of games Heritage has played throughout the year,” said Bulloch Academy coach Chancler Dennard. “This has to be the most three pointers they have made in a game this year.”

The Hawks hit six three pointers in the second half as they cut the lead to two, but the Gators held Heritage scoreless the final 1:55 of the game, and Abby Newton helped seal the victory with three free throws in the final minute.

“This group just doesn't seem to like to make things easy for me,” Dennard said. “I thought we had a pretty comfortable lead, but give Heritage credit as they fought back. Abby made some big free throws, and we were able to weather the storm and survive and advance.”

In a low scoring first half, the Gators opened up a 9-6 lead after one quarter of play. Bulloch Academy tightened the defense even more in the second quarter allowing only one point. Kacie Ricketts actually outscored Heritage by herself 8-7 as Bulloch Academy took a 20-7 halftime lead.

The Hawks fought back in the third in the only real offense show of the game. Zada Smith hit a pair of three pointers, and Michaela Mikko added six points herself as Heritage outscored the Gators 21-17 in the third.

The Gators only managed one Abby Newton field goal the entire fourth quarter, but it proved to be enough as they advance to the quarterfinals on Friday.

“I knew D.J. Clay would have his team ready, and they played a great game,” Dennard said. “Our kids didn’t panic when things got tight, and we were able to come out with the win.”

Ricketts led the way for the Gators with 14 points. Newton chipped in with 12 points and Leah Williford added nine. Next up the Gators travel to Tattnall Square in Macon to take on Augusta Prep in the GISA quarterfinals Friday at 6:00.