MARIETTA — The Lakeview Academy girls basketball team’s season came to an end here Saturday in a 77-35 loss to Wesleyan in the Class A Private semifinals at the Cobb Civic Center.
The No. 3 seed Lady Lions (25-5) struggled with turnovers, which led to an early double-digit deficit from which they never recovered. It was a frustrating end to an otherwise successful season that featured an undefeated mark in Region 8-A play, a region tournament championship and the program’s second appearance in the state semifinals.
Despite Saturday’s struggles, Lady Lions coach John Carrick praised his team for its chemistry and consistency throughout the season.
“I told them this before the game, and I still mean this: every team we played this year that we were better than, we beat,” Carrick said. “And every team that we played this year that was better than us, we lost to. I can say that about only one of my other 43 teams, and that was undefeated state champions at Putnam County.
That’s saying something right there.”
The No. 2 seed Lady Wolves (26-4), meanwhile, move on to the state championship game against No. 5 seed Holy Innocents at 2 p.m. Friday at Georgia Tech. Holy Innocents took down top-seeded St. Francis 63-61 in the day’s opening game.
It will be the 12th state championship game appearance for Wesleyan coach Jan Azar, who has guided her team to 14 straight semifinals.
Lakeview Academy experienced difficulty with Wesleyan’s press from the get-go, and a pair of consecutive 3-pointers from senior guard Jameson Kavel quickly created a 7-0 hole for the Lady Lions. They never climbed out of it, committing 13 turnovers in a first quarter that ended with the Lady Wolves ahead 21-5.
Senior guard Hanna Grogan (team-high 13 points) hit a 3-pointer to reduce the Lady Lions’ deficit to 23-10 with about six minutes left in the second quarter, but Wesleyan’s lead ballooned to 46-18 at halftime.
“This didn’t surprise me. I knew exactly what we were headed into,” Carrick said. “I think they did as well as they were capable of doing this season.”
The Lady Wolves started the second half on a 9-0 run to all but secure the victory. Wesleyan senior guard Mikayla Coombs, a McDonald’s All-American who has signed with Connecticut, led all scorers with 28 points.
Grogan, Lakeview Academy’s all-time leading scorer, nailed a long 3-pointer with about a minute-and-a-half remaining that went down as her team’s final points. Carrick immediately called a timeout and subbed out his third and final senior.
“When I saw (the other seniors) go out, I thought, ‘Please, let me hit another shot,’ ” Grogan said. “I saw it was open and said, ‘I’m shooting this.’ It was ending on a good note, I guess.”
The guard said she took solace in the fact she’s moving on to play college basketball at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs.
But Carrick said he’s losing not only the program’s leading scorer, but an outstanding leader as well.
“Grogan has been so much fun,” the coach said. “I’ll chew out some little freshman, and she’s over there patting her on the back and picking her up. In my 43 years, I haven’t had many kids like that. And she works hard. In four years, I’ve never yelled at her for loafing. She’s like a diamond in the rough. You just don’t run into that kind of player all the time.”
Joining Grogan in the departing senior class are Christen Copeland (eight points) and Ryann Moody. They led the Lady Lions to just their first semifinal appearance since 2005, which is a huge accomplishment in Carrick’s eyes despite the way their high school careers ended.
“We had a group of girls that really wanted to win,” Carrick said. “How can I be disappointed in them? You go out and have one bad day, but that shouldn’t ruin all the good behavior and success you’ve had before that.”