MILLEDGEVILLE — The clock struck midnight on the Cinderella post-season of the Bulloch Academy Lady Gators Wednesday in the opening round of the GISA Class AAA state tournament.
Tiftarea senior Shamonica Fowler put back an offensive rebound with 2.2 seconds to lift the Lady Panthers over the Lady Gators 41-40.
Bulloch took a 40-39 lead late in the fourth quarter when junior Taylor Collins hit a six footer from the paint with 43.7 seconds left. The aggressive center scored nine points on the night.
On the ensuing possession, TA senior Courtney Allbritton drove to the basket and was called for a charge with 29.9 left. After a Tiftarea timeout, the Lady Gators brought the ball down and spread the offense to run time off the clock.
BA senior Rachel Gilbert was fouled with 13.5 left and went to the line for a one-and-one situation. She missed the front end and Fowler got the rebound. She brought the ball across half court and called a timeout with 9.9 left.
On the inbound, Bulloch pressed the Lady Panthers. The ball finally made it in and came to Caitlyn Albritton. She threw up a three-pointer which banged off the backboard and the athletic Fowler came down with the rebound. Her putback rolled around the basket and out.
But she somehow managed to get another rebound and put up another shot. This one fell in with 2.2 seconds left to put Tiftarea up by one. Fowler led the Lady Panthers with 15 points.
Bulloch head coach Paul Webb got the nearest official’s attention and time was granted with 1.3 seconds remaining. BA inbounded the ball and got off a desperation shot from halfcourt which fell short as the buzzer sounded.
The loss ends Bulloch’s season at 19-10. Tiftarea (18-7) advances to the second round of the tournament this Friday at Georgia Southwestern University in Americus.
On the night, Bulloch hit just 5-of-15 free throws and was, at times, pushed around on the offensive and defensive boards. But not in the early going of the third quarter.
Down 23-19 at halftime, the Gator girls came out of the locker room pumped up. Junior Haley Burke popped a mid-range jumper and sophomore Lauren Dennard added a 14-footer within seconds of each other to knot the score at 23-23. The Gator man defense and full-court press had the Lady Panthers reeling.
Sophomore Anna Newton, who led Bulloch with 16 points, canned a six-footer from the lane at the 5:23 mark for a 25-23 lead. Newton and Collins picked up the pace down low, snatching rebounds and clearing out the lane. Collins had nine points on the night.
A Gilbert three-pointer with 4:28 remaining put BA up five, 28-23, and the momentum seemed to swing in Bulloch’s favor.
But the BA advantage evaporated almost as quickly as it had appeared.
The Lady Panthers retaliated, cutting the BA lead to 30-29. Courtney Allbritton scored on a three-on-one fastbreak with 1:28 left to give Tiftarea a 31-30 lead by the end of the third quarter. She had 10 points on the night.
The fourth was nip-and-tuck. The Lady Panthers had a four-point lead midway through the quarter but the Lady Gators took a one-point advantage, 37-36, on a Burke 12-footer with 3:33 left. Both squads ran aggressive man defenses and full-court presses as each tried to gain the upper hand. Turnovers and steals were the norm down the stretch.
Tiftarea took the lead back with 2:52 left and held it until Newton’s shot with under a minute.