MACON — Bulloch Academy avenged its only loss of the season as the Lady Gators punched their tickets to the GISA Class AAA Final Four with a dominating 52-22 victory over Tattnall Square Academy here Friday.
“I’m pumped,” BA junior forward Pate Lomax said with a big, broad smile. “We are ready to beat the next team and go to the championship game.”
She and fellow forward Chelsea Oglesby scored 15 points each and had nine rebounds apiece in the lopsided victory at Stratford Academy’s gymnasium.
“Tattnall was our only loss of the season,” Lomax said of the 50-40 loss in the championship game of the TSA Christmas tournament on Dec. 30. “We wanted to show them that we were better now.”
The 30-point Elite Eight win puts the Lady Gators (31-1) in the Final Four for the second straight season and the third time in six years. Bulloch will face Westfield next Friday at 8:30 p.m. in Hawkins Arena at Mercer University in Macon. The Lady Hornets beat Deerfield-Windsor 52-44 in the late game.
Up by just seven at halftime, the Lady Gators put on a clinic in the third quarter and tripled their lead.
But, according to BA head coach Paul Webb, it was a sterling first-quarter performance which made the difference.
“I thought we set the tone right from the jump,” said Webb. “I really thought that it was the difference, even though they made a couple of runs at us. We let them know that we were serious.”
Bulloch blasted off from the tip, taking control early as Oglesby and Lomax set up shop in and around the lane. The senior took advantage of a man-on-man matchup with Haley Gordon and scored the game’s first six points.
The Lady Gators used its 2-2-1 half court trap to slow down the quick Lady Trojans. A 2-3 zone kept the Lady Trojans out of the lane, forcing short-to-medium range jumpers. TSA’s shooters were cold from the field. Bulloch rebounded well and pushed the ball down the floor to take a10-0 lead by the 4:13 mark.
Tattnall’s Jordan Allen hit the Lady Trojans’ first basket at the 3:56 mark. She led the Macon squad with seven points. Tattnall (20-8) was playing without leading scorer Kendra Green, who went down in the Region 2-AAA tournament with a torn ACL.
The Lady Gators took a 16-6 lead at the end of the opening period. Oglesby netted eight while Lomax added six.
“We believe in each other,” Lomax said. “We know that we have to play our hardest to win.”
The Gator girls had to do just that in the second eight minutes to repel the hard-charging Lady Trojans.
Tattnall rallied behind Allen, Brianna Beasley and Allie Gordan, cutting the lead to 16-11 with 4:45 left in the half. TSA’s posts pummeled Oglesby and Lomax and kept the ball out of the middle. The renewed efforts seemed to rattle the BA girls.
“Before the game, we talked about the fact that there were only eight teams left and each one of them would be playing their hardest,” said Webb. “We were expecting Tattnall to make a run. They are tough and gritty.”
The Gator girls recovered their composure enough late to take a 21-13 halftime lead.
Bulloch’s girls were at their best in the third.
Point guard Ashley Burke was amazing as she led the BA girls on an 18-4 run for a 39-17 lead by the buzzer.
“Before we went out, I challenged Ashley to let the rest of the state know that she is the best point guard in the league,” said Webb. “She didn’t disappoint.”
The junior was aggressive, quick and smooth as she pushed the ball hard up the floor. She effortlessly avoided defenders, threading her way through toward the basket. Her aggressive attacks enabled her teammates to get open for easy shots. On defense, her quick reflexes allowed her to snatch balls away from the Lady Trojans.
“She had a super game,” said Webb. “It seemed like every time I looked up, she was stealing the ball or striping one of their players.
Burke only had two points but she had six assists, six steals and five rebounds.
“It doesn’t matter to me how many I score,” she humbly said. “I like playing defense and I like finding the open player. I know that if you play your hardest, good things will happen. I know my teammates have my back.”
The Lady Gators left no doubt in the final quarter, outpointing Tattnall 13-5.
Other leaders for Bulloch were junior guard Page Spence with eight points and senior guard Brooke Gilbert with six.