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Lady Gators take region
Webb earns 500th win
Pate Lomax scores despite a triple team from Pinewood Christian in the Region 4I-AAA championship game on Friday in Martinez. - photo by BRYAN BURKE/Special to the Herald

          MARTINEZ - Bulloch Academy used a lightning-quick fast break and dominated the defensive boards to pummel Pinewood Christian Academy 65-49 in the GISA Region 4-AAA girls’ championship game here Friday.

            The Lady Gators (29-1) captured their third consecutive region title and will advance to the first round of the state tournament next Wednesday at Tattnall Square Academy in Macon. Bulloch will take on the fourth-seeded squad from Region 3-AAA at 8:30 p.m.

            “We came in believing that we could beat Pinewood and get a three-peat,” said a joyous Chelsea Oglesby, BA’s senior center who scored a career-high 29 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. “But we had to play together as a team, make smart decisions and continue to have faith in ourselves and each other.”

            The victory was also monumental for Lady Gator head coach Paul Webb as the Statesboro native collected the 500th win of his career. Webb, who lost his father R.C. earlier in the week, was at a loss for words when his players, their parents and many other supporters flooded the floor to congratulate him with balloons, gifts, handshakes and hugs at the end of the game.

            “All of the girls and guys I have ever coached share in this,” said Webb, who has coached for 26 years and has a record of 500-265.

            But he quickly focused the attention on his newly-crowned region champions.

            “I am so proud of them,” he said. “They played so well. Before the game, we talked about limiting their best player (senior guard Jessie Knauss), giving them just one shot on offense and keeping pressure on the ball. We did those things and the game went our way.”

Big crowds from both schools made the trip to support their respective teams in the region title tilt, which was held at Augusta Preparatory School.

            In the opening quarter, the Gator girls came out quick and fast with a blistering fast break and a solid 2-2-1 backcourt trap.

            “The girls did a good job of getting up and down the floor,” said Webb.

            Bodies went flying often and early as players from both squads hammered each other in the lane. Bulloch’s Oglesby and Pate Lomax controlled the defensive boards. But Lomax was whistled for two fouls midway through the quarter and Webb brought his star to the bench.

            “As soon as the first quarter started,” said Oglesby, “we came out and played hard and aggressive. But they kept coming back, doing the same thing. It was a battle.” 

            PCA’s tight man defense made the Lady Gators move the ball around in search of an open shot. The BA defense allowed the Lady Patriots few shots on basket before wrapping up the rebound. The Lady Gator fast break helped give Bulloch a 14-6 lead at the end of the first eight minutes.

            In the second, Lomax still rode the bench and PCA started off strong, cutting the BA lead to 14-10 early. Knauss, Emily Shiver and Carleigh Bell worked hard to put match the Lady Gators stride for stride.

But with outlet passes from Oglesby and freshman Mikay Sands, BA point guard Ashley Burke ran the fastbreak with precision passing, finding teammates sneaking in the back door for layups. She was fantastic on defense as well, anticipating the pass for steals which she also dished off to her teammates. Burke had seven points on the night.  

            “All I can say is that I am glad she is on my team,” Webb said with a chuckle.

After back-to-back PCA turnovers and ensuing BA buckets, the Lady Gators held a 22-12 advantage with 5:47 left in the half. The Lady Patriots seemed to spread the court on offense while the Lady Gators packed the middle with Oglesby and Sands. Sands, who wound up doing long-term substitute duty, had 12 points and eight rebounds.

Bulloch then got some outside shots from Gilbert. Her 15-footer with 3:23 left gave Bulloch a 30-17 lead. BA continued to dominate the defensive boards and it seemed everything the Lady Gators threw at the basket went it. Gilbert capped a 6-0 run with a 12-footer with 2:10 left, giving BA a 36-17 advantage. She contributed eight on the night.

            But the Lady Patriots stormed back.

Knauss and Emily Shiver threaded the BA defense, helping PCA go on a 9-2 lead before the half to cut the Lady Gator lead to 38-26. Knauss had 11 in the first half but was limited to just four in the second half. Shriver and Bell had 11 each for the Lady Patriots, who also advance to the state tournament on Wednesday. Pinewood takes on the third-seeded team from Region 3-AAA at 5:30 p.m. at Tattnall Square Academy in Macon.

In the second half, Bulloch steadily increased its lead and took a 52-35 advantage after three quarters. In the fourth, both Lomax and Knauss fouled out. The BA junior finished with eight points.