The Augusta Christian girls basketball team last week could have reveled in its second consecutive region title.
The Lady Lions beat region rival Heathwood Hall 53-42 to complete the season sweep and move them a game away from an undefeated Region 1-AAA record.
But their primary focus has been forward thinking.
"Our main goal is state," guard Lindsey Banks said.
Augusta Christian's returning players remember the sting of the first-round loss at Hilton Head Christian in 2009.
The Lady Lions' quest for a stronger 2010 did not start well. Senior guard Elizabeth Alewine was lost for the season after injuring her knee. Alewine, who had provided the bulk of the scoring, was in street clothes Feb. 9 when Augusta Christian showed off its balanced attack to close out the Highlanders.
After Banks provided much of the motor the first three quarters, sharpshooter Amaura Brandt heated up the final eight minutes. Brandt, a sophomore, scored 15 of her game-high 26 points during the fourth quarter.
She made three of her five 3-point attempts and all four of her free throws in the fourth quarter as the Lady Lions went from down a point to the final margin after a 23-point outburst.
The Lady Lions won handily in the first meeting in Columbia, S.C., but Augusta Christian coach Keith Walton knew Heathwood's play had been uncharacteristic.
The Highlanders led by seven during the second quarter and by four with less than two minutes left in the third quarter. But coach John O'Cain's team could not weather Brandt's barrage.
"It was good defense, but a better shooter," O'Cain said. "You can tell she spends time in the gym outside of the season."
Brandt has indeed earned a reputation as a gym rat. She has emerged as the Lady Lions' top scorer, but Banks on the perimeter and Annie Cave inside make it difficult for teams to key on one player.
"If you told me we would be doing it the way we're doing it, I would have been like, 'No way,'" Walton said. "These girls are resilient. They didn't hang their heads."
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