After hitting a jumper in the lane and getting fouled, Greenbrier High School’s Morgan Taylor let out a roar.
The junior guard’s ensuing free throw with 1:58 to play brought the Lady Wolfpack within 63-59 of the Drew Lady Titans in Wednesday night’s quarterfinal matchup in the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state girls basketball tournament at Greenbrier.
That emotion would be short-lived, however. Taylor just missed a steal on the inbounds and Lady Titans center Lakiyah Sims would grab a missed 3-pointer, put it back while getting fouled and sink her free throw for a three-point-play of her own, driving the lead back to seven. That play would propel the Lady Titans to an eventual 72-59 win in a battle of two No. 1 seeds.
The loss ended a good season for the Lady Wolfpack (24-7) who were subregion and region champions, finishing one step shy of the state semifinals.
Lady Wolfpack head coach Stefanie Basinger wanted the season to last two more games, but quickly reflected positively on the season.
“I’m so proud of the girls and all they’ve accomplished this year,” said Basinger. “It definitely hurts right now because we had our sights set on something and we’re a little shy of a state championship, but they’ve achieved so much.”
The Lady Wolfpack came out on fire from behind the arc, sinking their first four 3-pointers while quickly building a 17-10 lead. They would sink five in the quarter and seven for the game, led by Jennifer McMahan who made four and Taylor who connected three times.
Taylor led the team with 19 points, McMahan finished with 16 points while Destiny Marshall and Mallory Myers chipped in with 11 points apiece.
With Sims scoring seven points in the first quarter as she got behind defenders who tried unsuccessfully to front her, the Lady Titans drew within 20-17 by the start of the second quarter.
Sims gave the Lady Wolfpack post players headaches all night as she scored a game-high 32 points and hauled down 25 rebounds. She scored 17 of the team’s 20 fourth-quarter points including going 11 for 11 from the free-throw-line. She sank six from the charity stripe in the game’s final 46 seconds to close it out.
“She’s absolutely phenomenal and she’s been a force inside, she’s been our go-to player all year,” said Lady Titans’ head coach Candence Jackson of her lone senior.
Shun Gayden added 15 points for the Lady Titans who improved to 26-3.
By the end of the half, the Lady Titans forged ahead, leading 35-31. They built their lead to as many as 14 points in the third quarter but the Lady Wolfpack refused to quit.
Down 61-50 with five minutes left, the Lady Wolfpack turned up the defensive pressure, going on a 9-2 run, culminating in Taylor’s three-point play.
Junior shooting guard McMahan thinks the emotion of the loss will fuel them in the future.
“I think we will definitely thrive off this feeling and it will push us harder so we can get farther next year,” McMahan said.
In the South Carolina Independent School Association state boys basketball, the Augusta Christian Lions advanced to the semifinals of Class AAA for the second consecutive year.
The Lions (20-7) were tied with Hammond at the end of three quarters. The Lions knocked out the 2013 runners-up, coming away with the 47-43 victory.
The Lions were led by Jordan Dingle’s 11 points while Calvin Taylor scored 10.
The Lions were set to face Northwood on Friday night with a chance to advance to the Saturday finals.