In early February, the Bulloch Academy Lady Gators struggled and suffered defeat when they had to play without star senior forward Pate Lomax due to injury.
It almost happened again Thursday night in the semifinals of the GISA Region 2-AAA basketball tournament.
Lomax picked up two quick fouls in the opening quarter and two more in the third, forcing head coach Paul Webb to severely limit her playing time. The hard-charging Frederica Academy Lady Knights took advantage of the situation and almost pulled off the upset in front of a packed house.
But Bulloch outscored FA 15-8 in the final period to take a 53-41 victory and advance to Friday’s championship game. The Lady Gators (23-4) will take on Trinity Christian School at 7 p.m.
The St. Simons squad (11-11) charged out of the gate and took the fight the Gator girls. Lomax collected her second foul at the 6:16 mark and was pulled.
The Lady Knights, led by point guard sophomore Aubry Maulden, exploited the hole in the BA lineup. FA’s defense caused Bulloch turnovers and confusion. The Lady Knights took a 10-2 lead at the 5:36 mark when Maulden, who led the Lady Knights with 11, canned a six footer. Senior center Hayden Squire schooled freshman Alivia Collins at the 3:04 mark for a 12-2 lead.
Bulloch took a collective breath and rallied back. Senior guard Page Spence drilled a three-pointer with 2:38 left. Both she and senior point guard Ashley Burke seemed to redouble their efforts to led the charge and pull the squad back into the game. Burke hit a free throw with 0.8 seconds left to cut the lead to 14-10. She led BA with 16 points.
FA junior Brooke Bourne, who chipped in 10, opened the second with a 12-footer for a 16-10 Frederica advantage. But Bulloch came to life with Collins, junior forward Sarah Evans and sophomore center Mikay Sands. BA out quicked the Lady Knights as Spence drew the box-and-one assignment on Maulden. Bulloch pulled to within one, 17-16. The Lady Gators took their first lead of the night, 20-19, at the 4:03 mark when Evans hit the front end of a two-shot opportunity from the charity stripe. The score was tied 25-25 at the horn.
Lomax came back in the third and immediately makes her presence known, hitting six points early. Her three-point play with 4:50 left gave Bulloch a 31-27 lead. She had eight on the night.
But she got her fourth foul at the 2:36 mark and went back to the bench.
Once again, the Lady Knights took advantage and knotted the score at 33-33 when senior Morgan Sullivan connected on a 10-footer with 2:10 left.
But Burke had the final five points of the quarter and hit a three-pointer with 18.6 left for a 38-33 lead.
Collins, Spence and Sands worked hard in the fourth on both offense and defense as the Gator lead slowly grew. Sands, who had 11 on the night, canned a six-footer with 2:52 left for a 47-37 advantage. Lomax returned to the court late to help secure the victory.
BA boys roll
Four Bulloch Academy players scored in double figures as the Gators pummeled Pinewood 63-45 in the boys’ semifinal game of the GISA Region 2-AAA basketball tournamentThursday night.
Seniors Smith Reeves and Marvin Perkins netted 15 points each, senior Will Marsh added 13 and junior Hunter Perry chipped in 11 for the win. Bulloch (18-8) outscored the Patriots 23-14 in the third quarter to take a commanding 50-31 lead headed into the final eight minutes. Brenley Hagan led the Patriots (12-16) with 11 points.
The Gators face Frederica Academy today at 8:30 p.m. in the boys’ region championship game. The teams split during the regular season. BA won by 20 at home in late January but lost by four last Friday night on St. Simons Island.
The Patriots take on Trinity Christian School of Dublin in the consolation game at 5:30 p.m.