MACON — Bulloch Academy shook off some opening-game jitters to bounce Brookwood from the first round of the GISA Class AAA state tournament with a sluggish 54-33 win Wednesday night at Tattnall Square's gym.
“It was not an A-game performance,” said BA head coach Paul Webb. “I thought we struggled the entire time. I don’t know if the girls were nervous because it was the first game of the tournament against an unknown team. We weren’t in our usual rhythm.”
Junior forward Pate Lomax led the Lady Gators (30-1) with 12 points. Senior guard Brook Gilbert and junior point guard Ashley Burke added nine each. Senior center Chelsea Oglesby and freshman forward Mikay Sands had seven each.
Bulloch advances to the ‘Elite Eight’ and will face Tattnall Square Academy Friday at 4 p.m. at Stratford Academy.
Earlier in the night, TSA trounced Trinity Christian of Sharpsburg 47-20 to set up the second-round matchup. The Lady Trojans handed Bulloch its only blemish of the season, a 50-40 loss in the championship game of the TSA Christmas tournament on Dec. 30.
Bulloch used an 18-4 run in the second quarter break open a tight first quarter but then had to fend off a third-quarter comeback. The Gator girls caught fire again in the fourth to outscored Brookwood 18-7 for the 21-point win.
In the opening quarter, it was as if both head coaches had opened up their respective stables and let their horses run without the reins.
The action on the court seemed way too fast and out of control. Neither team could establish a rhythm as the players hustled up and down the court. The Lady Gators, who are accustomed to outrunning their opponents early, were matched by the speed of the team from Thomasville.
Lomax scored the first basket of the quarter at the 6:14 mark. Later in the quarter, Webb switched from Bulloch’s traditional man defense to a box-and-one. This slowed the pace of the game and challenged the Lady Warriors, who were physically smaller than Bulloch. It also seemed to give the Lady Gators more confidence as the BA big girls Oglesby and Lomax began work harder in the lane. Bulloch edged out to a 7-6 advantage by the buzzer.
Both teams adopted the 2-3 zone in the second quarter. Bulloch benefitted immensely as Oglesby, Lomax and Sands exerted their dominance. BA’s trap also started clicking as quick guards Burke, Gilbert and Danielle Atkinson pressed the Brookwood ball handlers. Turnovers turned into points as the Lady Gators went on a 12-0 run to take a 19-6 en route to a 23-10 halftime advantage.
In the third quarter, sharpshooter Christy Quinton sparked the Lady Warriors with her outside shooting abilities. She, Vallie Smith and Madeline Harver led a charge which cut the Lady Gator lead to 36-26 by the buzzer. Quinton paced Brookwood with 12 points on the night while Smith and Harver had eight each.
It wasn’t until the final eight minutes that Bulloch girls seemed truly comfortable. The half-court trap worked as it should. Burke ran the floor well and Lomax seemed like her old self again in the middle. The junior forward converted an old-fashioned three-point play to open the scoring. Bulloch went on a 6-0 run early for a 42-26 lead. Lomax’s putback at the 4:19 mark gave the Lady Gators a 48-28 lead.
Friday’s matchup will be the rubber game between Bulloch and Tattnall Square. BA beat the Lady Trojans 43-36 back on Nov. 21. at the Lady Gator Classic in Statesboro. TSA returned the favor with the 10-point win a month later.