By Score Atlanta
This post will be updated throughout the evening.
Calhoun 54, Vidalia 41: Four Yellow Jackets scored in double digits and Calhoun's physical style of play wore down Vidalia in the final period at Columbus State. Vidalia led 23-21 at the half and 30-29 at the end of the third period, but Calhoun dominated the final stanza.
"It's been a staple of our team all year," said Calhoun coach Vince Layson of his team's ability to dominate the final period. "We've got a bunch of guys that like to mix it up."
Senior power forward Austin Byrd led Calhoun with 12 points and a jaw-dropping 24 rebounds. Sophomore point guard Jireh Wilson also had 12 while sophomore shooting guard Kaelan Riley had 11 points and nine boards. Riley and Wilson each had a team-leading four assists.
Greater Atlanta Christian 66, Laney 58: The Spartans shot a whopping 52 free throws to Laney’s 10 and made 32 of them. GAC led throughout the game at Columbus State after a 15-0 run late in the second quarter. The spurt occurred just before the half was keyed by a change from man defense to zone defense by Coach Eddie Martin’s team. GAC then led 38-24 at the break. In the third period, Laney clawed back to within five and trailed 49-42 heading into the final quarter when GAC had 27 of their foul shots and saw three Laney starters foul out.
Senior forward Isaiah Wilkins, a Virginia signee, led GAC with 21 points, 15 rebounds six blocks and four assists while senior forward Justin Lewis added 17 points, four blocks and a team-high five assists. Troy Morrison totaled 12 points. Laney was led by wing Jashawn Brooks’ 11 points and sophomore point guard Zep Jasper’s 10. Brooks eventually fouled out in the fourth quarter.
GAC will try to win its fourth boys state championship in the past five seasons next week and second in a row.
Turner County 50, Hawkinsville 49: Turner County trailed 13-11 after the opening quarter, but outscored the Red Devils 16-8 in the second to grab a 37-31 halftime edge. Antonio Graddic scored six points in the second quarter and junior Quan Hillmon netted five.
The Rebels went ice cold in the third quarter and Hawkinsville took advantage with a 16-1 run that grew the Red Devils’ lead to 37-28 in the closing minute of the quarter. In the closing seconds, DeAndre Pierce nailed a 3-pointer, Turner County's only field goal of the quarter, and closed the deficit to 37-31. Pierce, who finished with six points, made his second 3-pointer at the start of the fourth and the Rebels were back in business, down 37-34.
Turner County took the lead at 40-38 and Hillman made 5-of-6 fourth-quarter free throws to help hold off Hawkinsville’s late push. Hillman finished with 11 points and was 9-of-12 from the foul line. Graddic scored 11 points and Rebels senior point guard Nate Martin finished with nine points.
Wilkinson County 75, Calhoun County 68: Wilkinson County built a 38-32 halftime lead over the Cougars at Savannah State’s Tiger Arena and closed the game with flawless free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter.
Guards Trey Little and Torrico Simmons netted 16-of-16 attempts from the foul line and led the Warriors in scoring. Little posted a game-high 24 points and Simmons finished with 18. Six-foot-five senior Antonio Williams scored all five of his points in the fourth quarter while tallying five rebounds and three blocks. Wilkinson County won the Class A-Public state championship last season and a successful title defense this Thursday would give the Warriors their third state title in four seasons, and a seventh in school history.
Kendrick 74, Putnam County 47: The teams were tied at 15 with three minutes left in the first quarter before Kendrick’s full-court press began to overwhelm Putnam County at Columbus State. The Cherokees ended the quarter on a 14-4 run and continued the scoring outburst into the second quarter before Putnam County finally made a basket to end the backbreaking 26-4 scoring run.
Kendrick took a 45-24 lead at the half as senior Khalia Lawrence entered the locker room with 18 first-half points. In the third quarter, Kendrick outscored Putnam County 12-10 and Lawrence continued knocking down big shots. The forward opened the quarter with a baseline jumper and made another jumper with 29 seconds left before stealing the ball and racing the length of the court to drill a buzzer-beater.
Lawrence increased her school-record career point total to 2,051 and finished with a game-high 28 points and added 11 rebounds. Kendrick senior forward Donivan Dyson added nine points and junior forward Taylor Farley finished with seven. The Cherokees are 28-0 and a win away from their first state championship since 2008 and third overall.
Wesleyan 68, Laney 64: Wesleyan trailed Laney 41-29 midway through the third quarter, but used a 17-4 run to take the lead (46-45) heading into the fourth quarter at Columbus State. The turnaround was fueled by a Laney double-technical that sent Wesleyan to the line with the ball in its possession. The Wolves made both free throws and freshman Devyn Lowe then hit a 3-pointer.
Wesleyan eventually took the lead at 44-43 on a Riley Casey 3-pointer. In the fourth quarter, Laney hit a 3-pointer to cut Wesleyan’s lead to 56-53 with 3:53 left, but the five-time defending state champions were able to close off the Wildcats’ late push on the foul line. Wesleyan sophomore Cairo Booker hit a pair of free throws (the game’s final points) that gave Wesleyan a two-possession lead that iced the game. Freshmen Mikayla Coombs (19) and Devyn Lowe (10) were the Wolves’ leading scorers.
Mitchell County 73, Greenville 49: Mitchell County came out in the second half leading by seven (36-29) and outscored Greenville 17-9 in the third quarter to take a commanding 53-38 lead heading into the final quarter. Coach Rosemary Sanders mixed her defenses up in the third which helped spark her team's run. Senior A'miracle Jones led Mitchell County with 37 points while senior post Shonbreka Holton added 14 points and a team-high 18 rebounds.
Mitchell County is now one game away from winning its first state girls basketball championship since 1970 and second overall.
Randolph-Clay 45, Claxton 30: At Savannah State, Randolph-Clay sprinted to a 15-4 lead after the first quarter and held off Claxton to clinch its second straight Class-A Public finals berth. The Red Devils led 26-13 at the half and 37-25 at the end of the third quarter.
“They were just so big and fast,” said Claxton coach Laura Aziz. “Before we knew it, we were down 6-0 to start the game.”
Claxton, in its first semifinals appearance in program history, fought back and narrowed the gap to six points midway through the third quarter.
Randolph-Clay was led by sophomore forward Kobi Thornton’s 20 points and senior guard Brandie Buie’s 17. Claxton senior point guard Devonna Bewton scored 13 points and Keri Brown grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds.
The Red Devils will chase their first state title since 2000 and third overall next week in the finals.