AUGUSTA — Bulloch Academy ended a 32-year drought Saturday night when the Lady Gators captured their first region basketball title since 1980 with a 42-30 victory over the Westminster Lady Wildcats.
"Our kids played so hard," Bulloch Academy head coach Paul Webb said of his team's effort in the GISA Region 4-AAA championship game. "I don't believe they played this hard all season. They wanted it so badly. It was a great display of heart and determination."
Senior Haley Burke pumped in a game-high 19 points, junior Anna Newton netted 11, senior Taylor Collins had seven and freshman Ashley Burke chipped in five to win the school's first-ever Class AAA region title. Webb's assistant, Beth Burke, played on the 1980 region championship team (in Class A) and is the mother of Haley and Ashley.
The Lady Gators (23-5) advance to the first round of the Class AAA tournament and will take on Dominion Christian of Atlanta, the fourth seed from Region 1-AAA, on Wednesday in Milledgeville at John Milledge Academy.
Bulloch battled fiercely with the Lady Wildcats, who were playing on their home court, and Webb was determined to have his squad shut down the Westminster top scorers.
"I thought we had a really good plan to defend them and take away their best two players," he said. "Coming into the game, each of them were averaging double figures. Tonight, they combined for just nine points."
While the BA defense held firm, the Lady Gators got a boost from the hot outside-shooting of Haley Burke and the inside play of Newton.
"Haley had some key three-pointers," Webb said. "Every shot inside was contested and was a tough basket. Anna had 10 of her points in the first half."
The Lady Gators took a lead approximately halfway through the second quarter and stretched it to 24-14 by halftime.
"Westminster had a great defensive team and we had to earn every point," Webb said. "On defense, I don't know if we played that hard all year. Amelia Akins had to come off the bench and play the majority of the second quarter for Taylor, who got her second foul early in the quarter. She was so aggressive. Marianna (Peebles) and Mary Margaret (Reeves) did a good job coming off the bench too."
Bulloch boys 53, John Milledge 46
Junior Themba Twala scored 16 points, senior Jaylen Evans had 12 and junior Ross Rainey added 11 as the Gators beat John Milledge Academy in the boys' consolation game Saturday.
Bulloch (22-6) claims the third seed and advances to the first round of the GISA state tournament. The Gators will play against an undetermined foe from Region 1-AAA on Thursday in Milledgeville at John Milledge Academy.
BA was bumped into Saturday's consolation game after losing, 52-42, to Westminster on Friday night.