MACON - Perhaps this season's Glenn Hills girls basketball team is summed up best by what happened with just two seconds left in Saturday's Georgia Class AAAA state title game.
With the winner no longer in doubt, Glenn Hills forced the 18th Hephzibah turnover of the night, and Felicia Whitley had an open look under the hoop. rather than punctuate the 66-46 win with a basket of her own, Whitley fed the ball to Alicia Cowlings for the layup - from senior guard to senior forward.
Whitley and Cowlings, along with senior point guard Sheena Carpenter, had been there as freshmen, when Glenn Hills went 7-12. Both had been there for two Sweet 16 appearances in their sophomore and junior years. And now, both were at the Macon Centreplex for the ultimate prize.
It's been only four years since coach Bernard Bowman was hired and the trio were in ninth grade.
"All we talked about in the locker room after the game was how much we love and how much we're going to miss the seniors," said junior Marian Whitfield, who scored 18 points. "They're big parts of this team that we'll miss next year."
Whitfield and Tyhiesha Smith contributed their fair share Saturday. After a slow start in the first half - Glenn Hills (31-2) shot 33 percent from the field - Whitfield put in 13 points in the second half, while Smith scored 14 of her game-high 19.
Although Hephzibah (26-6) opened the third quarter with a 16-7 run to take a 31-27 lead, Whitfield and Smith ran the Lady Rebels off the court, and Carpenter scored 11 points.
"They spanked us," Hephzibah coach Wendell Lofton, whose Lady Rebels shot 11.8 percent (4-of-34) from the field in the first half.
"They just spanked us. That's the No. 1 team in the state right there. There's no doubt."
Hephzibah, though, was no pushover. Senior Tamara Gilyard scored 11 points and brought down 11 of her game-high 14 rebounds in the first half, and Jacquelyn Nelson led the Lady Rebels with 16 points.
It wasn't nearly enough.
An 8-0 run at the end of the third quarter put Glenn Hills ahead 40-33, and after Hephzibah curt the lead to seven with 4:53 left, the Lady Spartans rolled off 11 straight points to put the game out of reach.
For Glenn Hills, the win completed a four-game season sweep of the Lady Rebels, and the 20-point margin of victory surpassed the total for the first three meetings combined (16 points).
"It's difficult to beat anybody twice in a season," said Bowman, whose team won 59 of its last 64 games. "But to beat them four times was really hard."
Glenn Hills' Smith said the streak might have put a little more pressure on the Lady Spartans.
"We felt it a little bit, because people expected us to win the state," said Smith, named the game's most valuable player. "I just came out and worked hard. We all just came out and worked hard."
Carpenter, Whitley and Cowlings went out in style.
Said Bowman: "For the seniors we have, this was an outstanding way to end it all."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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