COLUMBUS, Ga. — Midway through the third quarter of their Class AA State tournament semifinal on Saturday at The Lumpkin Center at Columbus State University, Laney had Wesleyan reeling.
A layup by Gemiya Bowman had given Laney a 43-32 lead and the Lady Wildcats – who were making their sixth consecutive final four appearance – seemed primed to upset the Lady Wolves, who were going after their seventh state title in a row and 10th state championship in the past 11 years.
Laney couldn’t finish Wesleyan off, though, and the Lady Wolves rallied to win
68-64 and advance to Friday’s state title game in Macon, Ga., against unbeaten Kendrick (30-0), which thumped Putnam County, 74-47, on Saturday.
“I felt like we should’ve won this game,” said a disappointed Laney head coach Otis Smart. “I think we played well enough to win.”
Even though Laney (29-2)
lost to Wesleyan (27-3) in the semifinals last year, the Wildcats showed no signs of being intimidated.
Laney scored the game’s first six points and took a 33-29 lead into halftime.
“The kids played a great game, especially in the first half,” Smart said.
“However, we made a lot of fouls and that would hurt us later on.”
Laney opened the second half with a 10-3 run to go up 43-32 and looked to be rolling.
However, that was when Wesleyan showed the mettle that has allowed it to win nine state championships in the last 10 years. The Lady Wolves scored the next 12 points and took a 44-43 lead on a Riley Casey 3-pointer.
Wesleyan took a 46-45 lead into the fourth period and stretched their advantage to as much as eight points. Laney got back to within two twice more – the last time at 65-63 with 1:39 to go following a basket by Brewton – and had a chance to take the lead, but missed a 3-pointer.
After that, Wesleyan made three of its last four free throws to hold off the Wildcats and advance.
Brewton had 18 points to lead Laney, which made only 12 of its 25 free throws (48 percent) in the game.
Wynetta Wright and Bowman had 13 points apiece and Collier had 11 for the Wildcats in the loss. Coombs led Wesleyan with 17 points, followed by Nikki McDonald (11) and Lowe (10).
“Wesleyan got after it a lot in the second half,” Smart said. “They got a lot of loose balls and we committed a lot of fouls. They made their free throws and we didn’t. That hurt us a lot tonight.”