After having been swept by Trinity Christian School of Dublin during the regular season, the Bulloch Academy Lady Gators got the sweetest revenge possible Friday night in the championship game of the GISA Region 2-AAA basketball tournament.
Pate Lomax and Mikay Sands netted 18 points each and Ashley Burke added 16 to lead Bulloch to a 61-43 victory and the region title.
The win marked the fourth straight year that the Lady Gators have captured a region championship and will advance as a number one seed in the Class AAA state tournament. The Lady Gators (24-4) will host a first-round date in the state playoffs on Tuesday (5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.) will play the 7 p.m. game against the undetermined fourth seed from Region 3 (loser of Deerfield-Windsor vs. Southland).
It was also a milestone night for Lomax. The senior forward scored the 1,000th point of her career in the second quarter. She needed just seven coming into the game to make the mark.
The Lady Crusaders (19-9) had beaten Bulloch twice; 59-53 on Jan. 23 in Statesboro and 64-56 on Feb. 10 in Dublin.
The much-anticipated rubber match pitted TCS senior center Sydney Bozeman against Lomax and Sands in front of a packed house.
Both squads had tight man defenses early while Bulloch threw a half-court trap into the mix. After trying to go toe-to-toe with Bozeman, the Gators used a new strategy and spread the offense. This opened up running lanes for Lomax and Burke. Sands picked up the pieces. The sophomore center gave her squad a 14-10 lead with 8.5 seconds left in the first quarter.
Bulloch went on a 7-0 run early in the second. Senior guard Page Spence canned a three-pointer with 6:43 for a 21-10 lead.
The BA girls outquicked the Lady Crusaders and were able to create and capitalize on TCS turnovers. Sands, who seemed to always be in the right place at the right time, swept the boards clean and scored eight on putbacks and short jumpers.
Spence shadowed Bozeman during the quarter, harassing her as a mockingbird bothers a cat when it comes too close to the nest. The TCS center, who had numerous and thunderous blocks on defense, scored only one point during the eight-minute span.
Bulloch outscored the Lady Crusaders 22-9 in the quarter and took a 36-19 halftime lead.
In the third, Bozeman asserted herself.
She ran the break, played down low, took the three-point shot and filled the lane with her impressive wingspan. She scored 11 points to lead a feverish comeback. Junior guard Elizabeth Heard cut the BA lead to 10, 36-26, when she drove the baseline for a layup midway through the quarter. Heard had 10 points for the Lady Crusaders.
BA pushed its advantage back out to 14 but Trinity kept rallying back. Burke had a three-point play, hitting a short jumper while falling to the court and the subsequent free throw, with 4.7 left for a 49-37 lead.
In the fourth, the Lady Gators were able to hold a solid 10-point lead for most of the period. When the Lady Crusaders starting fouling near the end, Bulloch players calmly hit eight-of-nine shots to pull away.
BA Boys clinch region in overtime
Four Bulloch Academy players scored in double figures as the Gators nipped Frederica Academy 59-51 in overtime to win the GISA Region 2-AAA boys’ basketball championship.
Seniors Smith Reeves and Marvin Perkins netted 13 points each, senior Will Marsh added 11 and senir Jaylen Tolliver chipped in 10 for the win. The Gators (19-8) win their second region title in three years and will host an undetermined foe in the first round of the Class AAA state tournament Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Bulloch (19-8) was behind 25-15 at intermission and 36-23 at the end of the third quarter.
In the final period, the Gators got back into the game when Perkins nailed three three-pointers. Tolliver added eight points in the frame. His putback with 28.1 seconds left in the game pulled BA to within one, 46-45. He hit the second shot of a two-shot foul with 3.4 left to knot the game at 46-46. BA outscored FA 23-10 in the eight-minute span.
In overtime, Reeves had a bucket and hit all four of his shots from the charity stripe to lead in the victory.