John Milledge Academy girls basketball (14-3 overall, 5-1 region) solidified its spot atop Region 4-AAA Tuesday when the Lady Trojans defeated Bethlehem Christian 69-49.
The lead changed hands four times through the first half, but the host JMA girls took hold late in the second quarter and never let go from there. The Lady Trojans played to their strengths as post players Sutton Eady and Brayden Latimer combined for 39 points on the night. Eady, playing her final regular season home game inside the Trojan Center, led the way with 20 points while Latimer finished right behind with 19 despite getting into foul trouble early.
The game began on an emotional note as senior Holley Youngblood was announced in John Milledge’s starting lineup. She’s been out this season with a knee injury, but was allowed to be out on the floor for tipoff before getting subbed out immediately after the two coaches agreed to stop play once the tip was complete. Youngblood received a nice ovation from the home crowd and cheered on her team from the bench as she has done all season.
Bethlehem’s three-point shooting kept the visitors in the ballgame Tuesday night. The Lady Knights knocked down seven treys in the first half to keep things close, but went cold in the final two quarters when they hit just two. The Lady Trojans meanwhile, remained consistent and took complete control in the third quarter, winning the period 18-4 thanks to a mix of solid defense and persistence on offense.
JMA head girls basketball coach Tasha Gainous liked what she saw from her girls as they approach a crucial point in the 2019-20 season.
“I feel like the team’s clicking really well right now,” said Gainous. “We're getting good play out of Brayden and Olivia Rhodes that hasn’t been as consistently good the whole year. Having the two of them playing well is really good for us.”
The win in the team’s final region game means the Lady Trojans will enter next week’s Region 4-AAA tournament as the top seed and will likely face the same Bethlehem team in the semifinals of the four-team bracket. That game will not be played until next Thursday, so JMA coaches put one final non-region regular season matchup into the schedule as the boys and girls teams are set to travel to Piedmont Academy in Monticello this evening. Once that is complete, the JMA girls will turn their full attention towards trying to repeat as region champs after getting the program’s first title in 25 years a season ago.