DUBLIN — A fierce fourth-quarter comeback gave Bulloch Academy a 45-42 victory over John Milledge Academy Saturday in the consolation game of the GISA Region 4-AAA basketball tournament.
The Lady Gators (19-9) claim the third seed from the region and head into the first round of the Class AAA state tournament Wednesday at John Milledge Academy in Milledgeville. Bulloch plays at 4 p.m. against Tiftarea, the second seed from Region 3-AAA. It’s the fifth consecutive season that the Lady Gators have made it to the state tournament.
Down by nine, 31-22, to start the fourth quarter, Bulloch appeared done for the afternoon. John Milledge (19-8) seemed to have everything going its way. But BA head coach Paul Webb and his starters weren’t ready to pack it in just yet.
Bulloch came out in a full-court press, which rattled the Lady Trojan ball handlers. The Lady Gators took advantage of the situation, amped up their play and the momentum shifted.
“I thought our full-court press was the big turning point,” said Webb. “We normally start the game in the press but it was our third game in three days and I didn’t know if our girls had the legs for it. So we decided to wait. Once we went to it, I thought our kids played a lot more aggressively. Then we began hitting our shots.”
Sophomore Anna Newton started the scoring off with an eight-footer from the high block at the 7:38 mark. After a JMA turnover, junior Haley Burke knocked down a three-pointer 28 seconds later to cut the score to 33-27. She canned another trey at the 6:41 mark to trim the lead to three, 33-30. Burke led Bulloch with 15 points and Newton had eight.
The Lady Trojans went on a 4-0 run to pull out to a 42-36 lead with under 2:30 left as they tried to hold on.
After Collins hit a free throw, Gilbert intercepted a JMA pass at halfcourt and took it in for a layup with 1:15 left for a 42-39 score. A 10-second count on the ensuing inbounds try gave the ball back to Bulloch with 1:05 left.
The Gators swung the ball around and found Newton open for her patented shot from the top of the lane. The sophomore swished the net with 52.4 to cut the JMA lead to 42-41.
On the inbounds pass, Collins and Gilbert converged on Rachel Prestwood.
“Rachel (Gilbert) and I went to trap her,” said Collins. “She just stood there with the ball out in front of her so I just went for it. The referees were letting us play during the game so I figured that I’d take my chances with getting away with a foul.”
Collins wrestled the ball away from Prestwood and pushed it up to the basket. The ball kissed the glass and went in with 41.9 left to give Bulloch a 43-42 advantage. Collins scored 14 points in the game.
The first quarter ended in an 8-8 draw as both squads used the eight minutes to feel out the other. Bulloch came out in a box-and-one defense with speedster Gilbert manning JMA star Sarah Miller. The Lady Trojans came out in a man.
JMA’s Rachel Prestwood drew first blood with a drive and six-footer at the 6:35 mark. She led the Lady Trojans with 12 points. Burke opened the scoring for Bulloch with a slashing layup 25 seconds later.
She added four more in the quarter as both squads jockeyed for superiority. The Lady Gators used a good zone to keep the Lady Trojans out of the lane. Collins and Newton dominated the boards on defense but JMA’s Amy Prestwood was tough down low and kept Collins from scoring.
JMA took advantage, scoring 10 in the quarter to take an 18-8 halftime lead.