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The GISA AAA girls basketball state semifinal between John Milledge and Southland Academy was tied 26-26 heading into the fourth quarter Thursday, but the game took a turn from there. 

The second-seeded Lady Raiders of Southland (19-3) went on a 10-0 run to open the final frame, and try as they might to claw their way back, the hole was too deep for the No. 3 Lady Trojans (24-5) to get out of. They fell 48-39, ending their season in the Final Four for a second consecutive year.

Southland moves on to the state championship round where it will face Westfield at Georgia Southwestern State University Saturday. 

JMA girls head coach Tasha Gainous said pretty much everything went wrong for her team during the Lady Raiders’ fourth-quarter surge. Defensive rebounds and points were hard to come by, which is a pretty good recipe for disaster in a game like the one played Thursday. After gaining the advantage, Southland was content with holding the basketball to milk some clock. 

“I felt like we needed to try to play defense for a couple seconds and get a steal, and if we didn’t, foul,” Gainous said. “They did actually miss free throws, but they made a lot too. They also got an offensive rebound that was crucial, so that was another couple seconds off the clock.”

A few Lady Trojan threes late made the game more interesting, but the Raiders did a good job closing the win out from the free throw line as time was much more on their side.

John Milledge was led in scoring by athletic senior Olivia Rhodes’ 19 points. She just eclipsed 1,000 points for her career last week. 

Gainous said the postgame talk with her team was understandably difficult following the loss.

“We kept on fighting,” she said. “That’s just a true testament to who these girls are. They brought so much to our program.”

Rhodes and four other seniors close out their careers with a couple of Final Four berths and one region championship. The Lady Trojans at one point this season had a 12-game winning streak, and finished as region runner-up. 

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