MACON — Last year, the Westfield Lady Hornets ended the Bulloch Academy Lady Gators' softball season in the second round of the playoffs.
This year, they ended their basketball season, too.
Westfield proved just too strong, taking a nine-point halftime lead and steadily improving on it to run away with a 53-38 victory in the second round of the GISA Class AAA girls' basketball tournament at Stratford Academy.
"Westfield is a really fine team," Bulloch Academy head coach Paul Webb said. "It wouldn't surprise me if they won the whole thing."
The loss ended the BA girls' season at 24-6. It was the fourth "Elite Eight" appearance in the past six years for the Lady Gators. Bulloch won its first region championship in 32 years last weekend and the school's first-ever Class AAA region basketball title.
Westfield (21-7) advances to next weekend's "Final Four" at the Centennial Center on the campus of Georgia College and State University.
Webb had warned the Lady Gators that Westfield would be a formidable opponent.
"We knew that they were going to pressure us with 10 players," he said. "They rotate five in and five out. They went up, 10-1, after about the first three minutes and our girls were effectively shell-shocked at that point."
But Bulloch held firm defensively even though it failed to score on seven straight trips down the floor, according to Webb. Still, Westfield held just a 10-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second, the Lady Hornets built a 21-10 lead behind the physical play of all-state post Jenna Rust. Westfield took a 23-14 halftime advantage. Rust had a game-high 23 points.
"Even then, I told the girls that we were within four baskets," Webb said. "But we came out in the third and turned the ball over several times and they seemed to catch fire."
Westfield went on an 8-0 run to pull out to a 31-14 advantage with four minutes left. Bulloch came back to keep pace as the clock wound down and became its worst enemy. When the third-quarter horn sounded, the Lady Hornets had opened a 37-21 lead.
In the fourth, the Lady Gators tried to overtake the Perry squad. BA pulled to within 11, 45-34, with three minutes left in the game but WF outscored the Lady Gators, 8-4, down the stretch.
Junior Anna Newton, who scored the 1,000th point of her career earlier in the week, led Bulloch with 14 points. Senior Taylor Collins scored nine points, Haley Burke had six and her younger sister, Ashley Burke, added five.
The 2011-12 Lady Gators had the most regular-season wins (21) in the history of Bulloch Academy girls' basketball team, the most wins in school history (24) and the best overall record in school history (24-6).
"We were playing in what may be the toughest girls' region in the state," Webb said. "It certainly was one of the best years of girls' basketball in the history of Bulloch Academy, if not the best year. I'll take this every season."