Both Bulloch Academy basketball teams topped Tattnall Square Academy in a pair of exciting, down-to-the-wire battles Saturday afternoon.
Junior center Taylor Collins pushed in a layup with 3.1 seconds left to lead the Lady Gators to a 61-60 overtime win while the Gators survived a three-point barrage in the fourth quarter to take a 72-69 victory.
The afternoon’s contests were the Gators’ first games of the season in the Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) Class AAA division. Last season, both BA teams went to the Final Four in Class AA (the girls were state runners-up) and had a combined 42 wins. This year, Bulloch will play in Class AAA.
In the girls’ game, sophomore forward Anna Newton scored a career-high 28 points, junior Haley Burke added 16 and Collins had 11 in the win. In the boys’ game, senior guard Zach Altany pumped in 29 points while junior guard Jaylen Evans added 13 and senior guard Win Lee had eight.
In the opener, both Newton and Burke had 10 in the first half as the Lady Gators took a 22-19 halftime lead.
Bulloch (5-0) had a 39-34 lead at the end of the third quarter but the Lady Trojans (3-1) kept it close in the fourth quarter and tied the score several times.
Collins and Tattnall big girl Shanise Stanley pounded on each in the fourth quarter. Bulloch used a strong inside defense to try and neutralize her but she was a presence in the middle. Point guard Faren Harris was cat-quick and scored a game-high 23 points while Stanley added 16. But it was sharp-shooter Anna Dooley who did the fourth-damage.
She drained a three at the 3:38 mark to knot the game at 47-47. Newton answered back with a short jumper and Burke hit two free-throws from an intentional foul to put BA up 51-47 with 2:50 remaining.
The squads traded baskets and free-throws and Bulloch had a 54-51 lead with 53.6 left. The Lady Gators tried to sit on the ball for the win and did a good job doing so but then turned in over with 19.9 remaining.
Tattnall came down the floor and maneuvered for a game-tying three. The ball come into Dooley’s hands and she zipped with net with 2.5 left to tie the game. Dooley had 12 on the night.
In the four-minute overtime period, Stanley committed her fifth foul trying to stop guard Rachel Gilbert. With her out of the way, Bulloch could get inside better.
Gilbert hit a free throw and then used her speed to hit a running layup with for a 57-54 lead. Newton added a basket in the overtime as BA took a 59-56 lead at the 1:44 mark. But TSA took advantage of a BA lapse to go up 60-59 when Harris hit a shot with 30 seconds left.
BA gets the ball and takes a timeout on its end of the court with 14.3 left. After the timeout, the Lady Gators carefully but quickly looked for the opening.
The Lady Gators found it when Collins snucked into the lane, got the ball, made the move to the basket and bounced it off the glass for the win.
In the finale, the Gators (2-0) had a slim 31-29 halftime lead. Altany had 14 while Lee had six.
In the third, Bulloch outscored TSA 18-10 with some fast and furious offense and defense to take a 49-39 advantage.
But Tattnall (2-1) closed the gap with seven three-pointers in the fourth quarter. They had 10 in the game and TSA leading scorer Josh Sumerall had five. Summerall had 21 on the night and Andrew Layson added 18.
Bulloch would pull out to a comfortable six, eight or nine point lead but then a TSA three-ball and a couple of BA non-productive trips down the floor would keep the Trojans back in the game.
In the end, Bulloch used good rebounding and a quick-handed defense to take a 69-63 lead with 1:30 left. Evans put the game out of reach, hitting three of four from the charity stripe with under 40 seconds left.
In B-team boys action earlier in the afternoon, Smith Reeves netted 11 points, Ben Carico added 10 and Ross Rainey had eight as the Gators whipped Tattnall Square 47-39.
Bulloch Academy hosts local rival Robert Toombs Christian Academy Tuesday.