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.
The Gators inched within two points the final minute. Council muffed an inbound play letting Bulloch tie at 44.
Bulloch continued the momentum in overtime taking a quick four point advantage.
McCoy made two freebies to get back within one possession and a lay up for the tie creating a second extra session.
Gainous was pleased her squad didn’t roll over against the undefeated region opponent.
“We defended the basket when we needed to,” the Trojan coach said.
The basketball fight continued. Ritchie lipped out several attempts.
Bulloch prevailed in a heartbreaker for the home team. JMA never quit, but some late turnovers and poor luck cost them.
“I told them to forget about the bad. It wasn’t one little thing,” Gainous said. “We took a team with no region losses to two overtimes. We could have been defeated but came back and got stops. It just wasn’t our game.”
Ritchie and McCoy each scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds, The pair also combined for nine assists. Chambers added 14 points.
Next up for the Trojans is a state match up with Mount de Sales this Wednesday.