The majority of its best players may be underclassmen, but the Archer girls have been contemplating a championship for a long time.
“We’ve been talking about it since our first practice back in June,” Archer coach Ryan Lesniak said. “We truly believed we could do this.”
The No. 3-ranked Tigers (29-3) are now one win away from the Class AAAAAA championship after a 78-67 victory over unranked Lowndes on Saturday at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.
Archer was led by junior Madison Newby, who scored 29 points, and sister Autumn Newby, a freshman, had 19 points and 15 rebounds.
Lowndes (22-9) stayed close thanks to the shooting of senior Tashia Brown, who has committed to Western Kentucky, scored 18 points in the first half, but picked up her third personal foul with six minutes left in the half. She finished with 31 points, but didn’t have the same impact in the second half.
“We weren’t doing a great job in the first half against her,” Lesniak said. “(Alesha) Mann did a great job face-guarding her and not letting her touch the ball.”
Lowndes, which was making its first semifinal appearance in 13 years, came out hot in the first quarter behind Brown and roared to a 19-11 lead. But Archer answered with a 10-0 run to open the second period and eventually stretched it to six points at 27-21.
That’s about the time Brown returned to the game. She made a pair of 3-pointers during an 8-0 run that put the Vikings ahead again at 30-27.
The game remained close until midway in the third period, when Archer took advantage of a mental gaffe. Amber Newby made a basket and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but no one moved to get the rebound until Archer’s Amber Skidgel grabbed it and put it back for an uncontested layup that gave Archer a 46-40 lead. The Tigers stretched it to 10 points by the end of the period.
Lowndes also got 15 points and five assists from Tiffany Smith and nine points from Faith Starling. Archer senior Kayla Rogers scored six points, making her the school’s third 1,000-point scorer.
Archer could have put the game away had it been more efficient at the line. The Tigers made only 10 of 20 in the first half and would up with 18 misses.