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Briarwood's veteran duo leads team to memorable run

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If defenses step up to slow down Malia Kency at the perimeter, Tiffany Pate will have space.

If defenses pack the paint, Kency gets open looks.

Opposing teams have had a difficult time stopping the Briarwood girls basketball team’s high-scoring duo. The two seniors have led the Lady Buccaneers to the GISA Class AA state semifinals, where they play Trinity Christian at 4 p.m. today at Mercer. With a win, Briarwood will play at 3:20 p.m. Saturday in the state championship game.

“We’ve been playing together since seventh grade, so we’ve built a bond,” Pate said. “Without her, I would be nothing. She gets the ball up the court. I take the pressure off her; she takes the pressure off me.”

Briarwood’s success is directly tied to Kency and Pate. In a 74-44 win over Terrell in the state quarterfinals, the pair combined for 51 points – nearly 70 percent of the team’s offensive output. Five players accounted for the other 23 points, showing a sprinkling scoring potential.

The two seniors, who were also AAU teammates, started scoring early in their high school careers and have never stopped. Kency, who played at Grovetown her freshman and sophomore seasons, has scored more than 2,000 points. Pate is only 63 points shy of joining Kency at the 2,000 career points level.

“Malia is going to score her 20 to 25 no matter what,” Briarwood coach Keith Johnson said.

Sitting at 29-2 heading into the semifinals, the Lady Buccaneers have already surpassed last year’s run to the second round.

Kency, who has committed to Florida Atlantic, leads the quick-paced Lady Buccaneers, who use a full-court press to dominate foes while mixing in the pick-and-roll to utilize the Kency-Pate connection.

“Our girls kind of have the mindset right now, where they feel they can’t be beat,” Johnson said. “They believe they’re the best team – whether that happens or not. Their confidence level is high right now. We’re peaking at the right time.”

TODAY’S GAMES

GISA GIRLS

At Mercer University,

Macon, Ga.

Class A semifinals

• Thomas Jefferson vs. Fullington, 1 p.m.

Class AA semifinals

• Briarwood vs. Trinity Christian, 4


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