For the fourth time in the last seven seasons, the Lady Gators of Bulloch Academy have found themselves in the state basketball semifinals.
Bulloch (31-1) is heading down the stretch of its best season in school history. The Gators cruised through their region without a loss and breezed through their region tournament to earn a top seed in the 16-team Class AAA state tournament.
Things haven’t been any different now that a state championship is on the line. Bulloch has made quick work of its first two opponents, leading up to tonight’s Final Four matchup against Westfield slated to tip off at 8:30 p.m. from Mercer University in Macon.
“I think we feel pretty comfortable with where we’re at,” BA coach Paul Webb said. “We have some girls who have been in this position before. Of course, I don’t know how much of an advantage that is, seeing as how Westfield is here for the third straight season.”
The Lady Hornets (18-8) struggled a bit early in the season. Westfield was defeated in the semifinals of its region tournament and scrambled into the state playoffs as a No. 3 seed.
From there, the Hornets have found their championship stride.
Caitlin Mosley is averaging 25 points per game for Westfield over the first two games of the state tournament — upsets over Holy Spirit Prep and No. 1 seed Deerfield-Windsor.
On the opposing bench will be a squad of Gators looking to bring home their first title after plenty of close encounters.
Pate Lomax has led Bulloch in scoring in each of its two state playoff wins so far, but the Gators’ real strength is in its depth and versatility.
“You never know who we’re going to need to step up,” Webb said. “The good thing is that we’ve seen that we have plenty of girls who can do that. It doesn’t matter if a girl is playing two minutes or 32 minutes. All of them need to be prepared at this point.”
As tonight’s game gets underway, Bulloch will certainly hope that history repeats itself. The Gators earned a 37-28 victory over the Hornets in the second game of the season and bested Westfield again in a 49-37 decision in January.
Webb acknowledged that he thinks tonight’s Hornet squad will be improved from the two previous meetings, but also thinks that his own team is hitting its stride.
Bulloch’s talent and determination was evident in its quarterfinal win last weekend.
Squaring off against Tattnall Square — the only team to get the best of the Gators this season — Bulloch dominated from the start. The Gators never let off the gas and when the final whistle had sounded, they walked away with a 52-22 victory and one loose end decisively tied up.
“That game definitely gives us a lot of confidence,” Webb said. “I think we know how we’re capable of playing. But we know that there aren’t any easy games left. We’re going to go through the routine we’ve been doing for a few weeks and expect to play our best game.”
The winner of tonight’s contest will advance to Saturday’s state championship game – also to be held at Mercer. Tonight’s winner will take on either Heritage or Stratford Academy in a 6:40 p.m. tip-off.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.