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Gators charge into semis
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Bulloch Academy Senior Forward Pate Lomax battles for a rebound against the Lady Knights in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs Feb. 24. - photo by BRYAN BURKE/Special to the Herald

 With just two games left before a state champion is crowned it’s safe to say that the cream has risen to the top.
    Bulloch Academy is the defending state champion in Class AAA. Tonight, the Lady Gators (26-4) will take on Westwood (28-0), the state champs in Class AA last season and the biggest threat to the Gators’ crown.
    Both squads advanced through the first two rounds of the state tournament with little trouble, but the pair will meet at 7 p.m. tonight at Mercer University with a chance to play for another title hanging in the balance.
    “It might be a different sort of game,” Bulloch coach Paul Webb said. “We’re used to getting everyone’s best shot. I’m sure we can expect the same from Westwood, but they’ve had so much success this season. It feels kind of new to be the underdog for the first time in a year.”
    Last season, Webb’s Gators brought home the first state championship in school history. This season has taken a similar path, with plenty of milestones – like Webb’s 500th career win and a winning streak that spanned nearly a full calendar year – dotting the way.
    But the Lady Cats are determined to put an end to the Gators’ good times.
    Westwood has mowed down every opponent in its path – often in dominating fashion – and has shown no ill effects of moving up to the highest classification of GISA competition.
    The Cats have a well-balanced attack that is sure to give the Gators one of their toughest tests in recent memory.
    “Westwood might have one of the best defenses we’ve seen,” Webb said. “They also have four great shooters. They play a lot with four girls outside of the perimeter and they get a lot of good shots.
    “That’s a little different than anything we’ve seen so far this season. We’re going to have to be on the move on defense and make sure that we’re in position to rebound and not give them second chances.”
    Westwood brings a wealth of talent and athleticism to the floor. Bulloch Academy is no slouch in either of those categories and also boasts a solid group of upperclassmen that have answered every bell so far.
    Ashley Burke directs the offense and is a threat to explode for a big point output on any given night. Pate Lomax has been the Gators’ driving force in the paint and has paced the Bulloch offence aside from a brief sideline stint due to a broken hand.
    Even in Lomax’s absence, young Gators and valuable reserves like Mikay Sands and Kristen Kingery have stepped up to make the team a deep and versatile threat.
    “We’re a confident team,” Webb said. “We’ve been to the Final Four three consecutive years and four out of the last seven. Westwood has been to four in a row. I don’t think that there are going to be too many nerves. It’s all about settling in and playing the best game we can.”
    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.