The GISA 4-AAA region final came down to a surprise John Milledge Academy team against the undefeated powerhouse Bulloch Academy Gators. Four quarters and two overtimes later, the Gators prevailed 54-52.
Trojan head coach Natasha Gainous felt like they weren’t meant to win. Countless overtime shots by senior Mollie Ritchie rolled out.
“We got the ball in Mollie’s hand. The ball was just popping out of the basket,” Gainous said.
Senior Kiersten Council drained the first bucket and stole one on the other end. JMA was not scared, having played Bulloch tight all season.
Sophomore Kelsey Chambers hit her first attempted shot from 3-point range.
JMA wasn’t bothered by the pressure defense, as they passed through it.
Both side’s defensive effort made scoring difficult early. The Trojans definitely had the edge and the momentum.
Bulloch couldn’t deal with the early JMA burst. The home team led 16-10 after one.
JMA stayed strong in the second quarter. Chambers together with Ritchie and fellow senior Kristin McCoy played all out.
The young point guard was feeling the rhythm from long range. McCoy dropped a floater in with time expiring.
JMA led 30-22 at halftime.
Baskets were few and far between after the break. Neither girls squad could work any good offense.
The pace slowed from the opening frenzy. Bulloch was ice cold from the field.
JMA maintained the advantage as McCoy and Ritchie manufactured some inside offense.
The Trojans were up nine points with one quarter left for a region tournament championship. They played like the more seasoned team, which continued the final quarter.
Bulloch closed to four points at the 6:15 mark. The nerves started to show for all sides.
JMA entered their ball control offense, when tension mounted.
Ritchie made clutch free throws. Council used that trademark hustle to save a breakaway lay up also.