The Lady Gators didn’t back down in their final game of the season. The team was tested all year after losing four seniors from last year’s roster, but when it mattered most the Bulloch Academy girls basketball team cut down the nets while making school history in the process.
The BA girls basketball team became the first basketball team in school history to win back-to-back state titles after a hard-fought win over the Lady Gators from Eatonton 45-41 in the GISA Class AAA state basketball championship Saturday night at Hawkins Arena.
“I can’t even explain it. We worked hard all season for this,” said senior guard Ashley Burke, who led the way with 14 points in the championship game.
After some time to reflect on the accomplishment, BA head coach Paul Webb said the group of seniors he coached this year was his best group of leaders in the 29 years of his coaching profession.
“We had a great season,” Webb said Monday afternoon. “The two questions I had at the beginning of the season was what type of leadership our seniors would provide and what kind of depth we’d have.”
Webb, who etched a personal milestone by earning his 500th career win as a coach this season, would have his questions about his team’s depth answered when the Gators lost top-scorer Pate Lomax to an injury in January. The senior center would sit for six games, forcing some of the Lady Gators to play valuable minutes in her absence.
“In January one of our best players went down with a broken finger and some girls were called upon to step up…and they did,” Webb said.
Junior forward Sarah Evans and sophomore center Mikay Sands, who coach Webb said played well after Lomax’s injury, scored nine each on the way to the Lady Gators historic state title.
“They took on an important role for us and we had some freshman that really did a good job. We lost three games (in Lomax’s absence) and that forced us to face adversity,” Webb said.
BA, a team that lost just one game last season, had a tough schedule this year, but Webb said the schedule helped his team in the long run.
“The hard games really helped us grow,” Burke said. “Our first loss came early and we saw what we needed to improve. I felt like we handled it well.”
Lomax said the team bouncing back after regional losses to Trinity Christian School of Dublin to win a fourth straight GISA Region 2-AAA title and then a state championship were some of her fondest memories.
“It was absolutely amazing. It’s so hard to explain how excited we were,” Lomax said.
Lomax, who scored 11 points in the championship game, said the region championship win over Trinity Christian helped bring the team together on the school’s state-title run.
“Last year we won most of our games by a good margin. This year we lost to teams from Maryland and we lost our first region game in like three years,” Lomax said. “We gradually came together throughout the season, but we got really close in the (region tournament).”
The Lady Gators finished the season 28-4, and despite a different journey to the state championship, the results remained the same.
“We've been in the final four the last three years and most of our players played in the state title game last year. All season long I felt the community support was just amazing. Saturday night our community had more support than any other community there,” Webb said.
Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.