ATLANTA — Gainesville coach Brenda Hill-Gilmore said her team would need a “perfect” game to knock off top-ranked Mays High School in Tuesday’s Class AAAAA quarterfinal.
In their final performance of the season, the Lady Red Elephants (22-9) fell far short of that mark.
Gainesville failed to score a field goal in a span of more than 11 minutes throughout the second and third quarters to fall behind and ultimately lose 47-25 to Mays, which is ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA by Maxpreps.
“We can’t do that and expect to win,” Hill-Gilmore said after the game. “That’ll always hurt us. But this is a young team, and we’ve got (almost) everyone coming back, so that’s good.”
The Red Elephants are expected to lose just two seniors from a team that finished third in its region before pulling off upset road wins over Kell and No. 2 ranked Greenbrier.
Meanwhile, Mays (29-2) will advance to face Dutchtown (18-13) in Saturday’s state semifinal showdown at Fort Valley State. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Using a strong back court, including three starters over six feet tall, Mays asserted its authority early. Four different Lady Raiders sank layups before Breana Fair’s 3-pointer cut the lead to one with 1:35 left in the first quarter.
But that was as close as Gainesville could get before a stout Lady Raiders defense stopped the Red Elephants from making a single basket in the entire second quarter. Try as they might, Gainesville was unable to force any outlet passes around seniors Kennedy Rushin (6-foot-5) and Harlyn Wyatt (6-foot-2).
Mays outscored Gainesville 13-2 in the pivotal second quarter, with Gainesville’s only points coming at the charity stripe by senior Kaysey Smith (4 points).
The Lady Raiders led by 14 at halftime. The win gives Mays a season sweep over Gainesville. The Lady Raiders beat the Lady Red Elephants by 27 back on Nov. 20.
“We threw them a lot of different defenses and schemes, because we knew they would remember what we used back then,” said Mays coach Chantay Frost. “We needed to make a different style, and our posts were able to start dumping in the shots we wanted when we got it at that end.”
Wyatt led all scorers with 13 points, while sophomore point guard Kamiyah Street added 12, including six in the third quarter alone. Smith’s jumper finally ended Gainesville’s drought from the floor with 4:36 left in the third, but Mays had jumped out to a 16-point lead, thanks to strong play under the basket from Street and Wyatt.
Fair (12 points) knocked down back-to-back layups to open the fourth and cut the lead to 14 with 4:50 left, but Mays wrapped up the contest on an 8-0 run in the final three minutes, including a long trey by Charlotte Smith at the buzzer to secure Mays’ biggest lead of the night.
Hill-Gilmore said she was proud of her team for having fought to get so far in the playoffs.
“I’m extremely ecstatic about this season,” she said. “It’s been a lot of hard work to get here. (Mays is) No. 1 for a reason, they’ve got guards and posts all over that time. If we had hit our shots, maybe the game would have been a lot closer. We got here without a (true) post player, and that’s due to very hard work by our girls. I’m really happy for them.”
Mays, who fell in the first round of the playoffs last year, will now travel to Fort Valley to play Dutchtown. The Lady Raiders have allowed 37 points or fewer in their last three playoff games. They are currently riding a 17-game winning streak into the semifinals.
“Defense has been the bedrock of this team,” said Frost. “This won’t be over until the last buzzer goes in the final on March. 6.”