After coming up short in the championship game last year, the Johnson girls used a series of scoring runs on Friday to subdue Greater Atlanta Christian and bring home their first state title.
The Atom Smashers (23-6) never trailed and led by as many as 15 en route to a 62-50 win over GAC at the Macon Coliseum. Johnson lost to Beach, its Savannah neighbor and main rival.
“It feels much better,” junior J’Maya Cutter said. “We don’t have to go back with a runner-up banner, a runner-up trophy.”
Cutter scored a game-high 19 points and made 9 of 11 free throws. She added six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Jasmine Thompson added 13 points and eight rebounds, Sy’Marieona Williams added 12 points and four assists. Giana Copeland grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked 12 shots.
Johnson almost lost Williams, who hit the court with a twisted ankle just before halftime. But the senior came out the locker room a few minutes early to test the leg and played most of the half. She scored six of her points in the second half.
“This is the biggest game we wanted to win,” Williams said. “It was the only game we cared about.”
GAC (25-5) got 13 points and 11 rebounds from Caria Reynolds, 12 points from Taylor Sutton and 10 points from Kennedi Williams. Mary Martha Tuner had 18 rebounds.
Both teams were slow getting started. Neither was able to score until 4:08 in the first quarter when Johnson’s Thompson made a layup. That seemed to get the Atom Smasher started and they surged to a 13-2 lead at the end of the quarter.
“When you get in an atmosphere like this, nerves does play a part,” Johnson coach Brandon Lindsey said. “That’s what you saw in the beginning for both teams.”
Greater Atlanta Christian opened the second period with an 8-0 run and drew to within 13-10 when Lauren Coleman drained a jumper with 4:57 left.
Johnson was soon able to regain the momentum and scored nine straight points for a 26-11 lead. Like before, GAC answered with seven unanswered and cut Johnson’s lead to 26-18 at intermission.
“Winners play relentless defense,” Lindsey said. “If you want to win this game, you have to do what’s necessary to do the job. I wrote ‘defense’ in big bold letters. We put a lot of pressure of them and GAC was really rattled.”
GAC got to within four points (26-24) but never got enough stops needed and Johnson pulled away to a 42-30 lead after three periods.
GAC made a late charge and got as close as five points with 1:14 left, only to have Johnson find its range at the line. The Atom Smashers made seven of their next eight free throws to close the game on a 7-0 run.