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BA tops CCS, advances to Final Four

   MACON — Bulloch Academy controlled a pair of six-footers with smothering defense as the Lady Gators pounded Calvary Christian School 54-30 in the second round of the GISA Class AAA girls’ basketball state tournament Friday.
    The Lady Gators (27-3) advance to the Final Four and will play next Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at Mercer University. Bulloch will play the winner of the Tattnall Square-Holy Spirit Prep matchup, which began at 8:30 p.m. at Stratford Academy. It will be Bulloch’s third Final Four appearance in the past five years. Calvary ends its season at 17-13.
    Mary McCarty, a 6-foot-1 senior center, and Corine Embola, a 6-foot sophomore forward, worried Lady Gator head coach Paul Webb before the game. But Bulloch sophomore Pate Lomax, senior Anna Newton and junior Chelsea Oglesby did a number on the CCS big girls.
    “I thought we did a really good job on defending McCarty,” said Webb. “Pate stuck to her almost all night long.”
    Although McCarty had a game-high 23 points, 13 came late in the fourth quarter when BA held a 20-point lead and Webb substituted freely. Embola was held scoreless.
    Newton led Bulloch with 13 points, Oglesby added eight and both seniors Lauren Dennard and Mary Margaret Reeves had six each. Twelve of 15 Lady Gators scored in the rout.
    “Before the game, I challenged the seniors not to let this be their last game,” said Webb. “They did a great job leading the way. I thought this was Lauren’s best game of the season. She ran the point well, shot the ball good and fought for rebounds.” 
    Both squads were ice cold in the first quarter. Dennard popped the game’s first basket, a 14-footer from the right wing. Newton handled Embola while Lomax took care of McCarty, although the CCS big girl was able to get loose for six points. Oglesby banked a 12-footer in at the buzzer for a 7-6 Lady Gator lead.
    In the second, Bulloch’s man press worked to perfection as the pressure caused CCS turnovers. The Lady Gators notched eight quick points to take a 14-6 lead. In the run, Peebles had a layup and hit a short jumper. Dennard canned a 14-footer with 5:26 left for a 14-6 lead.
    BA point guard Ashley Burke, still fighting a respiratory illness and a fever, had to take a break while Newton, who got two fouls in the opening quarter, didn’t come off the bench. Dennard ran the point while Oglesby filled in nicely with her defense of McCarty and Embola. The Lady Gator defense smothered the visitors from Columbus, allowing just a single bucket in the quarter.
    Lomax pushed in a tough layup in traffic at the 2:44 mark to give Bulloch a double-digit lead, 16-6. McCarty got away from the intense pressure from Lomax and Oglesby, using a drop-step in the lane for a basket with 2:25 left. Reeves drilled a 14-footer with 1:59 left for an 18-8 lead which stood until the halftime buzzer.
      In the third, Bulloch’s defense and press continued to do its job as BA held the Lady Knights to just four points. Lomax stuck to McCarty like glue, allowing her just a basket. Newton, Lomax, Oglesby and Dennard crashed the boards effectively, giving the Lady Knights no chance for a second shot.
    On the other end of the floor, Dennard and Burke engineered the offensive onslaught. Newton popped 12-footers from both sides of the baseline. She had nine points in the period. Reeves hit a pair of free throws with 20 seconds remaining for a 30-12 lead.
    The carnage continued in the fourth as the Gators poured it with pin-point shooting and aggressive defense. The Lady Gators outscored CCS 14-4 to take a 44-16 lead with four minutes left in the game. Webb substituted freely in the final minutes. McCarty took advantage of this, scoring 13 down the stretch.