ALBANY, Ga. - Give McIntosh County Academy credit for finally making Laney sweat during the Class AA state playoffs Saturday night.
The Bucs managed to make the second and third quarters mean something.
It just wasn't enough to keep Laney from winning 63-48 and earning the program's first trip to the Final Four of the Georgia High School Association state basketball playoffs.
They managed to get Lady Wildcats coach Otis Smart up out of his chair and shouting with real meaning behind those words for the first time in the state playoffs.
"You saw me stand up there for a long time didn't you?" said Laney coach Otis Smart, whose team won its first two state playoff games by an average of 34 points. "I'm exhausted. That means I'm out of shape. I am joining the spa on Monday. We all had to work for this one tonight."
McIntosh County Academy played a physical brand of basketball that sent Laney's inside players tumbling down to the ground several times on shot attempts.
Laney sophomore Glentrice Sapp was on the receiving end of those hacks. But what she kept doing mirrored what her team did throughout its quarterfinal win at James H. Gray Civic Center.
Sapp rose from those tumbles and went to the line and made McIntosh regret those fouls. She was perfect on 10 attempts in the first half. She finished 13 of 14 from the line.
"I was just thinking wining and getting that ring," Sapp said, who led her team with 19 points. "Those free throws were important. I had to make every one of those. Free throws win games."
That was only her portion of Laney's 24-for-31 performance on free throws that went a long way toward Smart getting comfortable in his seat during the second half.
Laney (29-2) took control of a 24-21 game early in the third quarter with a 7-2 run over the first 1:16 of the second half.
"The one thing I know about this team is they will make a run on you," Smart said.
"Our team will. I don't know when it is coming. Tonight it came at the beginning of third quarter. It was like boom, boom, boom, boom."
The Lady Wildcats advance to the Class AA semifinals at the Macon Centreplex on March 8. They will meet the winner of Saturday's late Avondale-Greater Atlanta Christian game at 8:30.
Laney senior point guard Kami Phillips poured in 11 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter. Junior guard Ty Johnson had 15 points.
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org
GHSA CLASS AA GIRLS GAME REPORT
Laney 63, McIntosh Co. 48
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Laney's Glentrice Sapp. The sophomore forward decided the game with her work at the free-throw line. She went 10-for-10 in the first half and finished 13 of 14 for the night. She led the Lady Wildcats with 19 points.
STAT OF THE GAME: The Lady Wildcats are in the GHSA Final Four for the first time since 1995.
UP NEXT: Laney faces the winner of Avondale-Greater Atlanta Christian at 8:30 p.m. March 8 in Macon.