Columbia County's high school basketball season officially ended last weekend, as the only two local squads left standing, Harlem and Augusta Christian, fell flat with state playoff losses on Saturday.
The Harlem Bulldogs competed in a first-round Class AAA state playoff game at Effingham County High School, where the Dogs had the misfortune of facing Liberty County.
The Panthers raced to a 23-5 first-quarter lead and went on to rout Harlem 86-44.
"It was over quick," Harlem coach Kim Chambers said. "It wasn't that we didn't play well, we just could not put the ball in the basket."
Despite earning the No. 2 seed from Region 3-AAA, Harlem was stuck with a difficult first-round matchup with Liberty County, which was upset in the Region 2-AAA tournament and probably was the strongest No. 3 seed in the state playoffs.
"Were they good? Yes, they sure were. They looked like a small-college team," Chambers said of the Panthers, who were ranked as high as No. 2 in the state this season. "Anything they shot from 18-feet in was almost automatic."
Harlem closed with a 13-12 record and was the surprise team in Columbia County this season. The Dogs had not advanced to the state playoffs in nearly 30 years.
"We wore the glass slipper all year long. It's unfortunate it had to end the way it did," Chamber said. "I'm still proud of them, and of what they did accomplish."
Meanwhile, last week in Macon, the Augusta Christian Lions posted a 93-54 win Thursday over Tiftarea in first-round action of the Georgia Independent Schools Association Class AAA state playoffs.
That victory set up a Saturday showdown between AC and defending state champion George Walton Academy. The Lions had beaten the Bulldogs in two previous meetings this season, but George Walton was ready for the three-match, as Augusta Christian's season ended with a 70-50 defeat.
"It was a bad game," AC coach Andrew Bryan said. "It was a shame that it had to happen when it mattered most. We just couldn't put the ball in the basket in the first quarter."
George Walton took a 19-6 lead in the first quarter, and from there, the Lions never recovered.
"Other than our last game, we had a good season. We had such a young team, and weren't expected to do half the things we did. We made a good run," said Bryan, whose squad finished with a 23-5 record and won its sixth straight Region 4-AAA championship.
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