Wild roller coasters and momentum swings are just a part of the game for the Chestatee girls basketball team, so much so that its coach Web Daniel calls his group ‘the heart attacks.’ More often than not this season, it’s ended up in the Lady War Eagles’ favor. Tuesday’s Class AAAA playoff opener against Columbus was no exception.
“It’s typical us, we’re up and down,” said Daniel after the Lady War Eagles emerged with a 48-37 win in Gainesville. “Just as long as we’re up at the end, we’re fine.”
Chestatee closed out the victory to open the Class AAAA state tournament with a dominant fourth quarter, highlighted by the inside play from Maegan Kenimer, who scored eight of her game-high 20 in the final period. Late in the game, the Lady War Eagles (21-6) kept feeding the ball inside to the senior forward, who would weave around defenders and routinely used the glass to assist in her baskets.
Erin Clifford was also in double figures with 10 points for Chestatee.
With the win, Chestatee is in the second round of the state tournament for the second consecutive season. The Lady War Eagles will face the River Ridge/Grady winner on Friday at the home site of the higher-seeded school.
“This feels great to get the win, we’re all so excited,” said Kenimer, a Brenau University signee. “For the seniors, this is our final year, and we’re going to keep playing our hearts out.”
To win, the Lady War Eagles had to rebound after a shaky third quarter.
Columbus made things interesting in the second half, even though it trailed 28-13 at halftime. The Lady Blue Devils chipped away in the third quarter behind the steady handy of Keke Gunter (16 points, five assists, five rebounds).
Gunter made all four free throw attempts in the third period, including a pair in the final minute of the quarter to cut Chestatee’s lead to 30-26.
Columbus took advantage of seven Chestatee turnovers in the third quarter, twice scoring on a change of possession with jumpers by Khayla Lloyd.
Shardonne Hayes and Alexia Manning also had baskets in the third quarter for Columbus, which rebounded from a slump in the second quarter to go on a 12-0 scoring run in the final 3:20 of the third quarter.
Kenimer had Chestatee’s only basket in the third quarter with a turnaround jumper underneath, giving her squad a temporary 16-point lead.
The second quarter was also a high point in a game with wild momentum swings for the Lady War Eagles. Tied 13-13 with 4:54 left in the opening half, Chestatee would go on to score the final 15 points in the second quarter.
Bridgette Kelly, Katie Arthur and Erin Clifford each hit a 3-pointer to help the Lady War Eagles build a huge halftime lead, along with three baskets underneath by Kenimer.
“If we go down, we’re going to do it shooting 3’s and getting the ball inside to Maegan,” Daniel added.
Columbus coach Joe Cherrone says that foul calls by referees were the difference in the game.
“The refs took the game from us,” Cherrone said after it was over. “Seven fouls to one in the first half is unheard of.
“They decided they wanted Chestatee to win.”
In the first quarter, Manning knocked down a 3-pointer for the Lady Blue Devils on the game’s first shot. Clifford would answer with two 3’s for Chestatee in the opening period, giving it a 10-5 lead.
With the loss, Columbus’ season is finished with a 16-6 record.