GRAY, Ga. - Lynn Brantley called it the most monumental game of her 28-year coaching career.
MiaTonya Smith simply called it miraculous.
At the Class AAA South regional Thursday at Jones County High School, it was everything the Josey girls and their fans could have dreamed of, and more.
"We prayed for this and it came true, this was a miracle tonight," said the 6-foot-2 Smith after Josey completed the upset of the year, a 53-46 victory over No. 1-ranked Woodward Academy. "We never got intimidated by Woodward. We told ourselves that Woodward was nothing but a name, and we played the best game we've ever played as a team."
The Eagles (21-7) advance to Saturday's second round at 8:30 p.m., and face Dublin (21-4), for a berth in the Class AAA Final Four next weekend in Macon. Dublin advanced by defeating Columbus on Thursday.
Josey will be joined by ARC, which was making its first state playoff appearance in 13 years. The Lady Musketeers beat Atlanta Westlake 67-42 behind senior forward Natasha Reid's 22 points.
Second-ranked ARC (25-2) faces Albany Monroe (17-10) Saturday at 5:30 p.m., at Jones County.
"It feels great to get that first win out of the way," said ARC coach Pat Rivers, who last coached ARC in the Final Four in 1983, where it lost to LaGrange in the state final. "They're playing with a lot of confidence now and a game like this will make them even more confident."
For Woodward (24-4), the loss to Josey brought an abrupt and shocking end to a two-year reign as Class AAA state champions.
The Lady War Eagles beat Hephzibah in last year's Class AAA championship game, capping a second straight 31-0 season. They also hold the state record for consecutive victories, 68, which was snapped earlier this season by Shelbyville, Tenn., the No. 2-ranked team in the nation.
Josey is only the second Georgia team in three seasons to beat the private school powerhouse from College Park, Ga., an Atlanta suburb. Conyers Heritage defeated Woodward earlier this year.
"I don't think there's a question that this is the biggest win in my career," said Brantley of career win No. 545. "Sure, we've won regions and been to the Final Four before, but this has got to be the biggest win of all because we've never faced a team like Woodward. That is an incredible basketball program."
Josey led for most of the game but never figured out how to pull away. With Smith, 6-foot freshman Kenya Thompkins and 5-11 junior Kellie Holland on the bench with three fouls each, a 29-22 edge at the start of the second half was a stalemate to begin the fourth quarter, 33-33.
Woodward failed miserably at cashing in on the Josey foul barrage. In the second and third quarters, the War Eagles shot 5-for-19 from the free-throw line.
With 19 seconds left in the game, 5-11 junior Kellie Holland gave Josey a 48-46 lead by hitting the first of two free throws. After missing the second, she followed the rebound by stripping the ball from Woodward, then found Smith open under the hoop for a layup and a three-point play.
WOODWARD ACADEMY (46)- Kim Lawrence 1-0-2, Adrienne Tucker 0-1-1, Daphne Hutcherson 3-6-12, Chelle Warren 2-0-4, Rashida Allen 3-0-6, Casey DeLong 5-3-13, Evita Rogers 2-4-8. Totals 16-14-46.
JOSEY (53)- Kellie Holland 4-0-8, Lakesha Lang 1-2-4, Sherika Wright 4-5-13, Alisha Thomas 1-2-4, Chandra Griffin 1-0-2, MiaTonya Smith 5-4-14, Kenya Thompkins 4-0-8. Totals 20-13-53.
Woodward Academy 12 10 11 13- 46
Josey 12 17 4 20- 53
3-point goals: None.
WESTLAKE (42) - Taryn Felder 2-0-5, Candace Coverson 5-2-12, Kiana Farmer 5-2-12, Candice Barnes 2-0-5, Dawn Baldwin 3-0-6, Shayla Blackwell 1-0-2. 18-4-42.
RICHMOND ACADEMY (67)- April Steele 2-3-7, Natasha McFarley 4-0-8, Jessica Johnson 1-0-2, Natasha Reid 10-2-22, Kristy Scott 3-4-10, Quanda Ball 4-3-11, Kendra Cox 3-1-7. Totals 27-13-67.
Westlake 16 6 12 8- 42
Richmond Academy 16 15 18 18- 67
3-point goals: Westlake 2 (Felder, Barnes).
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