HEPHZIBAH --- Amid a rowdy crowd, the voice of one Hephzibah girls basketball fan rang out during the second half of Tuesday's Class AAAA matchup against Macon's Westside High School.
"Y'all beat us one time," the fan shouted to the Lady Seminoles. "You ain't gonna beat us again."
Ten weeks after Westside handed the Lady Rebels a 14-point loss, Hephzibah found revenge with a 58-49 second-round win to advance to the state quarterfinals.
Hephzibah tore Westside's zone defense to pieces early in the game to turn a 3-0 deficit into a 17-3 lead.
"That's all we've been practicing: how to break the zone." Hephzibah senior Jalisa Baker said. "We realized our mistakes in the past and knew we could do it."
Westside's 6-foot-1 center Treanna Smith was held to two points in the first half. The Lady Rebels led 33-15 at halftime and appeared poised to cruise to the state quarterfinals. They increased the advantage to 40-19 early in the second half, but the Lady Seminoles didn't fold.
Westside's 9-0 run in the third quarter cut the lead to eight. Baker hit a layup to stop the run, then added a 3-pointer that hit rim, glass, then rim again before falling in.
Westside took back the momentum with a 12-0 run. Smith, who scored 19 points in the second half, added a bucket off an offensive rebound to cut Hephzibah's lead to five with 4:46 left.
"We shouldn't have been turning the ball over like that," Hephzibah coach Wendell Lofton said. "We stopped pushing the ball. ... As long as we attack the basket, we're all right."
Hephzibah regained control for good when junior Aarika Judge and freshman Tiffani Harrison hit back-to-back 3-pointers and sophomore Tannasia Rhodes added a three-point play with 3 minutes left to seal the win.
Baker led the Lady Rebels with 17 points, while Rhodes added 13. Senior forward Kenya Drayton, named the Region 3-AAAA co-player of the year Tuesday, scored 12 points and blocked six shots.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or email@example.com.