Trifecta’s have started to become a trend at Bulloch Academy.
Following the lead of their wrestling counterparts, the BA boys basketball team had a three-peat on their minds Friday night — although the stakes were a little smaller on the hardwood than they were on the mat.
BA had not only an eight-game winning streak and an undefeated region record on the line — but they had a shot to win their third region title in a row and their seventh in the last 11 years. However standing in their way was bitter rivals Pinewood, who had given BA a run for their money back in January.
“They’ve been our biggest rival for years, and when two rivals play you can just throw those records out the window,” said head coach Chandler Dennard. “We knew they were going to shoot well and in the first half they did just that.”
Friday night was a trifecta that almost wasn’t, simply because BA was down by as many as 14 points at one point in the game. After allowing a 14-4 run by Pinewood to trail 34-22 coming out of halftime, BA still couldn’t find any offense near six minutes in the third quarter.
Between the 4:21 mark of the second quarter and the 2:30 mark of the third quarter, Pinewood had outscored the Gators 27-15. In that time Pinewood shot a blistering 9-of-14 from the field while during the 14-4 run in the second quarter BA shot just 1-of-5. However, their shooting fortunes would swing dramatically in the third quarter.
Even while being down by double digits, BA started to shoot lights out in the third. BA shot 9-of-12 in the third quarter, powered by 11 points from Dra Harrison — who would finish with a game high 19 points. Harrison would score the final four points of the quarter, finishing with an emphatic slam to bring BA within four.
“When you get in good rhythm and the shots start falling, things just start to roll in your favor,” Dennard said. “That’s how we got back in this game.”
The two sides would trade buckets going into the fourth, putting the score at 54-50. Steven Henry would nail a three from the wing after an assist from Don Aaron. Then following two straight misses by Pinewood and a turnover forced by Henry, the senior would draw a foul before he could break away for an easy two.
Instead, Henry would opt to hit his next two free throws, giving BA their first lead since the 5:20 mark of the second quarter. In a crowd that was standing room only, BA’s fans nearly blew the roof off the building following Henry’s shot to but BA up by one.
Pinewood — who at one point was shooting nearly 70 percent from the field — missed six of their last eight shots. BA on the other hand was able to hit seven of eight free throws down the stretch — four courtesy of Brett Thomas — to seal the comeback, the winning streak and the three-peat with a 67-60 victory.
“Those guys wanted the ball,” Dennard said. “Those seniors especially down the stretch.”
Following Harrison’s 19 was Chad Lanier with 17 points, and Henry with 14. Thomas and Aaron would each have eight, meaning the original starting five combined for 66 of BA’s final 67 points. BA shot 54 percent from the field in the game, the better of which came in the second half when they shot a 68 percent clip.
Bulloch Academy (17-10, 8-0) will now face Trinity Sharpsburg at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday in the first round of the state playoffs.
BA pulls upset down Sands
The narrative for Bulloch Academy’s girls basketball this season was the team went as far as MiKay Sands did.
Friday night in the GISA 2-3A consolation game, they were without their star player for most of the second half. After picking up her third foul early in the third quarter Sands had to sit until the fourth, then on a rebound with 5:53 left in the game she rolled her ankle —permanently removing her from the game.
All that being said, on the backs of five freshman BA still found a way to pull the 34-29 upset over No. 2 seed Frederica to secure a three-seed in the playoffs. As improbable as the odds may have been, head coach Paul Webb has never been prouder of him team all season.
“It was a really ugly game, but our kids did just enough to hang on,” Webb said. “What I was most proud of though was when we hit our free throws near the end to hold on.”
It helps that even with Sands on the Bench, Frederica struggled to put a ball in the basket all night. The Knights shot 19 percent from the field and even worse 17 percent in the second half when Sands wasn’t even on the floor. Make no mistake though, when Sands was playing she made enough of an impact to keep her younger comrades in the game when she was out.
In just 20 minutes of play Sands scored 16 points, grabbed eight boards and blocked seven shots. Six of those points came on a key run un the second quarter that gave BA their permanent lead when they were trailing by as many as nine points.
Down 13-4 in the second quarter, Sands would hit two free throws the follow those up with back-to-back buckets in the paint. A three from Abby Newton would eventually give BA the lead with 2:15 left in the first half, then another desperation three by Maddie Cowart at the buzzer gave BA a 17-13 going into halftime.
However the second half is where BA really had to grit their teeth — especially in the fourth quarter. After outscoring Frederica 7-6 in the third quarter with Sands on the bench, the senior came back out to score one more point on a free throw before being sidelined for good with an ankle injury.
So armed with four freshman and an eighth grader, BA was set to outlast a team who had outscored them 104-78 in the regular season. Down 27-19, Frederica started to chip away while BA struggled with basic offensive continuity without Sands on the floor. The Knights would cut the lead to 29-28 with under a minute left when it came time to foul.
Regan Ellis, who was 0-3 from the line prior to her third trip, nailed both of her charity shots to put three points between BA and Frederica. After another miss Newton stepped up to hit both of her free throws, then following another miss Leah Williford hit one of two to finally put the Knights away.
“Abby has improved so much this year,” Webb said. “She’s really become a leader, and it showed when MiKay went out.”
Newton would finish with ten points, ten rebounds, three steals and two blocks to lead her freshman comrades. Even while no other Gators finished with more than two points, it ultimately was the aforementioned defense that pulled BA ahead.
“I didn’t think either team played particularly well at all tonight,” Webb said. “That tends to happen in consolation games when it feels like there’s nothing to play for.”
While the extent of Sands injury is unknown, what is known is BA will play the winner of Trinity-Sharpsburg and Heritage Tuesday at a time to be determined later in the first round of the GISA state playoffs.