The Briarwood Buccaneers actually got two chances in Saturday’s GISA girls AA state championship game, but unfortunately for them, neither one of Malia Kency’s looks went in, giving Westwood its second consecutive state title with a 50-46 win.
Rachel Harrell scored 21 points for Westwood, including two free throws with two seconds left to seal the win for the Wildcats.
Kency, a Florida Atlantic signee, had 33 points for Briarwood, while Tiffany Pate added 11 points and 14 rebounds.
“Malia had two great looks and I thought both of them were going in, but it just was not meant to be,” said Briarwood head coach Keith Johnson, whose team ends the season 30-3. “We fought as hard as we could fight and just could not get over the hump. We played a team with a lot of talent and a lot of class and I am proud that we were in the game with a chance to win at the end.”
Westwood dominated early, grabbing a 15-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Kency got going in the second quarter, scoring all 10 of her team’s points and the Bucs trailed only 24-18 at the half.
Westwood again threatened to blow the game open in the third quarter, taking a 33-25 lead behind four consecutive points from Haley Marshall, but even with Pate on the bench with four fouls, Briarwood came back.
Kency scored the final five points of the quarter to make it a 33-30 game.
Westwood grabbed its biggest lead early in the fourth quarter when it scored six unanswered points to make it 39-30, but Pate scored five consecutive points inside to make it a four-point game again.
A minute later, Pate fouled out and Westwood immediately took advantage, pushing the lead to 45-37 on two free throws by Callie Smith.
Kency hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 45-40, and after Marshall made a free throw for Westwood, Kency made three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt to pull Briarwood within 46-43. After two missed free throws by Westwood, Kency drained another 3-pointer to tie it with 22 seconds left.
After Harrell scored inside to give Westwood a 48-46 lead, Kency’s 3-pointer just missed. After two more missed free throws by Westwood, Kency had one more chance, this time getting into the paint for a shot that again just rolled off the rim.
“A game like this is a great growing experience for everyone who played and coached in it,” said Johnson, who is in his second year as a head coach. “It was a great thrill for us to be here, and I think the best two AA teams in the state just played a great basketball game.”