Chestatee allowed five quick points by Pickens’ Haley Kalson in the final minute of the first half Thursday to open the postseason in Gainesville. It didn’t appear to be too much to overcome at the time, trailing by only three at intermission.
However, the Lady War Eagles (16-13) continued to struggle shooting the ball in the second half, missed too many free throws and were outrebounded to lose 42-37 to open the Class AAAA state tournament.
Shooting was a problem for Chestatee the entire game, only making 13 of 45 shots from the field.
“We just didn’t make any shots,” said Chestatee coach Web Daniel.
After Lady War Eagles senior Tyler Bennett, who finished with a team-high 15 points, made a basket with six minutes left, they trailed 39-35. Chestatee couldn’t get any closer as a result of Kalson’s gritty inside play and pulling down loose boards.
With a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Kalson got in the lane to pull down a rebound after her teammate missed a foul shot.
Kalson, who finished with team-high 12 points and eight rebounds, made one of two shots from the line. That was a big play for the Lady Nettes (13-14) late, according to Daniel, since it kept Chestatee from being able to scratch out any form of a comeback late.
“We were outrebounded every game this season,” Daniel said.
Pickens matched its biggest lead of the night when Makayla Payne drained a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to go ahead 39-33, just before Bennett’s basket for the Lady War Eagles.
Three different Lady Nettes players hit 3-pointers on the night, including one in each of the first three periods by Autumn Young, who scored 11 points with three rebounds.
The only two times of the game Chestatee had a little momentum shooting were early in the first quarter, when it led 6-2 after Brooklyn Popham’s second basket, and early in the third quarter when Popham and Kayla Watson each hit a 3-pointer to retake the lead 27-24.
Chestatee’s lead wouldn’t last long. Popham finished with 12 points for the Lady War Eagles, while Watson had 10.
After scoring five fast points at the end of the first half to go over 1,000 on her career, Kalson promptly knocked down her second 3-pointer of the night to get even at 27-27 in the third period.
The Lady Nettes then went on to score seven straight midway through the third quarter, including an athletic deflection of a pass by Kalson, who chased down the ball and went down the court for the layup.
Also during that stretch, Young knocked down her final 3-pointer of the night, along with a basket by Ashley Payne.
Even though Chestatee lost in the opening round, the season wasn’t without achievements. The Lady War Eagles finished runner-up to top-ranked Buford in Region 8-AAAA to earn the home playoff game.
“I feel like our team overachieved this season,” Daniel said. “To make it to state was a big deal to have such a young team.
“I expect us to come out and be even better next season.”
With the win, Pickens moves on to the second round to visit No. 4 Americus-Sumter (28-1) on Saturday. In the opening round, Americus-Sumter topped West Laurens 59-51.