Spalding used hot 3-point shooting to build a lead in the first half and a strong defensive effort to make it hold up in a 58-46 victory over Henry County in the Class AAAA girls basketball championship game Saturday at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.
The third-ranked Jaguars (28-3) won their final 17 games of the season en route to the first state title in program history. Spalding had never advanced past the quarterfinals before this year. Second-ranked Henry County (29-2) suffered its first loss to a Georgia school and was denied its first state championship since 1960.
“This is the first state championship for girls ever in the city of Griffin,” Jaguars coach Tykira Gilbert said. “It’s a great feeling. I’m just so proud of my girls, so thankful for the coaches and the community.”
Corriana Evans scored 19 points and had 17 rebounds to lead Spalding. She was the only Jaguars starter that didn’t have a 3-pointer in the first half, when Spalding was 5-for-10 from beyond the arc in building a 14-point lead.
Henry County was still within 42-29 after three quarters, but Spalding opened the fourth with an 11-0 run to put effectively put the game away. Evans scored six points during the run, Keyondra Leverette converted a three-point play and the Jaguars added three free throws to increase the lead to 53-29, their biggest of the game, with less than four minutes remaining.
Henry County’s Brooke Moore, an Auburn signee and the Region 4-AAAA player of the year, struggled for much of the game with foul trouble and the Jaguars’ box-and-one defense, which placed the job of slowing Moore down on the shoulders of Kayla Milner. Moore picked up her third foul with 11.7 seconds remaining in the second quarter and her fourth less than two minutes into the second half, but she avoided fouling out and played 29 of 32 minutes.
Moore finished with a game-high 21 points on 6-for-16 shooting, 4-for-12 on 3-pointers, but nine of her points came on three 3-pointers in the final two minutes when the game was out of reach.
Henry County made half of its 10 field-goal attempts in the first quarter, after which it trailed 18-12, but dropped off sharply afterwards. The Warhawks made just one of 12 attempts and scored eight points in the second quarter as Spalding increased the lead to 34-20. Henry County finished the game shooting 26.8 percent from the field, 20.7 from 3-points range, and was outrebounded 48-33.
“ Defense, that’s what we continue to preach and that’s what it’s about, defense and rebounds,” Gilbert said. “We knew we had to match their intensity because we knew they were going to come out strong. ... “We knew that if we had a good defensive game, that if the refs would let us play, we would have the advantage.”
Henry County (46): Brooke Moore 21, Janiya Jones 7, Amaiya Jackson 10, Usoreia McWhorter, Janaya Wadsworth 5, Mia Culpepper, Lauryn Bailey, Kyeria Boyd 3.
Spalding (58): Aniaya Jester 6, Kayla Milner 3, Corriana Evans 19, Kirah Milner 9, Kiana Banks 8, Kierstyn Miller 6, Nia Duranham, Jordan Davis, Keyondra Leverette 6, Maya Collier, Dana Dozier, Elicia Threatt 1.