MACON - Glenn Hills coach Bernard Bowman said he knew Hephzibah senior center Tamara Gilyard would have to be shut down in the second half.
After all, she recorded her team's first 11 points, and she pulled down 10 first-half rebounds to single-handedly keep the Lady Rebels, who shot 11.8 percent from the field in the first two quarters, within striking distance. Hephzibah only trailed 20-15 at halftime.
Although the Lady Spartans successfully kept the ball out of Gilyard's hands in the second half - which ultimately led them to the state Class AAAA championship with a 66-46 win Saturday at the Macon Centreplex - Hephzibah didn't concede the title.
When Bowman told his team to deny the ball to Gilyard, that left 5-foot-9 forward Jacquelyn Nelson wide open.
She made the Lady Spartans pay. It's something Glenn Hills might have to get used to during the next two years.
"She's an outstanding player," Bowman said. "Both her and her sister (Joycelyn). She hit some big shots, and we had to rethink what we were doing against her."
That's because Nelson scored 13 of her team-high 16 points after intermission.
"We had to step out on her," Glenn Hills junior Marian Whitfield said. "We knew she could shoot the ball, so we had to step out and get her. If not, she was going to kill us."
Instead, she temporarily wounded the Lady Spartans.
With the Lady Rebels down 20-12 late in the first half, Nelson hit the first of her four 3-pointers to cut the lead to five.
And after Glenn Hills opened up a 24-15 lead in the second half, she continued her assault, putting in a layup and drilling another 3-pointer to get her team back in the game.
"She is a good outside shooter," Hephzibah coach Wendell Lofton said. "Tamara is our inside player, and Jacquelyn is our outside player. But she can get a lot better next year. She made some mistakes out there, but she can shoot."
The Lady Spartans probably agree. With Glenn Hills threatening to run away with the game in the fourth quarter, Nelson drilled a 3-pointer to keep the Lady Rebels within five, and a Nelson layup 49 seconds later made the score 47-40.
Gilyard, though, only managed four points in the final two periods, and the load was too heavy for Nelson to lift by herself.
But she'll be back next year. And she, along with Joycelyn, Tiffany Drayton and Chantal Murray, will be looking for revenge.
"That little group," Lofton said, "is going to be all right for us next year."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org