BOGART— After starting the season 1-7, it looked as though the Lakeview Academy girls basketball team’s streak of consecutive state tournament appearances would end at four.
The Lady Lions region tournament opponent, Athens Christian, wishes the streak had ended.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Lady Lions (12-10), the No. 2 seed from the North subregion, beat the third seed from the South subregion, Athens Christian (10-12), 42-27 in the quarterfinals of the Region 8-A tournament at Prince Avenue Christian to capture a spot in the state tourney.
Lakeview head coach Buster Brown — who has been in the coaching business for over 31 years and led the Lady Lions to a state championship game in 2005 — said this year’s Lady Lions faced many challenges.
“For this group, it gives me as much satisfaction as any team I have coached and I have been doing it a long time,” Brown said. “To see where this team has come from to where they are now is very satisfying.”
Not even the players expected to be playing in late February when the season started
“I am just so proud of the team. No one thought we were going to be good this year and even make it to state,” said senior Janelle Francis. “Here we are, ranked second, going to state and I am glad we went above everyone’s expectations.”
The team has work to do before its fifth straight appearance in the state tournament.
On Friday, the Lady Lions will look to improve their state seeding when they take on the region tournament’s top seed from the South subregion, Social Circle at 4 p.m. in semifinal action at Towns County High School.
Brown said the Lady Lions will have to play at a higher level to get past Social Circle than they did against Athens Christian.
Lakeview came out a bit flat-footed, missing a couple 3-point shots and Athens Christian had a 10-7 lead by the end of first quarter.
Lakeview took firm control in the second.
Led by the sophomores Louisa Jacobs and Megan Rochester the Lady Lions went on a 6-0 run to start the second quarter, while Athens Christian failed to score in the first 4:31 of the quarter. Using full-court, man-to-man defense, Lakeview went on to outscore the Lady Eagles 14-4 in the second and took a 21-14 lead into the locker room.
“We wanted to get some easy points early and some steals,” said sophomore Louisa Jacobs, who scored 7 points.
Lakeview came out of halftime focused. Junior Brittany Moore started the half by draining a 3-pointer and was followed shortly by a basket from sophomore Megan Rochester that extended the Lakeview lead to 12.
Athens Christian closed the gap to nine points in the middle of the third, but missed shots in the paint and a balanced attacked by the Lady Lions put an end to any comeback effort.
“We had our chances along the way and had a little foul trouble that hurt us,” said Lady Eagles coach Bruce Hockema. “Down the stretch we missed a few key shots and that will be the difference in the ball game.”
In the fourth quarter, Lakeview extended its season by shooting 6–for-10 from the free throw line. Overall, Lakeview was 14-30 from the foul line.
Brown said his team could not afford to miss free chances against Social Circle. When the two teams met in January at Lakeview, the Lady Lions needed two overtimes to edge out the Redskins 65-63 win.
“It was quite a game. I know they will be ready to play us,” Brown said. “We’ll have a battle of some sort.”