Originally created 03/06/02

Teams chase local final



While the Glenn Hills and Hephzibah girls basketball teams don't want to look past today's opponents, both acknowledge an All-Richmond County state final would be nice.

The Lady Spartans and Lady Rebels are on opposite sides of the Class AAAA bracket, but both are keeping one eye on their semifinal opponents and one eye on each other.

"We have real good competitive teams, and it'd be good for the kids who play and the morale of the school system," said Glenn Hills coach Bernard Bowman, whose Lady Spartans face Dalton at the Macon Centreplex at 3 p.m.

First, Hephzibah coach Wendell Lofton said, the Lady Rebels must advance past top-ranked South Cobb. Their 6:30 p.m. meeting is all Hephzibah will be thinking about today, Lofton said.

"If we get by South Cobb, we'll be put against a team that we're very familiar with," he said. "But we're not thinking about Glenn Hills yet."

To verify his point, Lofton stopped practice in the middle of dribbling drills Monday and asked whether anybody in Hephzibah's gym was thinking about Glenn Hills. Not one of his Lady Rebels answered.

South Cobb could give Hephzibah its toughest game of the year. Led by four seniors, the Lady Eagles have won 60 of their past 62 games, and their only loss this season came to Riverdale, the No. 1 team in Class AAAAA.

"But we've been scrappy," Lofton said. "We have kids that go out there and don't quit. Even if we're down by 10 or 12 points, we don't know how to quit. It's not about rankings. It's about who comes to play."

Said senior forward Tamara Gilyard: "All we have to do is go out and play our game. Some of the juniors and sophomores might be nervous, but I think we'll come out and play good. It'd be nice to play Glenn Hills, because we're two teams nobody thinks about winning state championships."

Neither squad has won a title. This will be the Lady Rebels' (25-5) fourth appearance in the Final Four, while the Lady Spartans (29-2) are making their debut.

Playoff capsules

All games today at Macon Centreplex

Hephzibah (25-5) vs. South Cobb (30-1)

When: 6:30 p.m.

Key players: Hephzibah-F Tamara Gilyard (Sr., 5-9, 17 ppg), F Jacquelyn Nelson (So., 5-8, 11 ppg), G Cheryl Hannah (Sr., 5-7, 12 ppg). South Cobb-G Candyse Kelly (Jr., 5-9, 15.3 ppg), F Kim Love (Sr., 5-9, 9.8 rpg), F Tiffaney Maddox (Sr., 6-0, 12.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg)

Outlook: South Cobb has been ranked Georgia's No. 1 Class AAAA team for much of the year has won 60 of the past 62 games. The Lady Eagles have never been to the Final Four, while Hephzibah has been to three other state semifinals. Still, South Cobb is probably the favorite to win the whole thing.

Glenn Hills (29-2) vs. Dalton (28-2)

When: 3 p.m.

Key players: Glenn Hills-F Marian Whitfield (Jr., 5-9, 17 ppg), C Tyhiesha Smith (So., 6-0, 15 ppg, 12 rpg). Dalton-F Kristen Brown (So., 6-2, 11.7 ppg), F Whitney Deal (Sr., 6-0, 14.2 ppg); F Brittany Cook (Jr., 5-9, 10 ppg)

Outlook: Dalton lost only one Class AAAA game - to Ridgeland early in the season. The Lady Catamounts have good shooters, they rebound the ball, and they can play an inside or outside game with ease. Glenn Hills' Whitfield, though, can take over a game, and with Smith handling things on the inside, the Lady Spartans have a good chance of making it to the state finals.

Class AAA

Swainsboro (30-2) vs. Fannin County (27-3)

When: 11:30 a.m.

Key players: Swainsboro-C Nikki Robinson (Sr., 6-1, 17 ppg, 12 rpg); G Shayla Roberts (Jr., 5-7, 18 ppg). Fannin County-F Stephanie Scearce (So., 6-0, 16.5 ppg); F Mandy Anderson (Jr., 5-9, 15 ppg); G Jamie Thomas (Sr., 5-9, 6 apg)

Outlook: Swainsboro is the more athletic team, so the Lady Rebels will have to be patient in their half-court offense. Fannin County won the state championship in 1999, so coach Johnny Farmer knows what his team must do to get back. But if Roberts can get her shooting back on track, the Lady Tigers will be a tough team to beat.

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com