Hephzibah (29-4) vs. Mays (20-10)
Friday, 3 p.m.
Alexander Memorial Coliseum, Atlanta
Hephzibah: Junior point guard Chantal Murray has become one of the squad's leaders. And she can score - against Ridgeland in the semifinals, Murray hit two big three-pointers and poured in 14 points. Sophomore Charlotte Styles has been solid as well.
Mays: Coach Oliver Banks employs a three-guard offense that's effective in taking care of the ball and spreading it across the floor. Chloe Jones is counted on to score points.
Hephzibah: The Lady Rebels aren't a big team, but they rebound well. Joycelyn Nelson is a monster on the offensive boards, but in order for the forwards to score, they have to be under the basket. They don't have much shooting range.
Mays: 6-foot-2 Ramona Okonya is the team's main force and was the team's leading scorer against Glenn Hills in the semifinals. But what's overlooked is her defense - she held Lady Spartans center Tyhiesha Smith to just four points in the second half. Megan Callier and Nikkita Gartrell also are effective at rebounding.
Hephzibah: At times, Hephzibah uses its defense as the offensive catalyst. In the semifinals, Ridgeland made 13 second-half turnovers, which allowed the Lady Rebels to go on a 13-2 fourth-quarter run. And don't forget: Hephzibah held Glenn Hills to 26 points in the Region 3-AAAA championship game.
Mays: The Lady Raiders' perimeter defense is very solid. Against Dalton in the quarterfinals, Mays held its two best players to just eight points in a 47-45 win. Then it held Glenn Hills' Marian Whitfield to six points.
Hephzibah: The Lady Rebels have back-up guards that can score, but if Jacquelyn or Joycelyn Nelson get in foul trouble, Hephzibah will have a tough time.
Mays: By Banks' admission, this area "is very weak." As a result, he doesn't play more than seven Lady Raiders in his rotation. But, he said, the squad's conditioning is good.
Hephzibah: Wendell Lofton has his players' confidence, and they want him to win his first state title. He gets the most from his players, and that's the epitome of good coaching.
Mays: Banks has been at Mays since 1989, and the Lady Raiders are finally buying into his system. But it's hard to know if this year is a fluke or if Mays is ready to become a Class AAAA power.
Hephzibah: This is the second-straight appearance for the Lady Rebels in the state finals. And although they say they wanted a rematch with Glenn Hills, it might be better to see a new face.
Mays: The Lady Raiders have surprised many observers with their postseason run. They've never been past the state quarterfinals, but they haven't been intimidated.
Mays made great strides in beating the Class AAAA defending state champions, but the Lady Raiders didn't look that impressive, scoring just two points in the fourth quarter. Hephzibah doesn't have a great deal of talent, but it's scrappy. The Lady Rebels will use that grit to land their first state title.
HEPHZIBAH 54, MAYS 48
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