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High school basketball: Lakeview Academy rallies late, but falls to Deerfield-Windsor in GIAA state semifinals
Lady Lions finish season with 17-13 mark, district championship
Lakeview Academy's Taliah Gaither (20) goes up for a basket against George Walton Academy in the GIAA District 4 AAA/AAAA tournament championship Feb. 17, 2023 in Gainesville. Photo by Bill Murphy

Everything the Lakeview Academy girls were not able to accomplish in the first three quarters of their GIAA Class 3A state basketball semifinal game against Deerfield-Windsor they did in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for the Lady Lions, it was simply too little, too late.

Top-seeded Deerfield-Windsor had built up a 23-point lead by halftime and as much as a 24-point lead in the third quarter.

The Lady Knights then had to weather a furious comeback attempt by the fourth-seeded Lady Lions in the fourth quarter before holding on for a 67-59 win Wednesday at the University of West Georgia Coliseum in Carrollton.

Still, this year was a resounding success for the Lady Lions. 

Lakeview Academy's first season in the GIAA league ends with a 17-13 record and district championship.

Taliah Gaither (19 points , 14 rebounds, 3 blocked shots) and Kivana Bogne (19 points, 13 rebounds) each posted a double-double as Lakeview Academy dominated the low post.

But with Dynesty Putman already hobbling and her sharp-shooting backcourt mate Sidney Corbin having gone down with an ankle injury midway through the second quarter, the Lady Lions couldn’t keep up with Deerfield-Windsor’s own dynamic guard duo.

Joi Hubbard had a huge first half and finished with 21 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals, while Gabrielle Harris added 24 points to send the Lady Knights (26-1) into Friday’s championship game against Tiftarea Academy at Mercer University in Macon.

“We had a hard time fighting back,” Lakeview Academy girls coach Karen Towles said. “We started to lose bodies. Dynesty wasn’t healthy. She got hurt (Tuesday) in practice. Losing Sidney hurt us. It took us out of our game plan of pressing and just made it a hard climb. We created a hole early, and it was hard to climb out of it.”

The Lady Lions had no real answer for Hubbard and Harris in the first half.

The pair combined to spark Deerfield-Windsor in scoring the game’s first 10 points, which set the stage for a 21-13 lead after the first quarter.

But the real damage was done by Hubbard, who scored 12 of her 16 first-half points during a 21-6 run in the second quarter that gave Deerfield-Windsor a 42-19 lead by halftime.

And when Harris scored with 3:50 left in the third quarter, part of her 13 points in the period, the Lady Knights had their largest lead of the game at 51-27.

“They’re really talented players,” Towles said of Hubbard and Harris. “We tried a lot of different things (to stop them). We tried to press right there in the fourth quarter, but it was almost too little, too late.

“A lot of our injuries prevented us from running the type of defense we like to run – you know, that full-court, run-and-jump defense. If we could’ve had that intensity all four quarters, it’s maybe a different ball game.”

It was a completely different ball game in the fourth quarter with the deficit at 55-35, despite Lakeview Academy outscoring Deerfield-Windsor 16-13 in the third.

In addition to turning up their defensive pressure to force turnovers and poor shots from Deerfield-Windsor, the Lady Lions were also able to get to the line often in the final frame to slowly chip away at the Lady Knights’ lead.

Putman scored her first three field goals of the night, including two layups in transition following turnovers, during a 10-2 run that pulled Lakeview Academy as close as 57-45 with 5:05 still to play.

But while the Lady Lions able to hold Deerfield-Windsor in check most of the final frame in holding a 24-12 scoring advantage, the Lady Knights were able to score just enough at critical times.

The backbreaker probably came when Hubbard knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:23 to play to give Deerfield-Windsor some breathing room at 66-50.

The Lady Lions were finally able to get the game back into single digits when Putman connected on the team’s only 3-pointer of the night, but that occurred with just one second left on the clock.

Nevertheless, Towles was particularly proud of her team’s effort of cutting away at the large deficit.

“(The players) left it on the court,” Towles said. “They had enough in them to pull (together) in the fourth quarter and didn’t give up. At one time, we were down 23 at half and (24) in the third quarter, but they didn’t give up. That shows a lot of heart, and if anything, it gives us a lot of optimism (for the future) because we have (only) one senior graduating.”

Putman joined Gaither and Bogne in double figures for Lakeview Academy with 17 points, with 12 of them coming in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Murphy Ray joined Harris and Hubbard in double figures for Deerfield-Windsor, finishing with 11 points and eight boards.

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