The Grovetown High School girls basketball team had a historic moment in front of them on their home court but let it slip away Friday night.
Leading third-seeded Starr’s Mill 38-35 with under a minute to play in their Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA girls state tournament first round game, the second-seeded Lady Warriors saw the Lady Panthers slide by them 39-38 on a free throw with two seconds left.
Playing in their first state tournament game since they lost by two points in the first round in 2011, the Lady Warriors hurt themselves at the free-throw-line, making just six of 17 attempts including hitting just one of five tries in the game’s final 1:47.
“At the end of the game we didn’t do the little things we needed to do whether it was knocking down free throws or rebounding the ball,” said Lady Warriors head coach Jaime Echols, whose team finished the year 20-8. “I was proud of our kids, I thought they played well all year. We didn’t get it done when we needed to and it stings a little bit.”
Leading 38-35, the Lady Warriors’ Alayah Canteen missed two free throws and the Lady Panthers’ (20-7) Riley Clark shook free for her second 3-pointer of the game, tying it with 23 seconds to go.
The Lady Panthers put on a full-court press which sped up the Lady Warriors and they committed a turnover without a shot at the basket. With the ball at midcourt and five seconds left, the Lady Panthers got the ball to Katie Wilson whose shot from the elbow was no good, but Danielle Garcia was there for the rebound and was fouled on the putback attempt. She sank the game-winning free throw on her first attempt for the last of her game-high 15 points.
“It was somewhat what we drew up,” said Lady Panthers head coach Shane Ratliff, saying that the play was for Wilson to take the shot.
Sophomore Naomi Hughes was an impact maker for the Lady Warriors when she was in the game. She was hit with two quick fouls in the first quarter and alternated time on the bench and the court before fouling out with 13 points with 3:13 to play and the game tied at 33. Leah Ferguson chipped in with 10 points.
Two Ferguson free thows, a Kwajelin Farrar jumper, with an assist from Canteen and a Canteen free throw gave the Lady Warriors their 38-35 advantage with 57 seconds left.
The game went back and forth with the Lady Warriors leading by as many as six in the first quarter before the Lady Panthers rallied to tie it heading to the second. The Lady Panthers hit two 3-pointers and led by as many as five but the Lady Warriors trailed by just two at halftime. In the third quarter, the Lady Warriors took a 28-25 lead on a Ferguson 3-pointer with 4:05 to go before the Lady Warriors tied it with just a minute left on a 3-pointer of their own.
In other GHSA Class AAAAA girls tournament action, the No. 1 seed Greenbrier Lady Wolfpack (23-6) advanced to the second round with a 65-58 win over No. 4 seed Mt. Zion.
Friday night marked the end of the road for the Evans Lady Knights (17-10), who fell to No. 1 seed Drew, 74-64. They led 29-24 at the half but ran out of gas in the second half, according to head coach Ryan Morningstar.
“I’m very proud of my nine girls, they played hard all year and battled,” said Morningstar.
In South Carolina Indepndent School Association state tournament play, the Augusta Christian Lady Lions saw their season come to a close with a 65-56 loss to First Baptist in the opening round. The Lady Lions finished the season 18-9.
In boys state playoff action Saturday night, the season came to a close for both the Evans Knights and Lakeside Panthers. The Knights (18-11) fell to Mundy’s Mill 67-53 while the Panthers (19-7) lost to McIntosh, 69-53.